In the majority of fictional worlds we consume, we see people who are different than those around them. Harry Potter was a wizard living amongst muggles. Gandalf has lived for thousands of years, using his fantastical abilities to great effect.
As you can probably tell, many special powers come down to simply “magic”. Someone was born a witch or wizard or with the gift of flight or whatever it may be, and that’s that.
But if this is overdone, how can a potential author separate themself from the crowd. How can you make your characters special without simply giving them an overused magical quality and a weak explanation?
Simply put, you need to make the special abilities in your world unique. Create a backstory that goes deeper than “He is magical because I SAY he is magical!” Now more than ever, readers and viewers want to dive deep into fantasy worlds, and creating a unique reason for special abilities helps them do just that.
Let’s take a look at a few samples.
X-MEN: Genetic Mutations
Wolverine heals and has blade-like claws sprout from his hands-on command. Cyclops fires beams from his eyes. Jean Grey controls things with her mind. Each character has a unique special ability, but each ability is tied to a common cause: freak genetic mutations.
So-called mutants have mutations in their genetic code that give them radical powers; but, like most mutations, these also come with downsides. Wolverine feels the pain every time those claws come out. Cyclops needs special glasses to hold in his beams.
By giving them a scientific backing, the X-Men went from simply being superheroes to being a unique relative, the Mutants.
The Stormlight Archives
Written by Brandon Sanderson, the Stormlight Archives are set in a mystical world much like Middle Earth. Highstorms sweep through the land with mystical energies swirling around in them. The rich and powerful own shardplate and shardblades, powerful pieces of armor and weaponry that charge through the highstorms.
Likewise, Surgebinders are the closest there comes to magicians in this fantasy world. They can bind different ‘systems’ – such as gravity and adhesion – and manipulate them. Users do this through binding with a spren, a small mystical creature. Like shardplate, Surgebinders need to recharge in highstorms.
By creating a storm system that really fuels almost everything mystical in the Stormlight world, Sanderson thought up a unique way of giving his characters special abilities.
Star Wars – Jedi/Sith Abilities
Although it annoyed a lot of fans in the process, the Force got an explanation. Midi-chlorians – microscopic organisms – live in every race in the galaxy and give them the powers of the force. Some people have more, some people have less.
From there, through focus and meditation, users can increase the potency of the Midi-chlorians, therefore increasing their powers.
All three of these are great examples of different ways to introduce magical powers into your universe. People latch onto unique ideas, so if you can discover a different approach to what you want to achieve, you’re on your way to success.
What are your favourite uses of power or ability in film or literature? Comment below or message me with your ideas!
This week, I’ve got a fascinating guest post for you from the fantastic dinmicheals. As a huge Marvel fan myself I ask dinmicheals to list her favourite MCU movies. They don’t correlate exactly with my own choices, but it’s not far off. Enjoy!
Cinematic Universe has been one of the best things to happen to this planet in
the last 10 years. There are 4 MCU movies in the top 10 highest grossing films
of all time (The Avengers Trilogy and Black Panther). That is no small feat, by
any standards. The MCU has spawned 18 movies to date, with many more still in
from the very first movie (Iron Man) to the latest (Ant-Man & The Wasp),
Marvel has tried to raise the bar every single time. They have been treating us
to fictional worlds after fictional worlds. This is my top 10 list of MCU
movies. As a fan of fictional worlds and immersive fantasy myself, I understand
that you may have disagreements with my list. However, I hope you enjoy it
nonetheless. Here we go:
‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ has the benefit of being
the latest release. However, this does not take away from the fact that the
movie was a thrilling ride from start to finish. Peyton Reed takes the comedy
in the MCU to a whole new level. Ant-Man and The Wasp is a comedy first, action
Ant-Man and The Wasp delivers on the quantum
realm after the slight tease from the first Ant-Man movie. Furthermore, this
movie shows us just how perfect Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lily (The
Wasp) are together on-screen. They fit seamlessly together from start to finish
— also, a special mention to ‘Luis and the Crew’ for their part in making the
movie an absolute laugh-fest.
‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ has grossed over $622m and was the eighth highest grossing movie of 2018. Not bad at all.
At number 9 is another beautiful comedy movie
and by far the best Thor movie of them all. Taika Waititi is his first Marvel
movie absolutely nails it from start to finish. Thor: Ragnarok gives us a
better look into the fictional worlds of the nine realms. Also, we see Thor’s
emotional journey to save his home from his evil, previously unknown elder
Thor: Ragnarok shows Loki at his very best,
scheming and plotting his way through the movie. Also, Tessa Thompson is an
absolute delight, bringing a different element and feel to this immersive
fantasy movie. Last but certainly not the least, the fight scene between Thor
and Hulk is worth the admission fee by itself. Stunning!!!
I honestly don’t think that if Marvel tried,
that they could cast a better Spiderman than Tom Holland. He is absolutely
perfect for the role. You almost forget that he is British. This was the second
reboot of the Spiderman fantasy world, but it is well worth it.
The presence of Robert Downey Jr. and Jon
Favreau gives the film a delightful authenticity. We also see the effort and
growth of ‘Peter Parker’ as he tries to navigate his way through high school. Spider-Man:
Homecoming is a sublime introduction into the MCU fantasy world of Spiderman. I
am confident that there will be sequels to come.
The number 7 spot belongs to the movie where it
all started, Iron Man. Who would have thought that we would be here today, 17
movies later, reminiscing over the very first? Jon Favreau delivers a
masterpiece into the fictional world of the MCU.
The casting of Robert Downey Jr. is one of the
best decisions the MCU has ever made. It all started in this movie. He has made
the Iron Man character his own. It is difficult to imagine that there might
come a time when someone else would pick up that mantle. Until then, we cannot
help but enjoy the awesomeness that is Robert Downey Jr.
The MCU struck gold with this movie. Black
Panther has been an absolute sensation. IT even made more money that Infinity
War in North America. It grossed a total of $1.35bn, earning a spot in the top
10 grossing movies of all time (No. 9).
Furthermore, Black Panther is the highest grossing solo superhero film.
This movie took the world by storm. It is by
far, one of the most impactful superhero movies ever made. It touches on
subjects of slavery and racism in unique ways, showing us a different side. Let
us not even get into the beautiful city of Wakanda, just wonderful. An
immersive fantasy of the highest quality. “Wakanda Forever!!!”.
Into the top 5, we go. It pains me to put The
Avengers so low on this list just because of how awesome the movie is. I
literally cannot count the number of times I have watched this fantastic movie.
It wasn’t until this movie that we all started to see the phenom that the MCU
had started to become. It was an ensemble superhero movie, the likes we had
never seen before.
The Avengers was just the perfect way to end
Marvel Phase One. The superhero ensemble grossed a not-too-shabby $1.52bn
during its theatrical run. The only Marvel movie to date with a higher gross is
Infinity War. The Avengers took the world by storm in 2012. It represented a
significant turning point for the MCU.
At number 4 is the second Captain America movie
by MCU darlings, Joe & Anthony Russo. This was the first partnership
between Joe & Anthony Russo and the writing team of Christopher Markus and
Stephen McFeely. Likewise, this partnership is responsible for four MCU movies
(Captain America 2 & 3, Avengers 3 & 4).
We never started to fully understand the depths
of the power of Captain America until this movie. The Winter Soldier showed us
Captain America at his best — a seasoned soldier at the height of his powers.
Furthermore, the fight choreography in this movie is just off the charts. That
fight sequence under the bridge between Bucky and Steve Rodgers; Goosebumps!
We can debate for eternity whether Disney
should have fired James Gunn or not. However, one thing is clear: the man sure
can make movies. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a breath of fresh air
into the MCU. It was a wonderful movie that opened the avenue of space into the
MCU. Likewise, this immersive fantasy movie was a laugh fest from start to
The stars of this movie are the teams
themselves. Each character as captivating as the other. All I can say is, I am
I don’t have to say a lot about ‘Infinity War
as it’s still very fresh in our memories. The ending of the movie leaves you on
the edge of your seat and wanting more. Even till today, I am still in shock
over the sheer number of characters that were lost to the snap. If fan theories
are anything to go by, we might get to see our favorite characters again.
The anticipation leading up to this movie was
simply astounding. This movie raises the stakes more than any MCU movie before
it. Avengers: Infinity War is the highest grossing MCU movie, grossing an
astronomical $2.05bn. Fingers crossed on if Avengers: Endgame would claim that
spot. Likewise, it is the 4th highest grossing movie of all time. Amazing!
I am sure you must have guessed it already. If
this movie was not already on this list, then it must be on top. That is where
I’ve placed it in my top 10 MCU movies list. I do not even know why they
bothered to name it Captain America: Civil War. Avengers 2.5 would’ve been a
better title. The only major Avengers members missing in the movie were Thor
and Hulk. It was star-studded from start to finish.
This immersive fantasy was a masterpiece served up by the partnership of the Russo Brothers and the team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It is an absolute delight from start to finish. That Berlin Airport sequence – Whew! Jaw dropping!
The margins between the top 5 movies are minimal. Putting one above the other is tough. However, if I had to choose, I would say that Captain America: Civil War totally deserves its place at the top of this list. I am more than confident that the MCU would give us more amazing movies in the years to come. Thank you for reading.
Patrick Jackson is featured on my site today to talk about the immersive world-building of Universal Studios. Take it away, Patrick!
Can Universal Still Build A Monster Universe?
For those interested in expanded worlds and connected universes in fiction, Universal’s Dark Universe has been something to keep an eye on the last few years. The idea was for the studio to use its valuable monster properties to establish a darker version of the Marvel or DC superhero universes (especially after the recent success of Black Panther, and the upcoming Avengers:Infinity War movie). But after The Mummy failed as the first planned installment, the Monsterverse is in peril. Top producers have abandoned the project, and at this point it’s uncertain whether or not the so-called “Dark Universe” will ever come to fruition.
**WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS FOR BLACK PANTHER**
Marvel’s Black Panther has smashed box office takings and changed the face of superhero movies forever. But what of the film itself? D.M. Cain explores whether the movie is worth all the hype.
Wakanda (the brand new location in Black Panther) is a beautiful and vibrant example of exquisite world-building. It looks incredible – as a stunning fantasy landscape, a technological wonder, but also as a country buzzing with tradition and culture. The costumes, weapons, architecture and even the people’s gestures (the crossing of the arms, the dancing before the duels, etc) all contribute to a stunning world more developed than anything we have seen in the Marvel universe to date.