5 Superpowers You Never Noticed All Movie Characters Have

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We’re used to people in movies having superpowers. Some of them, after all, are hulks or spider-men. But we’re not talking about robot cops and super soldiers in this article. Movies — even ones that aren’t fantasy or sci-fi — often give unearthly abilities to totally ordinary characters simply because that makes it easier to move the plot along. We’re talking about how …

5

Everyone Has Daredevil Hearing In Impossibly Noisy Places

When you’re in a dance club, there is one word you will say at least 500 times a night: “WHAT?!” While ridiculously loud music plays, you and the person next to you will scream “WHAT!?” directly into each other’s ears until the two of you are drunk enough to think it’s a conversation. And it’s the same thing the cab driver yells at you later when you tell him to take you to horblrgble and ablbbb.

In the movies, though, everyone is perfectly capable of having a normal conversation in the noisiest of places — clubs, concerts, gunfights, it doesn’t matter. They’ll trade jokes and make nuanced observations like they were in a soundproof studio. It’s as if no one who has written a movie has ever tried to order a beer or ask a dancing girl about her hobbies. In The Social Network, Sean Tucker delivers an absurdly long story in the center of a noisy club:

In The Matrix, Trinity and Neo have a quiet discussion right next to speakers blasting four billion decibels of Rob Zombie.

Warner Bros. Pictures
What’s your name again!? What? Sorry, did you say, ‘DIG THROUGH THE DITCHES AND BURN THROUGH THE WITCHES?'”
“WHAT?!”

But In Reality …

The deafeningly loud music you hear in clubs doesn’t make it impossible to talk by accident; it’s the whole point. Club owners deliberately turn up the volume to stifle conversation because, exposition or otherwise, time spent talking is time not spent buying overpriced drinks.

4

Women’s Bodies Are Magically Hairless In All Circumstances

If you were to crash-land on a remote desert island or wake up in a coma to find society has collapsed, you’re going to have to give up some conveniences of civilized society. Hygiene and hair maintenance is one of the first things to go. If you’re a man, this means ratty hair and a scraggly beard. If you’re a woman, it means … you’ll still have kissably soft, smooth legs, and well-maintained eyebrows and manicures. At least, that’s what movies and TV shows would have us believe. In Lost, Thundarr The Barbarian, or even “real” shows like Survivor, a woman’s body is able to completely shave itself when you remove razors from the world.

Discovery Studios
“Your legs are so smooth. Are … are you a witch?”

Even the most gripping survival drama of the ’60s, Gilligan’s Island, never displayed anything other than perfectly smooth legs and underarms.

Warner Bros. Television Distribution
It was only a three-hour tour, but they brought enough bikini wax for a six-hour one.

But In Reality …

Despite a female body hair never appearing on camera in the history of the human race, women’s legs are not naturally smooth. To get them hairless, women shave and wax and rub torturous inventions along them. It’s true — if you leave a woman’s leg alone for a day, it will grow enough hair to wig Cleveland. But try telling that to the producers of The Walking Dead. They have to wade through buckets of gore to find a can of chili, but there is always an Epilady to spare for the hot, hairless babes of the wasteland.

3

Everyone Has Crystal-Clear Underwater Vision

If you live in an adventure movie, odds are good that at some point, you’re going to get front-kicked off a boat or shoved into the ocean by an explosion. Luckily, since you’re a character in an adventure movie, you can see perfectly in water, no matter how dark or filled with muck it may be.

This happens so often in movies that it would be truly weird for a character to burst out of the water to complain how they couldn’t see a goddamn thing. You might remember in The Poseidon Adventure how Kurt Russell had to dive into a debris-filled, salty abyss to find the Save Everyone button. Or how in Lost, when Kate and Sawyer notice bodies at the bottom of a pond, and manage to scavenge them for supplies without turning the place into a cloud of disturbed, opaque silt.

Then there’s Lady In The Water, which expects us to believe not only that someone with Paul Giamatti’s body can swim like Aquaman, but also that he can see in an underwater cavern with only a small flashlight. Water is almost a pointless obstacle in movies. Everyone can hold their breath for 20 minutes, see perfectly, and all their electronics work fine.

But In Reality …

Goggles were invented because it’s hard as hell to see underwater, even assuming you’re not surrounded by bubbles, algae, and disturbed muck. Sure, in a pool on a sunny day, you might be able to leer at the unsuspecting butts of the other swimmers, but jump into a pond, river, or reservoir, and you’ll see next to nothing. And not only for the obvious reasons; the human eye is literally not designed to see underwater.

The front of the eye has two lenses which work to focus images on the retina at the back. Refraction takes place when light passes from the air into the cornea, which is much more dense, but water and human corneas have similar densities. So when we open our eyes underwater, incoming light rays are hardly bent, or focused, at all. The inside lens can’t make up for the lost corneal refraction, so the light that reaches the retina isn’t focused and the underwater world looks blurry. Unless you live in a movie, where everyone is apparently half mermaid.

If you want to see all of Hollywood’s underwater powers come together at once, here’s a clip from Alien: Resurrection, everybody’s favorite Alien movie. These magical assholes not only navigate a long, flooded, garbage-filled passageway with no lighting, but also spot the Xenomorphs following them and shoot at them with grenade launchers, with perfect accuracy, while holding their breath in the dark and dragging a handicapped guy. It’s incredible.


Exploding an acid-filled monster right next to themselves barely even disturbs their swimming.

And speaking of incredible underwater powers …

2

Sleeping People Can’t Drown

Imagine a movie character getting into a boat/plane/aquatic train accident in the dead of night and getting thrown overboard. They are knocked unconscious, hopelessly adrift in the merciless sea. Can you imagine being surprised when a snap cut shows them washed up on a beach and they, what’s this? They’re stirring! They’re alive!

No, of course not. Everyone who has ever gone into the ocean unconscious in a movie has woken up on a nearby island or in the bed of the person currently leaning over them. If movies are to be believed, the best way to survive at sea is to punch yourself in the jaw.

In The Walking Dead, Tara falls off a bridge with several flesh-eating monsters, only to wash up hours later unconscious and unharmed.

But In Reality …

The mammalian diving reflex exists, and it tends to keep humans awake during exposure to water. But these characters wash ashore completely conked out. Real people can’t sleep through that. Weirdly enough, some have tried. When you start breathing water into your lungs, your choices are 1) wake up coughing and pissed off, or 2) be dead. So while we might believe that movie characters can see underwater perfectly while holding their breath for ten minutes and winning a gunfight, we draw the line at thinking they can stop and take a nap.

1

Everyone Hanging From a Ledge Has Gorilla Grip Strength

You’ve seen it a hundred times — the beloved protagonist goes over a cliff! “Oh no!” You shout! “Shut up!” someone else shouts. And it turns out someone else was right, because that protagonist isn’t dead. They’ve grabbed on to the side of the cliff/building/perilous edge, and are hanging on by their fingertips. Whew!

It really doesn’t matter how fit, chubby, male, female, young, or old the character is; that person is in no more danger. Remember how in Back To The Future, Doc Brown — an elderly scientist with presumably average-to-below upper body strength — managed to hang onto a sharp metal bar for the entire third act?

This happens all the time. In Smallville, Lois Lane, a young lady of unremarkable strength, holds onto a flagpole with one hand for minutes while Superman fusses at her.

But In Reality …

Most of us and our flabby bodies would splatter on the ground. Humans are notoriously weak even before corn syrup turns them into wads of soft meat and diabetes. The key to grip strength is in the forearms and hands, and you really only get that from purposeful, specific workouts. It’s why so many people fall into the water on American Ninja Warrior despite looking like jacked, less likable Chris Pratts. Hanging from your arms has a very finite time limit.

Merely hanging from a bar for one minute — without having to catch it in mid-fall — is something that takes practice even if you’re fit. If you’re an old-ass inventor or a teen reporter, you only have a few seconds from the time you find yourself hanging onto something until the time you plummet to your doom. So enjoy them. If you manage to hang there for longer than a minute, congratulations, you’re in a summer blockbuster and you’re probably about to meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!

Ryan makes a weird, progressive kid’s show you can watch here. Or follow him on Twitter.

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