Comic Book Curious

Superhero Movies: Catalysts For Innovation

August 23, 2021

Of all the action-packed and death-defying stunts in superhero movies, my favorite scenes are the tech scenes; whenever holograms of blueprints project into thin air and words like “the multiverse” or “doppelganger” are strewn throughout conversations, I am on the edge of my seat.

Many of the futuristic technologies in superhero movies have gone on to inspire real-life inventions that are actually used in the world today. Things as crazy as hoverboards which date back to Back to the Future II (1989), made their way into the world; two years ago, Lexus made a hoverboard that could levitate above the ground. Superconductor magnets inside the board paired with a special skatepark with magnetic floors allow the skateboard and its rider to levitate several inches off the ground.

A hoverboard floats off the ground

Credit: Lexus

Other technologies from movies that have made it into real life also include the iconic laser guns that debuted in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). Today the US Navy boasts “Laser Weapons” on their ships which can blast highly energized electromagnetic waves to incapacitate enemy ships.

A laser weapon mounted to a battleship

Credit: US Navy

In the last decade, flying cars like the one Howard Stark presented at the World Exposition of Tomorrow in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) are becoming a reality as well. Startups like KleinVision are making the first functional cars that, if stuck in traffic, can deploy a set of wings and take off into the sky.

A prototype car with wings

Credit: KleinVision

To naysayers out there, yes, many superhero movies propose what look like completely unfeasible technologies that defy basic physics laws, but that’s not the point. More importantly than the fact that movies inspire particular inventions like hoverboards, laser guns, or flying cars, is the sense of awe and amazement that viewers of these movies feel when they watch those tech scenes. Superhero movies have inspired believers across the world that they can make the impossible possible.

It is this mindset that superhero movies expertly deposit in their audiences that catalyzes real-world innovation. Behind every groundbreaking technology is a believer who ignores the “that’s crazy” or “ it’s impossible” comments from society, and continues to push on with their own ideas.

By now you can probably tell that my favorite superhero movie is Iron Man. When Tony Stark was trapped in a prison, with no access to any formal lab equipment and even little access to food, he built the arc reactor and engineered his escape from captivity. Whether this can actually happen in real life or not is up to you to decide, but the point is that Iron Man imparts to viewers the idea that great feats can be accomplished even with limited resources – that anyone can create, innovate, and change the world.

I know that in my life these movies surely have done a great deal in inspiring my creative journey. I’ve always been fascinated by planes, especially seeing them on TV being able to soar through the sky and fly in dynamic paths. Since I was 5, fueled by this fascination for flight, I folded tons and tons of paper airplanes. As I grew older this transformed to larger and larger models, and eventually when I was twelve, I built a fully functional airplane with motors, ailerons, flaps, and everything that an airplane needed. I went on a spree to self-learn aeronautics principles and building planes – I certainly owe some credit to those superhero movies that have emboldened me to create.

The small model airplanes I made, of course, were not at all life-changing inventions, but they did change my life in the sense that they made me believe that if I really put my mind to something, I could create anything – just like Tony Stark!

Want more innovation? Check out John Campbell's article on robots!

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