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Here is the ten step plot summary of every superhero movie ever made:

1. Superhero-ized.

Man with a tragic past, some sort of emotional and psychological false exterior, and a propensity to make witty remarks in tense situations, discovers/gains/develops/invents/learns/is infused with superpowers. Unless he already has superpowers because he’s from another planet/realm/universe, or because this is a sequel.

2. Beautiful Love Interest.

Superhero strikes up a relationship with a young, attractive, no-nonsense chick with an attitude, who is a perfect Hollywood mix of feminine and feminist — which means she’ll play the role of the damsel in distress later on in the film (Hollywood’s version of feminine), but she’s also, like, a scientist, or a lawyer, or a reporter or whatever (Hollywood’s version of feminist). She loves the man, but fears that all this superfighting might get him killed. She wants him to just leave all this Superhero business behind, damn it. At some point she says something really original like “Every time you leave, I’m afraid…[tears welling up in eyes]… I’m afraid you won’t come back!”

3. Big Baddie Encounter (#1).

The Super Bad Guy surfaces. He blows something up, or kills a bunch of people in some other way that preferably involves explosions but very little blood because the producers need to keep that PG-13 rating. Superhero swoops in, makes a wise crack, and starts fighting Super Bad Guy. Oh no! Super Bad Guy gets the best of him — but doesn’t kill him, despite the ample opportunity he has to do so.

4. De-Superhero-ized.

Superhero loses powers/magical suit/hammer/whatever/is incapacitated in some other improbable way. This inevitably leads to…

5. Self Reflection, Emotional Crisis.

Maybe Beautiful Love Interest was right, he thinks, maybe he’s not cut out for the superdog-eat-superdog superworld of superhero superfighting.

6. Big Baddie Plot Uncovered.

Our psychologically vulnerable Superhero stumbles across a file, or a computer chip, or some other fill-in-the-plot-holes-shortcut which reveals the dastardly designs of the Super Bad Guy. Dear God! He wants to kill a bunch more people for no logical reason! Who could have guessed? (Answer: Everyone in the universe except for the brilliant crime fighting protagonist who has been in this exact same situation 40 freaking times).

7. Damsel in Inevitable Distress.

Beautiful Love Interest serves her narrative purpose by getting herself into some sort of precarious position which will totally compromise Superhero’s plan to save the world. Funny, the woman was JUST hounding Superhero about being reckless, and now she’s gone and gotten herself kidnapped by a super villain. Hypocrite.

8. Moral Dilemma.

Superhero can either save the world or save his woman. Which will it be? This is an interesting quandary that should be further explored– Wait. Never mind. Another plot-shortcut. It looks like he can do both.

9. The Showdown, Big Baddie Encounter (#2).

Superhero shows up right before Super Bad Guy is about to turn on the laser/detonate the bomb/kill the president/blow up the galaxy/melt the sun/whatever. Not so fast! Fight sequence. It looks like Super Bad Guy is winning! Oh no! Is this the end of Superhero? No, the movie studio makes a billion dollars per film with this character, so there is literally no possible way he doesn’t come out on top. But we’ll watch for another 19 minutes as the director pretends we don’t all know exactly where this is going. Aaaaand there it is. Superhero wins. Super Bad Guy dies (or does he?!) and Beautiful Love Interest is all the sudden thankful that her man is a Superhero, even though she spent 3/4 of the movie dogging him about it. Hypocrite.

10. Cliffhanger.

Shock! The story arch isn’t fully resolved and the door is left open for another movie? Well, surely nobody, with the exception of everybody, saw that coming.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. A jillion dollars at the box office.