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Deathtrap (plot device)

A Deathtrap is a literary and dramatic plot device where a villain, who typically has captured the hero, attempts to use an elaborate and usually sadistic method of murdering him/her.

It is often used as a means to create dramatic tension in the story and to have the villain reveal important information to the hero, confident that the hero will shortly not be able to use it. It also is a means to show the hero's resourcefullness in escaping.

This plot device is best known in the James Bond film series and superhero stories.

It is a common criticism that it is unbelievable in story plots to have villains try to kill the heroes in such elaborate ways when they could use simple methods like shooting them.. Through the decades, comic book writers have responded to these complaints by devising ways in which the deathtraps used have other purposes. For instance, one Legion of Super-Heroes by Jim Shooter had a team of Legionnaires put into a variety of deathtraps whose real purpose was to have them use so much energy to successfully escape so the villains can harness it to their own benefit. Other stories have had villains use deathtraps as a means of testing the heroes or to distract them while the villain attends to other matters. Other supervillains use it for personal reasons like The Riddler who has an uncontrollable compulsion to create intellectual challenges for his enemies and The Joker simply enjoys the challenge.

Famous Examples of Deathtraps

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