Taking risks is important, as we never get anywhere by playing it safe. Of course, most of us prefer to experience the thrill of risk-taking vicariously in the novels, comics, movies and video games we consume. That’s why devil-may-care characters are so popular across culture.
Let’s look at a few of the most memorable creations from the world of sci-fi and comic books who’ve managed to face perilous situations, make major gambles and manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as a result.
While he may have become an iconic character over the decades, it’s easy to forget that in the first Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker is an impetuous, whiny and somewhat bland everyman.
It’s not until the final act of the film that he finally comes into his own, connecting with the Force and using it to destroy the Death Star with an impossibly accurate shot from his X-Wing.
There’s no question that the decision to push the craft’s targeting system aside and rely on his intuition instead was a huge, potentially disastrous gamble; if Skywalker had spurned the electronic systems and then missed, the Rebellion would likely have been crushed there and then.
In retrospect, it was obviously a lynchpin decision that elevated his character to greatness. And it’s not like he was spinning the reels and hoping for the best, as you’ll learn from fun facts about popular slot games.
Rather, Skywalker took a risk which he knew would pay off, because to not gamble in this situation would have meant certain failure anyway.
The Matrix throws up a dense spider’s web of philosophical conundrums to tax and tantalize audiences, and one of the main choices that protagonist Neo has to make has become enshrined as a meme. Do you take the red pill, or the blue pill?
Our heroic hacker is given a binary decision between a return to a comfortable life in a gilded cage, or to have the wool pulled from his eyes and the harsh realities of the world revealed to him. This is something which can, and does, go very wrong, at least in the short term.
However, over the course of the original trilogy, Neo’s initial gamble is vindicated, and there are lots of other risks along the way. Believing the Oracle’s assertion that he’s ‘The One’, and trusting that Trinity’s love will save him when he’s at death’s door, are just two examples of many.
Few sci-fi series in recent memory are so deep, or so shallow, as Rick and Morty. This dichotomy is represented in the nihilistic titular scientist Rick Sanchez, a hard-drinking, loud-burping misanthrope who veers from indifference to existence in one moment, to needy sincerity the next. Say what you like about Rick, but one thing he’s not afraid to do is gamble.
Almost every plot revolves around Rick dragging his grandson Morty out on an incredibly dangerous adventure which has a high likelihood of leaving them as nothing more than greasy smears on the space-time continuum.
And yet Rick’s supreme self-confidence in his own cleverness, along with his arsenal of convenient gadgets, mean that he’s willing to roll the dice time after time.
Better yet, even if Rick loses, he wins, because he can just jump to an alternate universe and start with a clean slate.
The all-knowing leader of the X-Men might not seem like the type to gamble, but in this case you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Charles Xavier is much more of a risk-taker than you’d think, and in most cases his gambles are all about trust.
He puts his trust in the youngsters who come into his academy, accepting the waifs and strays who others have rejected, and wins by proving that there is always something commendable in the rejects of society, if you dig deep enough and have compassion.
He also puts his trust in his enemies, from time to time, often acting as the peace-maker in order to get Magneto on-side to help when they face an existential threat that’s more significant than their own petty squabbles.
So while he may seem kindly and clever, Professor X is one of the shrewdest gamblers out there in the world of sci-fi and comic books.
There have of course been tragedies and traumas that come from his willingness to play the odds, but all gamblers know that they need to accept losses when they come.