Don’t Rest Your Head Exhaustion Powers in “Wanted”

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 27, 2009 at 2:20 am

I recently had 14 hours to kill on a flight to Seoul, and I watched “Wanted”. I really enjoyed it. I don’t even know if I think it was “good” or not, from an objective standpoint. What I was interested in was the similarity between the crazy stuff I saw in the trailers and “exhaustion powers” I was reading about in the game “Don’t Rest Your Head”. In that respect, the movie didn’t disappoint.

Don’t Rest Your Head

First off, if you’re not familiar with Don’t Rest Your Head, fix that. Really. Picture Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere mixed with Dark City and some really interesting mechanics. The characters in DRYH are insomniacs who have powers rooted in exhaustion and madness.

I’ll confess to being a little hazy on where, exactly, the line between the two lies. I read it as: If the action pushes the limits of credibility but is close enough to mundane that someone could explain it away as very improbable or not really what it looked like–even if they have to avoid thinking about it too much–it’s an exhaustion power. If it crosses the line into “can’t lie to yourself well enough to make what you saw possible” territory, it’s a madness power. (I’d love to hear how others have delineated these two.)

I find that gray area between the improbable and the impossible, and people’s twisting of their memory of what they saw to try to explain it, really compelling. Wanted has lots of examples to draw upon. The setting and premise of the movie are totally different from Don’t Rest Your Head, but the characters do things that I think are like DRYH exhaustion powers–implausible but which an observer might be able to rationalize away.

Demonstrations of Exhaustion Powers

There are plenty of trailers for Wanted, but here’s one that has a fair number of demonstrations of Don’t Rest Your Head “exhaustion powers”.

Points of Interest

0:10 The Pickup
Picking up a passenger in mid-spin. Followed by other driving feats. Beyond belief, but so rooted in the mundane—driving—that an observer would accept it as rational.
0:45 The Curve
Curving bullets around one target to hit another: The key to making this an exhaustion power rather than a madness power is that the character makes a show of trying to put spin on the bullet, like a pitcher throwing a curve ball. Between that and the fact that the bullet doesn’t go very far off course, an observer could talk himself into saying, “Well, maybe the spin really does help….” or “His arm was way out to the side when he pulled the trigger—that’s why the bullet seemed to go around the obstacle.”
1:20 The Block
Blocking bullets with bullets—unbelievable…but just very good and very lucky, right? Nothing unexplainable here….
1:32 The Jump
An impossibly long jump from one building to another. It’s not just the standard jump from rooftop to rooftop across an alley. This is across a wide street. Clearly impossible…but someone observing it could tell himself, “It must be closer than it looks” or “He did drop a couple floors by the time he reached the other building.”
1:52 The Flip
Flipping a car sideways over a police barricade. This drive power stays an exhaustion power, rather than a madness power, by virtue of its mundane, rational context. A lucky stunt, the perfect conditions….


Taken on its own merits, Wanted might be brilliant or might be ridiculous, I don’t know. But as inspiration and illustration of exhaustion powers for Don’t Rest Your Head, it’s a goldmine.

For more info, check out my earlier post on Don’t Rest Your Head.

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