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Flight Is the Final Power

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Reporter: Is it true you can fly?
Johnny: Yeah, I'm working on it. It's actually really difficult.

Get ready to fly.

When characters in fiction gain superpowers, flight is often the last one to be mastered; if it is the character's only power, they will only have complete control of it near the climax (and often just in time to save the day). Usually treated as an awesome moment because it signifies they are finally ready to become a full-fledged hero. It often leads to The Joy of First Flight because flight is the one thing a human being cannot physically achieve, making it the most fantastic and cathartic of Stock Superpowers.

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Narrative-wise, it makes sense to keep flight limited until near the finale; you don't want the protagonists to have an easy way out of the ground, where most of the dangerous action will logically take place. For this very same reason, however, do not expect antagonists to have this issue (in which case, do expect them to always fly away when things start looking bad for them).

A non-superpowered version can happen if a character builds or obtains a machine or item capable of making them fly, but it doesn't work until they need it most. In exploration-based Video Games, this is often one of the last abilities gained (if the game has such an ability and if the player can't already fly from the start), due to the greatly increased freedom it provides.

May result from a Die or Fly situation. Compare to 11th-Hour Superpower.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Fast ki-based flight is gradually mastered by most of the heroes by the end of the Dragon Ball era, with Goku finally demonstrating it at the end of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, where he uses it as his final surprise tactic. Perhaps not coincidentally, the accompanying story arc is also where he reaches adulthood, and afterward he and Chichi go off to get married.
    • However, it's inverted during the Dragon Ball Z era, where Gohan explains that the ability to fly is one of the most basic forms of ki manipulation, so it's usually the first ability learned by those who practice said fighting style.
  • In Another World with My Smartphone: Protagonist Touya Mochizuki has the unique (for his time anyway) gift of all elemental forms of magic, as well as using any Null Magic that is described to him in basic detail. He eventually creates a sustained, high-speed flight by combining Accel, Gravity, Levitate, and Flight...a feat that astounds observers even above his prior accomplishments, and something that no one but he could have ever figured out.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017): While Akko has made progress with her magic throughout the series, she never ends up having the magic needed to fly a broom properly until the epilogue at the end of episode 25.
  • Inverted in My Hero Academia by Midoriya. Of the six Quirks within One For All he's trying to unlock, Nana Shimura's Float is the second one he accesses after Black Whip. His first in-combat use of it is against an All For One-boosted Shigaraki, lifting him and the others off the ground so Shigaraki wouldn't be able to annihilate everyone with his Touch of Death.
  • Naruto: The protagonist only learns how to fly during the final story arc, when the ability spontaneously manifests to enable him to save his friends from the Big Bad.

    Film - Animated 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The unique energy emitted by the Atlantean crystals is shown to have many applications throughout the film, such as creating unusual lifeforms, illuminating dark places, and granting its bearers longevity. Milo enthusiastically attempts to use them as fuel for an ancient flying vehicle so he can explore the city from above, but reconsiders when he accidentally causes the machine to crash. Later on, the heroes collectively decide to try again and take flight to pursue the Big Bad, setting the stage for the final battle.
  • Chicken Run: The film follows a group of chickens as they try to escape from their farm. After numerous failures, they become convinced that the only way to break out is by somehow flying over the facility's gates. Though they try to emulate other birds for most of the film, the climax has them build a rudimentary airplane out of their coops, with which they finally attain their freedom.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Birdman: Riggan Thompson is shown using telekinetic powers to levitate himself and other objects several times, but when he jumps off a building near the end he finally uses his power to make himself fly dreamily over Broadway (although it's very possible his powers are just in his head).
  • Dark City: John Murdoch spends the film slowly mastering his telekinetic powers (called "tuning" by the Strangers, the City's overlords). He runs out of time when the Strangers capture him, intending to turn him into one of them; Dr. Schreiber injects him with a memory syringe that gives him a lifetime of mental training in minutes. John not only wreaks havoc on the Stramgers' lab with his tuning, he then flies after their leader Mr. Book for a showdown above the City.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins: after spending the film learning to combine his martial arts training with high-tech weaponry, Batman surprises the League of Shadows with a new trick during their attack on Gotham City: a glider suit that gives him controlled flight, allowing him to pursue Ra's Al Ghul's train.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: Lucius Fox presents Bruce Wayne with his ultimate invention: The Bat, a flying pursuit vehicle. Forced to leave it behind when he's imprisoned for a large portion of the film, Batman uses the Bat spectacularly against Bane's army in the final showdown.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel:
      • Clark is shown as a child and young adult, mastering his Super Strength, x-ray vision, and other powers. But it's not until he receives tutelage from a holographic version of his father Jor-El that he focuses enough to learn to fly and takes up the mantle of Superman.
      • A villainous version: General Zod and the other Kryptonians begin developing similar powers when they reach Earth, after being exposed to the yellow sun. After showing his destructive power via heat vision and strength, Zod proves his adaptability by learning flight faster than Clark did, putting them on the same power level.
    • Wonder Woman: Flight is the last ability Diana demonstrates, and only during the film's epilogue, suggesting that she only mastered it years after she adopted the Wonder Woman identity.
    • Shazam!: The Die or Fly variant. Billy, having already learned his other powers by accident or through tests, and spending a lot of time trying to fly, only learns to fly after Dr. Sivana (who can already do it) drops him from several thousand feet up.
  • Fantastic Four (2005): The Human Torch quickly realizes that he can use his flames to propel himself through the air, though his first two attempts end in failure, as he lacks the control and finesse to steer himself. In the film's final act, he finally masters the ability to fly, which he uses to evade a heat-seeking missile.
  • Gamera the Brave: Downplayed. Though he is able to initially float around as a baby, Toto is only able to gain his ability to properly fly at the climax of the film, in order to fight and defeat Zedus.
  • Hook: Peter Banning spends the first two-thirds of the movie struggling to remember his past as Peter Pan to help rescue his kids who were kidnapped by Captain Hook. When he finally finds his happy thought (the love he felt holding his children for the first time), he regains his ability to fly and becomes the Pan again.
  • Judge Dredd: The Judges of Mega City One are armed with various weapons including the Lawmaster, a high-powered armored motorcycle that has an anti-gravity feature that ALWAYS malfunctions. During a chase, Dredd obtains a Lawmaster and drives it right through a skyscraper wall, plummeting hundreds of feet... until he forces the anti-grav to work just before he can hit the ground, turning the chase into an aerial pursuit.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Explored in Iron Man: Most of the weapons Tony puts into his armor were already engineered, and the only real issue is getting the suit flight-capable. It takes several (sometimes painful) tests before he can finally fly, and even then Tony flies too high and the suit malfunctions from icing over. In the fight with Iron Monger, he tricks him into making the same mistake.
    • Captain Marvel (2019): Carol Danvers learns to fly at the climax of the film while falling from low Earth Orbit.
  • The Matrix: After finally accepting he is "The One," Neo becomes the most powerful entity in the Matrix, able to manipulate the program to his liking; the very last shot of the movie is him flying off into the sky.
  • Sky High: At first, Will Stronghold thinks he didn't inherit either of his father's Super Strength or his mother's flying ability but soon learns that he inherited his father's power. When he fights against Royal Pain, she throws him out a window and he appears to die in the fall, until he is seen later in the air, showing that he also inherited his mother's power.
  • X-Men: First Class: Banshee is shown to be proficient enough to use his power to fire concentrated sound blasts and act as a human sonar. He spends the brunt of the film trying to learn how to use his mutation to fly, by bouncing the sound waves off the ground back into himself. He finally succeeds and provides air support during the climactic battle with the Hellfire Club.
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    Literature 
  • In the French-Canadian fantasy book series Amos Daragon, it's mentioned early on that once the protagonist, a "Mask Wearer" with Elemental Powers, masters Air Magic (by finding 4 stones of power for his mask) he will be able to summon tornadoes and fly.
  • The Bible: 40 days after his resurrection (and after performing many miracles and healings before and after), Christ physically ascends to Heaven as 11 of his apostles watch, vanishing into the clouds.
  • In Johnny Catbiscuit, when Wayne becomes Johnny for the first time he becomes stronger and more buff right away and becomes super-intelligent soon after. However, he doesn't become able to fly until near the end of the story.
  • Subverted and ultimately defied in Perdido Street Station: Renegade scientist Isaac is approached by an avian humanoid named Yagharek, who wants his flight restored after his wings were cut off by his tribe for an archaic crime. Isaac labors over the book to make Yagharek able to fly unassisted again, but when he finally learns the nature of his crime in the epilogue, he abandons him and Yagharek chooses to pluck his feathers and live life as a grounded human.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Mandalorian: The title character is a trained warrior with multiple weapons, but is inexperienced with something referred to as "the rising phoenix." Towards the end of Season One, the Armourer presents him with the rising phoenix: a Mandalorian jetpack, which he uses to engage Moff Gideon's TIE-fighter.
  • Smallville: Clark only learns how to fly during the climax of the final episode, in which he uses said ability to defeat Darkseid and push Apokolips away from Earth.

    Theatre 
  • Lizard Boy: The final superpowered effect of the dragon's blood that Trevor unlocks is a pair of giant scaly wings.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition:
    • The Tempest domain for Clerics grants a flight speed equal to the cleric's walking speed whenever they're outdoors and above ground as the domain's final ability.
    • The Oath of Vengeance sacred oath for Paladins has Avenging Angel as its final power, which gives you a daily power that causes you to go wings that let you fly and gives you a fear aura for one minute once it's activated.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: The final Back Glyph the player obtains is the Volaticus, which conjures a pair of wings that enables the protagonist to fly. It's obtained in the same area where the final boss is fought.
  • In Control, the final Object of Power that Jesse finds and binds is the Floppy Disk, which gives her the power of flight. This also marks the point in the game where she can explore the Ashtray Maze, the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, leading to a sequence where she's tearing through hordes of enemies (effectively challenging the Imposter Syndrome that's been plaguing her).
  • Jetpacks are available in Fallout 4, but acquiring one requires either the extensive levelling up of one's armor modification skills or completing a high-level quest.
  • The wingsuit is the final upgrade made available to you in Far Cry 3, and dramatically increases your ability to move about the islands by allowing you to glide off any elevated location on demand.
  • Not necessarily the final power, but the Fly spell in Heroes of Might and Magic III is a level 5 Air Magic spell. The effect can be granted by wearing the Angel Wings artifact, which are considered a "Relic" (read: rarest) kind of artifact.
  • Kid Icarus: The protagonist is a flightless angel who needs to find three sacred treasures to rescue a goddess. The final treasure is a pair of magic wings that enable him to fly, which he uses in the last level to travel to the Big Bad's lair.
  • Ni GHTS Into Dreams: Claris and Elliot are regular children who display unique powers while in Nightopia, such as enhanced jumps and the ability to fuse with the title character. In the final level, they are left stranded in a small floating platform, forcing them to learn how to fly in order to rescue NiGHTS.
  • Ring Fit Adventure: As players progress through the game, Ring reclaims the powers that were stolen from him. The fifth and final power allows him to conjure a pair of wings and borrow the player's strength to fly through specific paths.
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: The final transformation is the harpy, the only one able to fly freely (a previous one, is capable of flight, but only in straight horizontal lines).
  • Skyblazer: The final spell Sky unlocks before being able to enter the Final Boss lair is the Fiery Phoenix, allowing him to fly by shapeshifting into a phoenix for a few seconds.
  • Super Mario Galaxy: The final power-up Mario accesses is the Red Star, which is only available for a single mission. Touching it lets Mario freely fly through the air.
  • In The Talos Principle, there's a jetpack hidden as an Easter Egg in one area, but it's only accessible after solving all of the puzzles in that area, as it would otherwise make them trivial.
  • In Within a Deep Forest, the main character is a living ball made of various materials that are unlocked through the game. The last of these is a magical ball that can levitate.
  • In Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, the final transformation is Hawk-Man, the only one capable of flying.
  • In LEGO City Undercover the final upgrade obtained is a jetpack for the astronaut disguise which allows Chase to make long jumps over gaps and can break a lot of overworld challenges.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Skilled firebenders can propel themselves with short Rocket Jumps. With Sozin's Comet amplifying their powers in the Grand Finale, they can refine this ability into true flight, which both heroic and villainous firebending masters use to great effect in the Final Battle.
    • Happens twice in The Legend of Korra:
      • In the first season, Korra has already mastered three of the four Elements at a young age, with only Air escaping her. She heads off to learn it from the world's only Airbending master but isn't able to pick it up until the end of the season, after she loses access to all her other bending abilities.
      • Villainous example with Zaheer in the third season. After mastering normal Airbending, he gains the power of true flight after his girlfriend P'li is killed, severing his emotional attachment to the world.
  • The Dragon Prince: After spending three seasons learning various spells, Callum learns how to fly in the season finale.
    • It's implied that flight is usually one of the last powers a Sky mage will master, as only the most powerful among them can actually grow wings to fly.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Lampshaded in "The Masked Magician". Timmy uses his godparents' magic to transform into the eponymous superhero, unwittingly causing Mr. Bickles to become a supervillain. During the episode's climax, Bickles is incredulous that the protagonist has flight in addition to all the powers he had displayed previously.
    Mr. Bickles: "Oh, come on! You figured out my secret identity and you can fly now?"
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Clark is baffled and worried as various powers such as X-Ray Vision, heat vision, super strength and damage resistance manifest themselves, and he is freaked out enough to run away when his adoptive parents reveal his alien heritage. He then jumps over a gully and takes flight, which thrills him enough to start accepting himself as he is.

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