Some Kind of Force Field
"We've walked into some kind of force field..."
—Everyone that has ever walked into some kind of force field.
Because of the Rule of Perception, whenever a character walks into an invisible force field, expect a brief flash of the field and a light-sabery crackle. The trope name is the Stock Phrase that often results, in an odd aversion of Not Using the Z Word.
Using Some Kind of Force Field allows you to save your CGI budget for more attractive spacecraft. See also Deflector Shields and Force Field Door. The primary difference is that those tropes refer to the barriers, whereas this trope refers to the scene where someone is required to walk up and experimentally poke it a few times while reciting the required phrase (as above).
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, the boundaries of the closed space use these.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, there's a force field called AMF (Anti-Magic Field) that will render magical spells destabilized and useless. That means, basically magic user that trapped under here is a sitting duck (unless he/she is strong enough to overcome the field). These fields are invisible until a magical attack from an outside source tries to enter them.
- Typically, the AT Fields in Neon Genesis Evangelion are invisible to the naked eye, until an enemy attack smashes into them and results in a bright orange, hexagonal ripple wave.
- Parodied in Fables when Kevin Thorn sets up a force-field around himself. Bigby runs into and and exclaims, "It's like some kind of... I don't know what it is!"
- The holding cells in Tron.
- Averted in Time Bandits, where the invisible barrier surrounding the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness is hard, and shatters like glass to reveal what's really behind it.
- Played with in Antz where the "force field" is Saran Wrap covering picnic goodies.
- The one in D.E.B.S. is plaid, and is easily subverted with something that looks like a glass cutter. The D.E.B.S. themselves are shown to walk straight through it. Which brings us to the Fridge Logic of exactly how the hell Dominique brings her one-night-stands in.
- Played with in Suburban Commando, where the alien Shep Ramsey thinks that a mime, who is doing "the wall", is actually trapped in a force field. He tries to rescue the mime by punching through the field and ends up punching out the mime.
- There is one in the animated movie Titan A.E. The Hero is trapped in a prison made of energy on a Dredj ship, but fortunately two fingers are sufficient to rip open the force field wide enough for escape.
- Used to dramatic effect in Forbidden Planet, where an invisible monster attempts to break through the force field the crew have set up: they can see the flash caused by something trying to break through, but that's all they can see.
- In the Dungeons and Dragons movie, the main party (which includes a mage) encounters a Wall of Force spell. The mage, who should know about these things already, proclaims "It's some kind of wall of force!"
- Combined with Not Using the Zed Word in Independence Day. As soon as the first wave of missiles splashes uselessly against the alien ships' force fields, Will Smith's character yells out "they must have some kind of protective shield over the hull!" However, everyone immediately knows what that means and casually calls them shields afterward.
- Averted in Zardoz, in which Connery simply presses up against the "invisible wall", i.e. a glass panel between him and the camera. No sparks, but the way it smushes his face and palms reveals the barrier's presence.
- The mushroom ring around the house in The Spiderwick Chronicles. Whenever anything other than a human tries to pass through it, they comically bounce off the magical barrier.
- The titular character from Donnie Darko encounters one in his bathroom. Except it's a hallucination. Well, maybe. He does the logical thing: Stab it repeatedly with a butcher knife while sporting a slightly deranged Kubrick Stare.
- In Under the Dome, an enormous force field surrounds the town of Chester's Mill, keeping anyone from entering or leaving the town. It is discovered near the beginning of the story when several cars and a small airplane crash into it, and as the book goes on, it is revealed to be absurdly powerful; cruise missiles and acid have no effect on it.
- The Dresden Files has several varieties:
- Magic circles can act like this to keep magical creatures out.
- Dresden has a shield bracelet which blocks physical attacks except heat, until he upgrades it
- In Small Favor, Dresden finds he has been given Soulfire a much more powerful and flexible magic ability which can create a variety of these.
- Sometimes averted in the future of settings that would normally involve it. One example: in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine Millennium trilogy, several characters trapped in a bad future are surprised that the new-model confinement fields don't "emit Pauli exclusion sparks".
- The Hunger Games has force-fields surrounding the arena as well as other places (such as the roof of the Training Center). It becomes a major plot point in Catching Fire.
- Whilst showing his girlfriend Ruby the grave he found in the cairn, she and Ralph are targeted by a Wawaka ship, which drops a just-about-visible field around to keep them from running. Ralph pokes it with his shotgun, prompting the following exchange:
Ralph: "Must be a forcefield."
- Star Trek brigs and (in later series) starship shields.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun", when Kirk et al. were trapped inside the O.K. Corral.
- Repeatedly, in every Star Trek series. Consistently accompaniend by a sparkly effect and a static crackling sound.
- Aversions tend to happen when the CGI budget is really, really cheap.
- ...which happened once in Deep Space Nine, actually: The Dominion force field is lethal, so nobody touched it to make the obligatory shiny spot. It's a strange effect when they don't do it: without that little flash to aid Willing Suspension of Disbelief, it feels like they're just sitting on a platform that they could just step off of. Which, perhaps, they could have: they had only the word of a Dominion spy about its lethality, or that there was even a force field there at all...
- The "Zyzzybalubah" episode in Pee Wee's Playhouse
- 3rd Rock from the Sun's invisible box averts the visual aspect of the trope, but plays the characters' reactions straight. "My God! He's turned me into a mime!"
- Various spaceship forcefields in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, as well as Goa'uld personal shields, and the later ones used within/around facilities. (For some reason, spaceship shields look more like the personal shields than the ones used by buildings... which don't have the slower-objects-get-through loophole.)
- Although that loophole was dismissed by more advanced force fields in later seasons.
- Occasionally in Doctor Who; in the new series episode "Smith and Jones" the Doctor gets this effect when he throws a rock at the force-field.
- The same thing happens in "The Hungry Earth".
- The trope is subverted in "The Five Doctors" when the 2nd Doctor and the Brigadier find the former companions, Jaimie and Zoe, unaccountably in the Death Zone with them and frantically telling them to turn back. They claim that they are trapped by a forcefield and any disruption of it would kill them, so the heroes don't dare try to reach out to them to see the field. However, the Doctor, after trying to find a way to free them, realizes a basic fact, that those kids' memories of their time with him were erased, and simply steps forward where the field is supposedly in place. It turns out there was nothing and those companions vanish as the holographic decoys they really are.
- Inversion: A saloon in Firefly has a holographic window, apparently a cheaper option than replacing the glass after every Bar Brawl...
- Conversion field generators in Warhammer 40,000 do this. In fact, that's how they protect the wearer - by converting the energy of incoming attacks into light.
- Dungeons & Dragons has all kinds of "force" spells that create constructs out of solid matter (a la Green Lantern). The most widely known are Magic Missile and, you guessed it, Wall of Force. Other notable force spells include Leomund's Tiny Hut (some kind of force dome) and the Bigby's Hand series of spells (some kind of force fist).
- The Protoss from StarCraft come with a force field that can be recharged with Shield Batteries. When this shield gets hit, you can see the flashing forcefield surrounding the unit.
- Halo. The shields of Spartans, Elites, some Flood members and (in the third installment) Brutes light up when shot at, give off sparks once deactivated, and then have glowing rings encircle them when recharging. The shields are otherwise completely invisible. If one plays as an Elite in multiplayer, one can see the orange orbs on their wrists turn grey when their shields are shot down, and turn orange again when they charge back up.
- When the protagonists of The World Ends With You run into invisible walls, a Beehive Barrier can be seen.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Various icky monsters cast force fields in order trap the player character, Buffy, in a confined area. Naturally, killing them makes it go away. In multiple instances, Spike, via the Big Bad, uses actual ghosts to make multiple force fields. Spraying them with Holy Water neutralizes them.
- Barrow Hill has a variant that ripples when touched, even more like water than the one the picture above.
- The Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker had one set up at the back of Hyrule Castle. A swipe of the Master Sword would break it like glass.
- The Reflect spell in the Final Fantasy series, which bounces back magic cast upon the character, lights up briefly in the shape of a convex barrier whenever a spell hits it. Similarly, the Protect and Shell spells (which only diminish physical and magical damage, respectively) were given this attribute from the 32-bit games onwards.
- Force fields are one type of shield the player can use in the Gradius games.
- When shielded spaceships in Allegiance get shot, a simple lightning-bolt effect can be seen on their surface, along with a crackling noise. This serves a gameplay function, as when the effect disappears, you instantly know you've got the enemy shields down without having to look at your instruments.
- Being a Sci-Fi RPG, Mass Effect is notable for having force fields that protect the hero and teammates.
- Walking into a magic barrier in Risen leads to your character saying "It appears to be some sort of 'magic barrier'."
- The original Spyro the Dragon trilogy uses these on occasion. They serve the same function as Invisible Walls, without the shattering-of-willing-suspension-of-disbelief that that trope entails.
- Vega Strike played it for engineering implications. Deflector Shields flash on hit, thus... Aera use PESC (Photon Emission on Shield Collapse) warheads - that is, their common munitions include an overloaded shield emitter set up to generate a point-blank laser pulse when it hits anything (usually enemy shield) and fails. Given that in Vega Strike laser is the best of common weapon types at shield-piercing, and disruptor (shield-based effect) at raw damage, the combination have to be nasty, and it is. Especially when those small shells are spammed away by autocannons and MRLS. The drawback is limited range: shields are voracious and a power source that fits into shell would be too weak, so it's just charged on shot and fades out as it flies.
- In The FAN, some kind of force field traps the Juniors' League with a vigilante killer and his mooks. Both groups believe the other is trying to keep them from leaving. In truth, the barrier was raised by the Hermit to keep outsiders from noticing the ensuing fight. She admits it was a bad idea.
- In El Goonish Shive, Greg can do it. Also, "Standard lockdown procedure". For schools that have a wizard teacher, that is.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Averted in Xiaolin Showdown. When all but one of the heroes are stuck dealing with the villain du jour, a magical mime, he traps them in an invisible box (marginally similar to the Third Rock from the Sun example above). There's no indication of its existence, and indeed, they don't realize there's a wall until they run into into it. From then, the only evidence that there is a box is people smacking into it and the outline of the kicked-up dust. Of course, the thing was shaped like however you think it is.
- The Stock Phrase half of this trope ends up being spoofed. Clay finds the others in the box and can't hear them (it's soundproof at the time), so assumes they're playing charades for some reason. Raimundo catches on to Clay's thinking and, well, just watch:
Clay: (Rai points to himself) You. (points to his rear) Butt. (kicks) Kick. (points to Clay) Me. Raimundo's gonna kick my - HEY!
- Lampshade-hung by Patrick in the SpongeBob SquarePants movie. The "force field" being a glass fish bowl, but still huge compared to Spongebob and Patrick.
Patrick: It appears to be a wall of psychic energy.
- The Return of the King (Rankin Bass version) has one of these generated by the Watchers and exaggerated from the book. ("Bless my soul! It's some kind of invisible barrier!") By using the phial of Galadriel, the field rolls back like doors in response to sparkly magic. Note that in the book, the Watchers merely sapped the will of anyone trying to pass through; the barrier was more psychic than physical.
- Mr. Burns believed he had encountered "some kind of force field" when reaching for food at a cafeteria. It was a plastic sneeze guard.
- When The Penguins of Madagascar attack a killer whale balloon thinking it's a real whale and bounce off, Kowalski remarks that "the creature appears to be protected by some kind of blubbery force field. Also, Whee-hee-hee-hee!"
- This happened to the Superfriends all the time. Superman was the usual victim.
- Lampshade hung by Skeletor in an episode of the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, after Tri-Klops has just crashed a vehicle into one.
Tri-Klops: Ugh... force field.
- Happens ridiculously often in Danny Phantom, usually with added electric shocks. Danny is understandably not very fond of this one.
Danny: We've gotta find out what's going on in that hospital!
- In an episode of "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," Twilight Sparkle creates one to keep the Cutie Mark Crusaders out.
- Later, her brother Shining Armor creates a similar force field over all of Canterlot.
- A technology called a plasma window eerily resembles a real life force field. It is capable of separating a vacuum from standard atmospheric pressure, but allows light to pass through.
- Assuming you haven't concussed yourself, a fun quip to follow walking into a glass door. Or a regular door. Perhaps even a regular wall...
- That wall leapt in front of me, okay? And that door shut just as I was starting to walk through it.
- Mist nets, made of threads too fine to reflect sound, are this trope for the echolocating bats they are designed to snare.
- Anything you can touch is Some Kind of Force Field. Really. Atoms are over 99.9% empty space, so the only thing stopping you from falling through the floor is the fact that the "surface" of an atom is negatively charged, and like charges repel each other with a force so strong as to create the illusion of solidity. Think of what happens when you try to touch the south poles of two magnets together.