Action Movie Physics

Somewhat of a tie in to the last post (overly technical analysis of firearms ballistics against fantasy/SF tropes), I noticed a list on Cracked deconstructing action movie injuries. You can’t swing a dead cat without coming up with most of these in a given action movie: knocking people out with blows to the head, people being blasted forward by explosions, getting hit with knockout gas/tranqulizer darts, losing limbs, etc. While they might look good on film—Again. Entertainment. Cinematic.—most of them are deadly in real life.

Take a knock-out blow to the head: that’s called a concussion, the technical term for a bruise on the brain. A concussion with a duration measured in minutes rather than seconds usually results in drastic changes, either temperamental or physical (and sometimes both). Don’t forget those stories about the autopsies of dead boxers who took one too many to the head, where their brain matters oozes out like toothpaste after the pathologist makes a cranial incision.  Blacking out for any length of time is a great reason to visit the emergency room, and perhaps even get an MRI just to make sure there’s no real damage.

Of course, all of this is overlooking the basic tenants of action movies… you know the tropes. Where the hero stands in a rain of ordinance without being scratched, or only receives minor flesh wounds. Characters who aren’t scared by blood, death, or otherwise remain emotionally unaffected from things which trigger adrenaline rushes in normal people. And heroes with uncanny accuracy, while the vast armies of hired goons have notably bad marksmanship.

After all, there is a reason we have fiction: things work much better than in real life.


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