Whether you get into the Fast & Furious franchise or not, there is no denying its massive popularity and ability to rule at the box office. A lot of the success of the franchise has come from the fact that in the past three movies, it has moved from a street racing series to basically a mix of muscle-car James Bond with the Oceans Eleven films hopped up on NoS.
This past summer, Fast & Furious 6 went head-to-head in the summer box office with some of the biggest names in blockbusters, including Iron Man, Superman, and Gru’s Minions. While there’s no comparing the characters in Fast & Furious 6 with the Minions (although Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson try their hardest to be that charming), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) gave Superman a run for his money. Not only did Fast & Furious 6 best Man of Steel’s international box office, Dom performed his own Superman-like stunt to save his amnesiac lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) from certain death.
This got me thinking: Is Dominic Toretto actually Superman?
The Answer: Yes. Yes, he is.
The scene in question takes place in Spain, where Dom and his team are trying to foil a heist by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who is trying to steal a billion-dollar computer chip. As the team zeroes in on Shaw, he busts out his secret weapon in the chase: an Armstrong FV 4201 Chieftain tank, which proceeds to make pancakes out of any car standing in its way.
To stop the tank, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Roman Pearce (Gibson) manage to anchor a crushed Mustang to it. Shaw sends Letty topside to release the cable, but the Mustang anchor kicks in, and the tank flips over, sending Letty to her inevitable death.
Fortunately, Dom is there with his 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona on the other side of the bridge. He matches speed with the tank and crashes his car into the guardrail. This sends him flying to the other side of the bridge, where he can catch Letty in mid-air in a physics-defying feat that would make Kal-El green with envy.
And he wasn’t even wearing red and blue spandex at the time.
Could a human make this catch?
Any fan of the Fast & Furious franchise will tell you that while Dominic Toretto isn’t going to win a Nobel Prize in any academic pursuit, he’s pretty much a genius when it comes to cars and what they can do. He has the street smarts, if you’ll pardon the pun, to figure out how to excel these situations. A look at the aftermath of the scene reveals what Dom had to work with.
There is no measurements available for when and where things happen, but we can assume certain things. The Chieftain tank weighs 60 tons, or 120,000 pounds, and has a maximum speed of 30 mph. However, it was modified for the film to travel twice that speed. Considering the tank was dragging a Mustang on a cable at the time it flipped over, it’s reasonable to assume it was traveling at 40 mph. Dom was matching the tank’s speed on the other side of the bridge in his Daytona.
Comparing the posts in the guardrail of the length of surrounding cars, it can be assumed that there are 7 feet between each post. There are about 22 posts between the point the tank starts to flip and Dom’s impact point on the bridge, which comes to 154 feet. There are an additional 4 posts, or 28 feet, between Dom’s impact point and where he and Letty safely land, cushioned by a windshield on the other side of the freeway.
This means that Letty traveled mid-air for 150 to 170 feet before Dom was able to catch her in mid-air. This takes four seconds of screen time, during which an object can travel 60 feet per second at 40 mph, or about 240 feet total. Part of this scene was in slow motion, so less than 3 seconds of real time would mean Letty traveled that 160 or so feet had she been going 40 mph.
Of course, if Dom was even a tenth of a second off with his jump, he would have missed Letty by 5 feet or more. That’s Superman juju right there.
But Letty wasn’t flying at only 40 mph
There’s one principle in physics that hasn’t been considered yet: momentum, which is defined as the product of mass and velocity. More over, when two objects share momentum and one comes to a sudden halt – as would happen with the tank carrying Letty or the Daytona carrying Dom – momentum is transferred to the object that remains in motion. This is the basic principle that transfers the momentum of a baseball bat to a baseball, allowing it to sail out of the park during a home run.
Assuming Dom and Letty weigh the same amount as the actors do in real life, Dom is 225 pounds (all Kryptonian muscle, of course), and Letty is 120 pounds. Dom’s Daytona weighs 3740 pounds, and assuming that there is no loss of momentum when he crashes into the guardrail, he would launch off the car at more than 7000 mph!
It’s even more insane for Letty. If the full momentum of the 60-ton tank is transferred to Letty, she would rocket off of its turret at an insane 40,000 mph. That’s almost 60,000 feet per second, putting her in the next county in the 3 seconds of real time we see on screen.
Over the short 150 feet or so of Letty’s flight, Dom would have to plan his launch precisely, and at her ludicrous speed, he would only have 0.0026 seconds to make his move. Considering the fact that the speed of human thought occurs at about 0.25 seconds, Dom is able to make decisions more than 100 times faster than a normal human being.
And, apparently he can fly.
So yes. Dominic Toretto is Superman. There is no other explanation. Unless Dom is this bald superhero instead.