Do The Physics Of The ‘Fast And Furious’ Movies Hold Up? We Asked The Writer

The Fast and Furious movie have taken some, let’s say, “liberties” with how the laws of physics work in the real world and how they seem to work in these movies. Probably the most famous example is the airplane takeoff scene in Fast and Furious 6, in which at the speed they were traveling, the runway would have been over 28 miles long.

In the lead-up to The Fate of the Furious, we spoke to writer Chris Morgan who has written these movies since the third installment, Tokyo Drift, about a whole host of topics. (We already discussed when the crew would go to space.) For this installment, we get into the physics of the Fast and Furious movies, in which Morgan offers a defense that they do pay attention to this stuff and try to keep it at least somewhat realistic. Anyway, yes, let’s let Morgan explain.

To set the scene, we were discussing how these movies have shifted from “racing” to movies about international espionage. Morgan then said, “Clearly, our movies are not Bond films. We’re more grounded and just kind of guys that lived down the block from you. “And it’s kind of more real-world, even though we push physics a little bit.”

This is when I did a double take and repeated the word “grounded?” in a very confused and shocked tone. I then pointed out I had just watched Dominic Toretto race a heat-seeking missile in The Fate of the Furious.

“And I’ll tell you why,” Morgan interrupts. “Look, we’re clearly very heightened action. But there’s a certain point where that action breaks all physics and all sense of reality and that suddenly will pull me out of the experience. Now I’m not worried about the characters anymore because the science behind it is so blatantly horrible that I can’t enjoy the sequence because nothing has any stakes – because it’s all not real. I would say my goal in all of these is: It’s a real-world setting with real cars, real people, and we push the physics to the very limit. And we’ll talk to people, what are the maximum? And then we’ll fudge that line a little bit. Not too far.”

I then bring up that in Fast & Furious 6 the runway would have to be over 28 miles long.

“Correct,” says Morgan. “Correct. And by the way, we knew that going in! Here’s the speed of the plane and here’s this – and do the math and whatever, and all that stuff. But, in the middle of the action sequence, did you stop and say, ‘I can’t enjoy this anymore because clearly, they’ve gone 26 miles and it’s just bugging me’? If that’s the case, then we failed. I think what happens is: You finish the movie, you’ve enjoyed it – and later you go, ‘You know, I was thinking about that land speed in terms of that airplane.’ I’m okay with that! And we are kind of like grinning along with you guys. But we do our best to keep it just on the edge of it so that you don’t break. I think if you break, then I failed, and I’m hoping that we don’t do that, at least too often.”

Now, to be fair, I also brought up the fact that the centerpiece action highlight of Furious 7 – When Dom and Brian car jump between the buildings of the Etihad Towers complex in Abu Dhabi – could actually, with a little luck, have worked.

“It was funny, I ended up running into Adam Savage from MythBusters, and they’ve done a couple of things of ours,” says Morgan. “And we just hit it off really well and just were laughing about some of the things they tested that worked and some that don’t. And by the way, I also wrote a movie called Wanted, and he’s like, ‘Listen, the bending the bullets, that’s a no-go.’”

In that episode, the Mythbusters crew built a robot arm with a gun attached to it that would fire as the arm was moving at a very fast speed. And, no, not surprisingly, the bullet did not curve.

“Believe me, being the guy who wrote that stuff and then watching it on MythBusters is awesome. Look, again, the goal is hopefully it doesn’t break the faith of the audience, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it so far.”

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