Sticking the Landing
July 6, 2021 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Movie/TV superheroes with the power of flight generally fly head-first, but land feet-first: how do they switch?

To be more specific: I want specific examples on film, of TV or movies, cartoon or live action, which show the actual transition where a flying-headfirst superhero switches to landing-feetfirst.

This is mostly because I cannot remember actually seeing this clumsy-sounding flippidy-doo and I'm pretty sure it isn't shown on film (it's shown as a cut from flying scene to landing scene) because it doesn't look "super", but I'm hoping somebody has tried it and I want to know how it looks.
posted by AzraelBrown to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: They fly straigt up then "back up" so they're heading feet-down toward the ground. Here's a video without the whole descent, but it does show the move towards flying up before coming down.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:27 AM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

Interesting question !It's enough of a trope to be a Deadpool joke

This youtube clip show includes one of Superman landing. The Captain America one is funny. They all seem to land like helicopters or VTOL craft.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:33 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For Iron Man, there's more than you'll want to watch all of here
posted by aubilenon at 8:33 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Iron Man is a big fan of the Superhero Tripod Landing, which has to happen really fast to be cool. But he goes from flying head-first to hovering upright before a lot of landings. Here's a compilation, with the first transition to upright at about 0:15.

Many Iron Man Landings

Iron Patriot War Machine, in the same video, does a full transition from head-first to landing upright at 1:20. Immediately after that there's another full transition for Iron Man. (Or, well, technically that's Jarvis in an Iron Man suit, but I think it counts. Jarvis is totally a flying Avenger). There's another good landing for Iron Man at 2:20ish.

It's all in the repulsors. :) (For superheroes like Superman, it's probably all in the core.)
posted by invincible summer at 8:37 AM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, Iron Man has some excellent examples, which seem very natural due to his need to control his flight with the palm-repulsors, I had forgotten about him and was focused on the more magical style of flight, like how does Thor go from 'dragged through the air by his hammer' to 'landing on his feet'.

I just want to remind posters: I want the transition from flight to landing, and don't really care about the landing itself -- I know the super-cool landing that's hard on Deadpool's knees but that's not coming out of flight, mostly that's just jumping down from a feet-first position to landing feet-first and you see that all the time.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:45 AM on July 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Caped Madman doesn't even bother. He just barrels in head first.
posted by flabdablet at 8:47 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

At about 5:10 & 5:33 in behind-the-scenes video from WandaVision, you can see Elizabeth Olsen transitioning from a head-first posture to a standing posture while in a harness. The motion from the standing posture to the landing isn't shown but I assume would be a straightforward cut. I don't think there are a lot of (non-CGI'd) shots of the full movement because the rigging for fast vertical movement and the rigging for a controlled descent are probably different.

Unrelated warning: you will also see Paul Bettany in his Vision makeup without the CGI applied and it is something you will never be able to unsee.
posted by bcwinters at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2021

Best answer: For a real-world reference, hang glider pilots fly superhero style (head first, face down) but can land on their feet:

posted by justkevin at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2021 [13 favorites]

No hammer in this scene*, but here we can see Thor is transitioning from flying presumably straight and face forward to a parabolic arc falling down toward the ground, feets first.

* IIRC, it's in the shop, for service?
posted by aubilenon at 9:06 AM on July 6, 2021

I guess I'll also say Thor's usually a kind of special case where you get to see him transition flight modes even less because most of his very hard landings are meant to appear near instantaneous, to evoke lightning.
posted by aubilenon at 9:09 AM on July 6, 2021

hang glider pilots fly superhero style (head first, face down) but can land on their feet

I wonder where they learned that trick.
posted by flabdablet at 9:17 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Two transitions in a row by Christopher Reeve, the full video has a few other examples but I've linked to the best two.
posted by steveminutillo at 9:59 AM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: 0:51 here shows a swoop up before you land (showy little flip presumably not necessary).
posted by brook horse at 12:47 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah, there's more than I remember apparently, but also rather varied, I'm impressed; the first superman-style FX is just a variation on the hang glider , just a lot more of a pull-up before putting feet on the ground -- also, here's a fraction of a second of Thor (at 35s), who apparently isn't very exciting, he just puts his feet down, sort of like the two Superman transitions, which may be a side-effect of practical fx flying harnesses (see also the Wandavision clips, which weren't her landing, just a confrontation in the air).
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:11 PM on July 6, 2021

This was a running joke all through the entire series of The Greatest American Hero. After losing the instruction manual for his super suit, he has no idea how to land.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:18 PM on July 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

I don't have it to go back and look through for links, but iirc, "Invincible" had a bit about teaching how to fly, orientation, landing, etc
posted by The otter lady at 3:47 PM on July 6, 2021

Best answer: Sam Wilson does it a few different ways in Captain America:The Winter Soldier, even though his wings allow him to hover. (My favorite is when he swoops up to kick Bucky and send him flying during the DC fight; he goes from zooming to upright and after he kicks Bucky he lands on his feet sort of awkwardly like a parachutist does, almost running.) But anyway here’s a clip that shows three different types of changes—the first he swoops up to sort of hovering upright, then he gets knocked down midflight and rolls after dropping, and then he kind of alights gracefully upright from a swooping dive bomb.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 6:28 PM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sam Wilson's style changed a bit because the stunt performer Aaron Toney has a background in Taekwando and he started incorporating those into the fights. However, the first time he suggested it, director shot him down. So no fancy moves in Winter Soldier. In later MCU films, like Civil War, Aaron was given more freedom over fight design, and the moves became a part of Falcon's repertoire, and even into the comic books.

Aaron retired earlier in 2021 after finishing Falcon and the Winter Soldier series.
posted by kschang at 2:49 AM on July 7, 2021

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