In Captain America: Civil War, when Rhodes gets knocked out by Vision and falls, why did his back break?

He still was in the suit.

In Iron Man (around 1:18:37), Tony goes to Gulmira and when he tries to destroy the Jericho missiles he gets hit by a tank and falls from a higher distance than Rhodes, and he was okay, even though he falls really really bad.

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    Because steel doesn't magically protect you from everything, and Rhodes free-fell from what appeared to be thousands of feet?
    – Rogue Jedi
    Sep 11, 2016 at 18:31
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    “In Iron Man 1, Tony... falls from a higher distance than Rhodes, and he was okay.” I don’t recall that bit. I remember him falling after launching the first suit he builds in the cave, but he falls into sand at an angle, not straight down onto soil. Sep 11, 2016 at 20:04
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    Dpesn't vision hit on the right spot for this outcome and Iron man suit are not vision-safe Sep 12, 2016 at 6:26
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    Oh yeah that bit. I’m not sure it’s clear he’s at a higher distance than Rhodes, but it’s definitely a similar fall (the crater apparently produced by Tony’s fall seems bigger too). Sep 12, 2016 at 16:03
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    Rhodes' suit was completely disabled and he fell at terminal velocity (at least 200mph), punching a crater when the hit the ground. The deceleration would have been immense. Without superhero physics he should have been pulped inside his suit, no matter how strong the suit itself is supposed to be.
    – user45485
    Sep 13, 2016 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


It appears that Tony's suits (including the War Machine suit Rhodes wears) rely on the arc reactor to cushion impacts.

Rhodes arc reactor failing

But this is where Vision strikes the suit. Without it he doesn't have the same protection.

  • come on a tank is A tank with or without electrical power Sep 12, 2016 at 15:07
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    @capHossein12DarthVader I don't write the rules of comic book physics... Here's a good explanation : scifi.stackexchange.com/a/16466/3804
    – AncientSwordRage
    Sep 12, 2016 at 15:11
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    @capHossein12DarthVader: and if you look closely, you’ll notice that the Iron Man suits are not tanks. Sep 12, 2016 at 15:48
  • "It appears"... based on what?
    – DCShannon
    Sep 12, 2016 at 20:17
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    @capHossein12DarthVader Tanks are actually a great analogy here. A tank that has had its power knocked out cannot use its active protection systems like the Iron Curtain, which requires a functioning radar etc. An Iron Man suit might do stuff like stiffening joints in anticipation of an impact, inflating g-suite bladders to immobilize limbs, and other such things that'd improve survivability. Even modern cars do this - airbags, seatbelt retractors - and rely on power.
    – ceejayoz
    May 5, 2017 at 13:58

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