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There's a funny thing about heights in Action Adventure stories: The range of heights which are fatal to fall from is surprisingly narrow. If you fall from too low, you naturally won't strike the ground with enough force to injure yourself. Whereas if you fall from too high, you're more likely to be rescued than to actually hit the ground.

Most often, the rescue comes from some sort of aircraft: The pilot dives sharply in pursuit of their falling friend, and either positions the craft underneath to catch them, in which case they land uninjured regardless of how fast they were falling, or else flies parallel to them, and someone pulls them back in by the wrist. (In the latter case, the diving craft will just barely pull out of the dive before smacking into the ground.) This can be accomplished even if you fell from that aircraft.

Alternatively, an individual with the superpower of Flight, or some kind of giant robot, or just a mean Building Swing, may swoop in to catch you.

Physics says that this really shouldn't work, but you'll probably be too thankful that you're alive to care.

Compare with Take My Hand. See also the Inevitable Waterfall and No OSHA Compliance for places to fall from.

Examples of Catch a Falling Star include:


Anime

  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Minmay falls from Hikaru's Valkyrie during the attack on South Ataria Island, and Hikaru not only does a power dive to save her, but manages to open the jet canopy, pull her in, close the canopy, and pull up in time.
    • This was referenced in a similar scene in the new series Macross Frontier.
      • The homage is slightly modified in that Ranka wasn't falling, but she was being pulled up into the vacuum of space due to a shattered dome.
    • A different sort of catching occurred in Macross Plus. After Isamu (accidentally) caused Guld to lose control of his YF-21, Guld's neural link to the Valkyrie was severed, the thrusters flamed out, and he fell from the sky. Isamu cheerfully commented on this until called out by his superiors, at which point he reluctantly dove beneath the YF-21 and caught it with his own Valkyrie at the last possible second. Of course, he matched speeds with it first so neither Valkyrie was damaged from the impact.
  • Last Exile
  • Simoun: When Kaimu falls from the flying base ship, Neviril and Alti use their Simoun to create a special Ri Maajon effect that stops her in midair, which lets them calmly pull her back aboard.
  • Kanbei rescues Kirara in Samurai 7 by leaping after her as she falls.
    • But they at least try to avoid the Not the Fall That Kills You by having him grind his blade against the gears on a falling elevator to slow them down. How his sword is still in one piece after that? The world may never know.
      • Given that swords in that series can cut through giant robots and deflect energy beams, using them as elevator brakes is just par for the course.
  • In Appleseed Ex Machina, Deunan rams an enemy with her Humongous Mecha, disengaging from it... about 300 meters above the ocean. Luckily, she has two extremely reliable guys with jetpacks as her backup.
  • In Mai-Otome, Akane manages to do this with Arika, Nina and Mashiro after their aircraft is knocked out of the air by a Slave.
  • In episode 6 of Cowboy Bebop, Spike catches Giraffe on the Swordfish after he falls out a window.
    • A technique he'd had a chance to practice on Ein four episodes earlier, when the pooch threw himself off a bridge to escape a dognapper.
  • Haji pulls this one in Blood Plus. When Saya falls off of a building, Haji drops from much higher up, grows a pair of wings (you know, as they do), flies down, and catches her. Made slightly more believable by the fact that he basically launched himself at her, but even then...
  • Near the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, just as Vita exhausts her magical energy and falls from a great height, Hayate reaches the room where Vita is and catches her badly battered body.
  • Played with in Magic Knight Rayearth: every time the girls are summoned to Cephiro, they pop into existence several kilometers above ground. They scream all the way down, until they're caught by Fyula, Clef's giant, summoned flying fish. They actually bounce on impact with Fyula's back before settling down, none the worse for wear.
  • Renton and Eureka pull this off at least twice in Eureka Seven.
  • In the final episode of Gate Keepers 21, Miyu catches Yukino after the latter is struck down in a Blast Out and falls from the top of a Humongous Mecha. Yukino is mortally wounded, however, and dies in Miyu's arms.
  • In Zero no Tsukaima, Tabitha's dragon familiar Sylphid has done this at least once for Saito in the light novels and for Saito and Louise (a separate incident) in the anime -- as well as in the opening credits for the anime's third season.
  • The finale of Sailor Moon SuperS has Moon and an unconscious Chibimoon falling to their deaths. After catching Chibimoon, Moon spends the rest of the fall trying to get her to wake up so that they can use the Golden Crystal to save them. When she finally does, the Golden Crystal gives them wings which they use to land safely. It's a touching scene, as long as you ignore how long they spend falling.
    • There is some attempt at physics in this scene. Chibimoon is flung, unconscious and limp, off a huge floating platform; Moon jumps after her using her weight and the velocity of her dive to make up the distance between them. Chibimoon is a little girl no older than 7, so she's also light enough to be blown by the wind. By the time Moon catches her, they have matched velocity. But don't ask me how transforming into Princess Serenity, flowing gown and all, helped here.
      • The transformation to her more powerful form may have enabled her to speed up even further to catch up with Chibi Moon. And then once she caught Chibi Moon, the flowing dress helped slow down their fall so that she would have more time to get Chibi Moon to wake up before they both went splat.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Negi and Chao run out of magic power and start plummeting from their High Altitude Battle. They are saved by Satsuki, piloting a tramway car that Chao had converted into a flying restaurant.
  • Happens often in Sonic X, except with Cosmo during her first appearance, where she hit the ground a good few moments before anyone found her... but her dress allowed her to land safely.
  • In Pokémon 3, Ash is knocked off the mansion by Entei, but is caught by his Charizard in a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Kaitou Kid in Detective Conan has a to do this from time to time by virtue of having a Cape that turns into a hang glider. In movie 8 Conan uses it against Kid.


Comic Books

  • Subvertedlogically, coldly, cruelly with Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy...
  • In Kurt Busiek's "Walking the Earth" storyline in Superman, Kal-el Actually manages to stop a young girl from jumping in the first place. He still would've caught her if she had, but it seems especially sweet that he went up to talk to her instead of waiting for her to jump.

Radio

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Zaphod Beeblebrox all land on giant sentient birds when they fall out of an enormous marble teacup. The birds lampshade this when landed upon, saying, "This is utterly ludicrous!"

Film

  • Luke Skywalker being caught by the Millennium Falcon at the climax of Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, though he didn't have more than several feet to fall anyways once the Falcon was hovering beneath him. (The fall he just took getting to that point is another story...)
    • There's a variation in Vision of the Future, when the Millennium Falcon is damaged, falling towards a planet's surface with the engines coming back online too slowly, and four TIE Interceptors carefully matched velocities around it before each one hit the Falcon with grappling mags, slowing the descent to the point where the TIEs could fly it to a small hangar inside a cave.
  • The Coruscant Chase Scene in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
    • Although it's shown that Anakin flies under Obi-Wan with his Flying Car and starts dropping at a rate just slower than Obi-Wan, allowing Obi-Wan to fall in at a relatively small speed.
    • Darths and Droids had a field day with this one.
  • The Ewoks diving from far above in a hang glider to make a midair catch.
  • In Armour of God, Jackie escapes the cultists' Collapsing Lair by jumping off a cliff and landing on a balloon.
  • Used in The Dark Knight. They try to make it more reasonable by Batman unfolding his cape and gliding down with Rachel, but there's not nearly enough time with the way the film is edited for them not to have at least some kind of injury when they land.
    • This is averted later on when a mobster says that he's too close to the ground to die, if dropped. Batman agrees and lets go, and both of the mobster's legs are broken when he hits the ground.
  • And, of course, we can't forget Spock halting Kirk's fall from El Capitan in Star Trek V the Final Frontier... although much of that film is officially dubious as to its canon status....
    • And let's not omit Kirk catching Sulu mid-air over Vulcan in XI. But at least they do take some physics into account and have Kirk's chute be unable to hold them both.
  • Gandalf's escape from Isengard via Gwaihir Air Service in the first film of Lord of the Rings. Also counts as a Suicidal Gotcha.
  • In Looney Tunes Back in Action, Jenna Elfman is hurled off the top of the Eiffel Tower, and Brendan Fraser leaps after her, busting out a grappling hook after successfully grabbing her. The movie goes in a different direction from the rather obvious Spider-Man element by having them swing right through some road stalls, getting stuck with a bunch of flowers, and landing comfortably at a roadside cafe, looking like they're really on a date...
  • Subverted in the Iron Man movie, where instead of catching the falling jet pilot, Iron Man just activates his jammed parachute.
  • Played painfully straight in The Matrix: Reloaded. Trinity decides that a fall from the 65th floor of a building is less lethal than dealing with an Agent, so she jumps out a window. Moments before she hits the ground, Neo swoops in (at a speed so fast that he has a tornado of cars in his wake) and catches her in his arms, thus letting her only fall 64 1/2 stories instead of 65.
    • In all fairness, Neo's status as "The One" basically gives him the power of Fuck You Physics in the Matrix. Which, of course, raises more questions...
  • Superman does this in virtually every movie in some form or another. In Superman Returns, his catch of an entire powerless airplane somewhat inverts the usual trope in that it is the man who catches the vehicle. It is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome, and arguably the best scene in the movie.
  • Goldeneye: Mr. Bond rides a motorcycle off a cliff. Skydives without a parachute to the open door of the airplane in a powered dive to oblivion. Pulls himself inside and pulls up.
  • Harry Potter is saved by Dumbledore after falling off his broom in Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • Towards the end of The Avengers, Iron Man is falling from low earth orbit, unconscious and no power in his suit. The Hulk leaps by, catches him, drags his hand down a nearby building to slow both of them to a Stark-safe velocity, ultimately cushioning Tony with his own body for the final 20 feet or so to the pavement.


Live Action Television

  • A first-season episode ("Soul Hunter") of Babylon 5 does this In Space with a ship-to-ship "catch". A mysterious small ship appears out of the jump gate on a collision course with the station. Sinclair launches in a Star Fury to intercept. In an unusual use of real physics, he has to match the intruder's course, speed and tumbling rate (so now both ships are set to collide with the station) in order to grapple it. It takes him two or three attempts to finally grab it, with Ivanova screaming in his ear to get out of there so that the station's defence grid can destroy the other ship before it hits, but once he does, the linked ships somehow lose both their velocity towards the station and their tumble. What makes the whole sequence crazy is the complex (and pretty accurate) manoeuvres needed to hook up the two ships, including the use of the 'Fury's 3-D thrusters, coupled with the sudden lurch back into this trope once they've linked up.

Video Games

  • Cave Story: Occurs in the normal ending to the game, where the player and a companion are both caught by a small flying dragon.
  • A variation occurs in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary mode, where several of the heroes jump out of a bomb-filled room and land in Captain Falcon's Cool Car. They're falling at enough of a height that they ought to be at terminal velocity, but Smash never really bothered with falling damage, what with being Rule of Cool and all.
    • Really, The terminal velocity for the story doesn't appear to fall under Gameplay and Story Segregation, and is thus about 5 mph.
    • Also, Meta Knight pulls this off with Lucas and the Pokemon Trainer, right before they hit the ground. Although at least in that case it seemed like Lucas was trying to psychokinetically slow their fall.
      • Also, the Trainer had already recovered his Charizard at that point, and could have used it to save them. Too bad he was unconscious...
  • In Star Fox Assault, Peppy catches the falling ship of General Pepper with his own arwing, slowing the fall enough to save his life. Wolf also saves Fox this way, since he wants to take him down personally.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Terra's magic power vanishes, taking away her Esper half and its ability to fly. Setzer then dives his zeppelin-sized (and shaped) airship to catch her, flying fast enough to knock out everyone on board, and apparently scooping her up on the bow of the "boat" part of the airship (which, aside from being a tenth of the size of the dirigible, hangs from the stern end of the ship.)
  • Illusion of Gaia parodies and subverts this one at the same time. After the second major dungeon, the hero Will falls from a floating continent, but luckily his cousin Neil owns the only biplane in existence, and flies up to catch him. Except he misses Will the first time! The second time he catches him, but in doing so plunges into the ocean runs out of fuel before they reach land, causing them to crash in the ocean near an island.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog likes this one. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Advance, Sonic/Tails manage atmospheric re-entry, and survive by landing on the Tornado.
  • Played straight in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption during the first Ridley fight, which occurs as both combatants are free-falling down a fusion generator tunnel about sixteen thousand meters deep. Once Samus polishes off Ridley, Rundas, showing off his powers of ice flight, swoops down the tunnel, catching her a few thousand meters from the bottom, which also served as his Establishing Character Moment.
  • Appropriately enough, Batman:Vengance actually had this as a reoccuring minigame, where the player would have to guide Batman as he dived to catch a falling character, switching between a diving-pose for speed, or a skydiving style spread-out pose for control, until you caught the target, whereupon Bats would automatically grappel to safety- twas pretty cool.
  • In the famous FPS Battlefield 1942, in a (staged?) gameplay clip, a pilot went and stalled his plane in a vertical climb, and chose to bail out to activate his parachute. Fortunately for him, a two-seat dive bomber was conveniently flying passed a hundred feet below him, in perfect timing, to hitch a ride.
  • Everything Or Nothing an original-story Bond game, has this as a basis for an entire level. Notable in that Bond, while freefalling in pursuit of the love interest, can navigate -between- rocky outcroppings. And aim and blast bad guys he is rocketing past.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Yuna summons Valefor in midair to catch her as she falls off the tower in Bevelle. Sure, physics might not work that way but hey, it's Final Fantasy. Besides, damn that was awesome.
  • In Drakengard 2, Nowe seems to be in the habit of jumping off of high places on purpose simply because he knows that Legna will catch him. He also gets to play hero by doing this: Manah falls off a cliff, Nowe jumps off after her, lands on Legna, and the pair of them race downwards until they're beneath Manah, where Nowe catches her safely in his arms. It's not quite a Crowning Moment of Awesome, considering some of the things Nowe gets to do later in the game, but it's pretty close.
  • The ending of Resident Evil 4 has Ada Wong jump down from a ledge. A few seconds later a helicopter rises into view with Ada sitting inside it, having apparently fallen through the roof and, yes, the rotors.
  • Final Fantasy XIII has the beginning of Chapter 11, where Fang and Lightning summon Bahamut to save the party after their airship is crippled
  • Adventure Island III ending. Higgins and Tina fall from the UFO, to be caught by Higgins' pet pterodactyl.
  • Done routinely in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Traveling is accomplished by either leaping off one of the Floating Continents of Skyloft or catching an updraft from the surface world, then whistling for Link's Loftwing, who will swoop in out of nowhere to catch him without fail.

Web Comics

  • In a 2008 scene from Alpha Shade a girl gets thrown off the deck of an airship during a firefight, and a flier on a giant bird swoops down and tries to catch her. (Not sure if you can link directly to individual pages, but pages can be selected from a drop-down menu - this scene begins on Page 224.)
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony falls off a bridge into a canyon; the TicToc birds swoop in and grab her mid-air. Rather than snatching her up, they simply slow her descent, then unceremoniously drop her once they get to a safe height above the water.
  • A building swing variant occurs in this Shortpacked! strip.
  • Gets used and Lampshaded in this episode of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. The Doctor jumps off the Sky Pirates' ship, so they chase after him and catch him in their "lifeboat".
  • In Homestuck, as Rose is facing annihilation by meteor, her cruxite bottle falls into the river. She rushes to the waterfall and jumps to catch it in midair.
    • Immediately after grabbing the bottle, Rose herself is caught and saved by Jaspersprite, with scant seconds to spare.
  • In Spacetrawler, both Emily and Growp get knocked out a window during a fight. Both of them snatch passing hoverbikes to stop their descent... and then crash their bikes into the ground.
  • In the David Gonterman comic Sailor Moon USA, Gonterman's Author Avatar at the time does this to Sailor Moon herself. What's worse was that this was done after Queen Beryl launched her from Tokyo to St. Louis. And the worst Usagi suffered was passing out and a ravaged uniform. It's best not to think of it too much.

Web Original

  • Sasha in Greek Ninja slips from holding on to a Pegassus and lands in the hands of satyrs.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sokka falls from Appa in the episode "Avatar Roku", and Aang has Appa dive to catch him. It at least made sense he wasn't injured this time as they went into a dive and slowed down slightly when they were just below him. In the following episode, Appa catches all three main characters as they plunge over the Inevitable Waterfall. Zuko is also caught in much the same way after falling from an airship during a battle with his sister Azula.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop: In "The Treacherous Movie Lot Plot", Zippy catches the other mobsters in his plane as the mechanical ape destroys the other planes.
  • In the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command pilot movie, Booster catches XR this way.
  • The Batman demonstrates that their version of Hawkman is not a wuss by having to do this with the entire Batmobile.
  • Also done in the original, and notable for doing it somewhat right in at least one instance. In "Old Wounds", Batgirl gets knocked off the tallest building in Gotham by the Joker just as Robin arrives. Robin hits the ejector on his cycle and is propelled up to her. He grabs her just after the apex of his flight (where his velocity is effectively near zero), and deploys his Grappling Hook Pistol, swinging them in an arc to a nearby roof. Arcs, of course, are the safest way to dump kinetic energy without a lot of padding at the bottom.
  • In the pilot of Tale Spin, Baloo dramatically rescues Kit this way after he's been thrown off a pirate airship.
  • In an unusual case of the craft doing the falling part, the second season finale of Justice League, "Starcrossed," has Batman piloting the Watchtower (the League's orbital base) on a kamikaze descent to destroy an alien engine. He's pulled out of the collapsing wreckage by Superman seconds before impact.
    • This is pretty much what Superman does. Word of advice: If you plan on killing yourself by jumping off a building, don't do it in Metropolis. If you're looking for an exclusive interview, on the other hand, by all means jump out that 30th-story window...
      • Parodied in Fifty Two when Perry tells a (depowered) Clark Kent that he's losing his edge and tells him he's fired unless he takes something out of his wife's play book. Clark immediately jumps out of the high office window... and is caught by new hero Supernova, who Clark immediately presses for a story.
      • This is deconstructed in The Incredibles. A guy jumps off a building, Mr. Incredible catches him at an 90-degree angle, smashing through a glass window in the process. Mr. Incredible is sued for the resulting injuries.
    • Superman (again) does it to Batman (again) after the Batplane is eaten by alien nanomachine dogs, and his ejection seat is destroyed. Fortunately, Batman is Genre Savvy enough to know he's got time, and calmly calls for help over the radio.
    • Dr. Light bails Batman out the second time he plummets in the same episode.
  • Danny Phantom where Danny rescues Sam from falling to her doom from atop a train passing a tall bridge. She's also rescued in a similar manner by a cop hanging from a chopper in another episode, though we don't see it dive down to catch her in time.
    • Danny also saved Sam from a tightrope-induced fall in the same episode as the train.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): In "Mission of Gravity", Karai and the turtles get dumped out of an airship by Hun. Three of them deploy glider packs to arrest their fall (showing Donatello to be Crazy Prepared), while Leonardo dives to catch Karai, then deploys. It's slightly more realistic, as their fall ends with a curve from vertical to horizontal, which dumps their kinetic energy in a safer fashion.
  • In Teen Titans, Starfire has caught Robin this way more than once.
    • And vice-versa, with Robin catching Starfire.
  • If you're talking about midair rescues from high places, look no further than Gargoyles. A gargoyle catches a human who's fallen off a building at least every other episode.
  • Action Man does this pretty often. Alex is an expert at the Building Swing, what with his superpowered reflexes, his endless supply of extreme-sport-type grapnels, and his strong arms for snagging the rescuee one-handed. Nothing like a CGI cartoon for making physics look optional.
  • In Thundercats 2011 a falling Cheetara, having lost a battle with a Big Badass Bird of Prey, is caught by teammate Tygra using his whip.


Real Life

  • Arguable Truth in Television: Early reconnaissance satellites would take photos and then have the exposed film on board; they had to physically return the film to Earth so the imagery-analysis guys could have it to work with. They did this by ejecting it in a reentry-proof capsule. If it were equipped to land, though, it would be far too heavy, so they designed it for mid-air recovery; it would deploy a parachute and an aircraft, generally a modified transport, would snatch it in mid-air. This would also avoid damaging the film. They were recovered over water; sometimes, they'd be pulled out of the ocean, although they were designed to sink automatically after a while so as to not fall into the wrong hands. At least, that's what the US did. Later on, the same technique was used when some unmanned probes took physical samples from comets or from the space medium on various missions; for example, there was the widely-publicized Genesis mission, where there was a slight problem with the descent sensor being installed upside down, so the capsule with the samples (it was a mission to sample the solar wind) never deployed its parachute, so instead of being retrieved in mid-air by a modified helicopter, it slammed into the Utah desert floor.
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