How Much Superpower Does It Take to Bash a Bullet in Midair?

In a trailer for Wonder Woman 1984, our hero is under attack from some goons with guns. At one point (around 1:20 in the clip), she grabs one of the pistols and pulls back the slide, causing it to eject a round. As the bullet tumbles out (in slow motion), she hits it off to the side—maybe into something?

I’m always looking for stuff to analyze, and this is a great physics example. So now I get to do what I do: Using physics, I want to figure out how much (super) power Wonder Woman would need to hit that bullet in midair.

Let’s start by looking at the upward motion of the bullet as it leaves the gun. If you’ve worked out movie scenes with me before (like the one where we analyzed Spider-Man’s leaps ), you know the drill. I use my favorite video analysis tool, Tracker, to mark the location of an object in each frame of the video and combine that with the frame rate to get position and time data. But this particular shot is a little tougher. Here are the problems:
  • I need to know the size of something in the picture to fix a distance scale, and I don’t. The best I’ve got is the gun and Wonder Woman's hand, so we’ll have to estimate here.
  • The camera zooms and pans during the shot, and we have to factor that out. I can use a stationary object like the wall behind Wonder Woman as a reference point, but it’s only an approximation, since the wall is farther away. Due to parallax , the change in apparent motion for this and the bullet will be slightly different.
  • It’s not in real time. Clearly it would take a bullet less than 3 seconds to get to its highest point. I don't know the actual time between frames, and as we'll see below, it's not constant through the whole shot.
But there’s one thing I do know: This takes place on Earth, and when an object on Earth moves with only the gravitational force pulling on it (ignoring air resistance), it has a constant downward acceleration of 9.8 m/s2, represented by the symbol g. That means its motion obeys the following kinematic equation (where y is vertical position, v is velocity, and t is time):

Illustration: Rhett Allain