Superhero Strongman Showdown: Terminator Versus the Hulk

In a toe-to-toe matchup between the two most physically powerful sci-fi characters to hit the screen since Superman, who will emerge as the strongest?

Illustration by Steve Wacksman

Illustration by Steve Wacksman

Two of this summer's biggest special-effects extravaganzas will go head-to-head at the box office this month-T3: Rise of the Machines will be released on July 2, shortly after The Hulk hits theaters on June 20. In a just world, the movies would be judged not by gross receipts but by the strength of their characters. Literally. And so we ask: In a toe-to-toe matchup between the two most physically powerful sci-fi characters to hit the screen since Superman, who will emerge as the strongest? Let physics be the judge.

The Terminator, cyborg from the future, killing machine sent back through time, takes bullets in the chest without flinching, tosses bodies around as if they were rag dolls. Strong, yes, but compared with the pantheon of superheroes, what feats can he perform that set him apart? Never in the three movies does he demonstrate truly godlike strength; only the occasional fist through a wall and bullet through the back. His strength rises from tenacity, the
robotic single-mindedness that is his existential birthright. His physical power--occasional broken walls aside--is merely human-plus.

Compare this with the Hulk--mild-mannered Bruce Banner transformed by rage and gamma rays into a 15-foot-tall muscled madman. In one scene from the upcoming movie, he grabs a tank by the turret, twirls and throws it far into the distance. Let's pause to
consider this for a moment. He'd need to get that 60-ton tank moving about 170 mph to throw it 2,000 feet. Doing that in two seconds requires 100,000 hp, or the strength of a naval destroyer packed into a superhero's body.
Although not as logical or tenacious as the Terminator--helpful qualities when you're built to kill--the Hulk compensates for his deficiencies with pure muscle power. We salute you, Hulk, and bestow upon you our inaugural superhero strongman award. Can't wait for the sequel.