SPOILER ALERT - What Really Happened At The End Of 1978's "Superman: The Movie" OR What Happens When You Suddenly Reverse The Earths Rotation?
I always used to love the original Superman movie as a kid. Still do! But a while ago I got to thinking about the ending and came to a realization about what really happened.
At the end of this film, Superman saves the world from a nuclear war, but fails to get to Lois Lane in time to save her from an earthquake in California. Lois, grotesquely, drowns in dirt. Superman, in his unbridled sadness, using his child-like super will, decides he won't stand for it. So he shoots into the air, and spins around the earth at relativistic speeds, causing the earth to rotate in reverse.
This is depicted in the film as having the unique effect of reversing time itself. But, of course, that is not how time works at all.
Nonetheless, we see Superman reverse time, go back to Lois, and save her from the earthquake - and the two of them go on to have more adventures and live happily ever after, in defiance of all the laws of physics.
Since this is totally impossible, I worked out what really happened.
At the moment that Superman found Lois dead in the dirt, he was so overcome that he completely decompensated from reality.
This moment is beautifully, and tragically, depicted at the :20 second mark of the above video. Superman breaks down and flies into the air, only to have a psychotic break amidst the clouds, before making his fateful decision.
From this moment on, Superman is no longer sane, and what we the viewer see is from his perspective: which is to say, the perspective if an insane, living God.
We see Superman defy the laws of reality itself to resurrect his love. Even if we take this at face value, the logic behind this is internally contradictory.
Even if Superman could turn back time and then decided to save Lois, what happens to the Nuke? It goes totally unmentioned in the film, presumably continuing on and destroying its intended target, thereby starting a nuclear war.
But this no longer matters because we are now witnessing the delusions of a shattered mind. The question remains - if we only see Superman's delusional perspective on screen, what really happens?
A far more tragic result.
Superman, in his rage, flies into orbit and screams around the earth at relativistic speeds. If we utilize this popular explanation of Superman's powers, which says his powers rely on his ability to change the inertial mass of objects near him, then it becomes conceivable that he could perhaps force the earth to temporarily reverse its spin
However, far from reversing time, such a move would wreak havoc on the planet and its occupants, namely us. As this NASA scientist points out, the damage would begin before the earth's rotation even reversed. The mere act of suddenly stopping the earths rotation, even for a short time, without accounting for the momentum of the earth's winds and waters and everything on its surface, would scour the earth clean.
By the time the earth briefly stops spinning in the video clip, all of civilization is being dessicated by 1000mph winds, causing utter devestation.
However, in his unbridled super tantrum, Superman doesn't stop there. By beginning to spin the earth, almost instantaneously, in the opposite of its original direction he would compound the already absurd levels of damage being caused on the surface. With the planet moving at humongous speeds in opposition to the direction of its still racing wind and water. The result would be utter chaos, shooting everything that was recently on the surface, including all of us and Lois's corpse, into the atmosphere.
Even people deep underground at the time would probably not survive the incredible speed of the decceleration. Their individual momentum would crush them into the walls of whatever structure they took refuge in.
By the time the world is returned to its normal spin perhaps 99.9% of humanity is dead. The atmosphere is infused with the dust of our broken society and the sun is beginning to disappear under an impermeable haze.
Superman returns to the location of Lois's death. Since the film depicts him saving Lois and flying off with her, we can only assume in reality superman has found one of the billions of corpses flying bodily through the atmosphere and , in his delusion, believes it to be the living Lois Lane.
Unshown in the film is Superman flying through the maelstrom of his own creation, carrying the still warm corpse of a total stranger, conversing quietly with it over the din of armageddon.
No doubt some tiny number of people survive the initial chaos, left behind in a world ravaged by an unknown, calamitous force. In their doom and hopelessness, they might even ask themselves, blithely unaware of the irony: "where is superman? Why won't he help us?"
Of course, these few survivors would quickly die out. Perhaps a few hundred would stumble upon underground sources of food or shelter that remain mostly undamaged and survive for a time. But the air would be clogged with dirt and the lack of sun would cause the world to freeze. Eventually humanity would become extinct.
And what of superman? Based on the movie, his delusion prevents him from even understanding the presence of the destruction he wrought. He has shown an ability to survive in empty space, so it stands to reason he would be ok in the dusty but still oxygenated atmosphere of the destroyed earth.
The bigger problem would be his reliance on our yellow sun. His unawareness of his surroundings will come to a head as the sun is blotted out.
For some time he will travel the world with the rotting corpse he believes to be Lois Lane, presumably enacting many of the scenes we see in Superman II in an absurd and tragic pantomime.
Over time, perhaps fairly quickly, his energy will diminish, until after some time he will be left powerless and mortal. Perhaps in these final moments of weakness he will realize the reality of his situation. Or perhaps he goes to his grave - reduced from his super state to mere manhood - blithely unaware of his plight - looking longingly into "Lois's" dry, hollow eye sockets and whispering "It was all for you."
Info/Cited Sources http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/q1168.html http://www.qwantz.com/fanart/superman.pdf https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-fast-is-the-earth-mov/ https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/a10840.html
Youtube Link - BattleofShadows Account
Whispers in the wind. The taste of revelation in the water. So near and yet, ungraspable. What could it all mean? Why do I feel compelled to add it here, at the bottom of this post? Why do I ask these questions, as though I could stop myself. Anyway, what harm could it #yunk ?