4/20/2012

Or...The Eight Ways Mariel Hemmingway Should Have Died in Superman IV
In io9.com this week, they had a great post about the most absurd scene in the worst Superman movie, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987). I'm not going to link to it because it has a ton of curse words and this is a family friendly blog. Even the title is NSFW. But, if you head there you can find it and it makes some great points.

That one scene proves once and for all that no one in the making of the film cared.

The film is about Superman (Christopher Reeve) deciding to forcibly rid the world of nuclear weapons and his arch-rival Lex Luthor's creation of a Superman clone called "Nuclear Man" (Mark Pillow). Superman fights the clone and saves the day.

The scene I'm talking about is when the Nuclear Man goes to the Daily Planet, grabs Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway) and literally carries her into space. She flies around completely unprotected for several minutes and then is brought back to Earth unharmed.


This is a movie where Superman literally moves the moon into the sun's orbit and uses beams in his eyes to rebuild the great wall of China. So, we're not talking about a Stephen Hawking physics documentary to begin with. Still, there are so many reasons this scene is so bad it shows no one cared about the audience or the actors to stop it.

Admittedly, most of the blame falls on the production company. The film was green-lit before they even had a script or plot. Christopher Reeve, who wanted a more serious film after the farcical Superman III, agreed to make the film in exchange for story input and making the pet project Street Smarts (1987). The studio gave them barely any money and cut corners at every possible turn. The movie was so bad, even Christopher Reeve told his co-star Jon Cryer it was "terrible." But, with all the films flaws there's one scene that defies logic and common sense.

It must have been obvious to the director, the actors and the script-writers that this one scene was ludicrous and impossible. After a little research I'm convinced even a layman like myself can spot that she would have been killed in, at least, eight ways.

1. Suffocation
This is the most obvious one. She's obviously breathing in space. In space, without oxygen, you'd go unconscious within 15 seconds. If if we say she held her breath, it would be a nightmare since any air escaping through her nose or lips could cause explosive decompression and damage the lungs. We know she exhaled at least once since gasps in horror at being suspended high about the Earth. Boom. Hemmingway should have stopped the scene and told them this was impossible.

2. Freezing\Burning to Death
Contrary to popular belief you wouldn't immediately freeze to death in space. You'd still have body heat and the evaporation of liquids to keep you from freezing immediately. But, Space suits are designed to protect you from wildly different temperatures. In the beginning of the scene she's in full sunlight where temperatures might reach 248 degrees F (120 degrees C). If she survived that, when Superman pushed the moon into the sun the temperature could drop to -148 F ( -100 C) in the shade. She'd at least catch a cold. This would have been a good time for Reeve to express his concern for the audience.

3. Radiation
She was exposed to various types of radiation, such as cosmic rays, and charged particles emitted from the sun (solar wind). While cosmic radiation wouldn't turn her into the Fantastic Four, it would give her a bad sunburn if not cancer. If there was a solar flare, she'd be dead.

4. Hit By Space Junk
In space there are small particles of dust or rock that move at high speeds (micrometeoroids) and are a key sources of space weathering. These tiny fragments move at incredibly high velocities and have been compared to sandblasting over time. Bullets designed to travel at several hundred meters per second and are devastating. A micrometeorite can travel at over a kilometer per second. That's 2236 mph! The constant wear makes space stations and satellites only usable for limited periods of time. Superman and the Nuclear man both have bullet-proof skin, so it's no big deal for them. Considering she was in unprotected space, with a dress no less, she should have looked like Swiss cheese. Director Sidney J. Furie should have quit right in the middle of the scene.

5. Peeing in Her Pants
Considering she was kidnapped, flown through the air, taken into space and then almost "dropped" she'd no doubt evacuate her bladder if nothing else. While it's not lethal in itself, I'm sure it's not a good thing.

6. Looking Like Schwarzenegger
While she wouldn't have exploded from the lack of air pressure, she would have looked pretty buff. Skin doesn't need to be protected from vacuum and is gas-tight meaning she'd keep most of her internal fluids. However, one of the jobs of the space suit is to mechanically compress it to retain its normal shape. Human flesh expands to about twice its size in the vacuum of space, giving the visual effect of a body builder. It probably wouldn't have killed her, but she'd look pretty bad. She could have died from embarrassment.

7. Forced Re-Entry
In the scene she hangs from the Nuclear Man's arms and flails helplessly. Lets assume for a minute, and I'm laughing as I write this, that gravity extends thousands of miles into space. If she were really feeling the pull of gravity, she would have been forced into the earth's atmosphere and that alone would have killed her because...

8. Burned in Re-Entry
Besides the impossibility of being thrown out into space, surviving without air, being burned and frozen, hit by micrometeoroids and being blown up like a balloon there's one last hurdle. How would Superman return her to Earth? Anything above 100 km reentry of greater than Mach 20 is sufficient to destroy a spacecraft. Even with a blunt object, like a Mercury spacecraft, the temperature can rise to 2,000 °F (1,100 °C). Assuming Superman could shield her with his body, he'd still end up frying her with the excess heat dissipated to surrounding air. The writers, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, could have known this would happen just by reading the script. Especially since they wrote a scene in the opening o the dangers the Russian astronauts faced by being exposed to space.

This scene is a testimony to how much people didn't care about the movie. Someone, somewhere, must have said, "You know. She couldn't survive in space." And everyone else said, "Who cares?"

References
http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/suitnasa.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_suit
http://www.universetoday.com/89804/micrometeorites/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_entry
http://science.howstuffworks.com/project-mercury2.htm
http://science.howstuffworks.com/space-suit.htm

What do you think of the scene? Does it prove no one cared? Have you ever seen a movie that had a ridiculous scene?
[Image Source: denofgeek.com]

If you're here for the A-Z Blog Challenge, my brother and I are taking turns posting. Check back later today for his R post!

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11 comments:

Jeremy said...

okay when did they make a forth superman... in my eyes this never happened, so not happened... no death. cause this would have been a terrible way to end the superman franchise. cause the third film was great, is that the one if you build it, they will come... right?

Maurice Mitchell said...

Jeremy, for better or for worse, they went on to follow up the Richard Pryor romp with this one and then Superman Returns. I'll let you decide if that was a good or bad thing.

AlexJCavanaugh said...

That's called pushing 'suspended belief' too far. Way, way too far.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Alex, it's about as far as the moon to the Earth, but Superman did close the gap on that a bit.

M Pax said...

Wow. I don't think I ever saw that movie. I think I saw at least I & II.

Commander Spacey said...

Crikey this Superman IV movie is a real sad situation, LOL. I remember in my youth, trying to watch this bewildering film and wondering, how could the girl survive in the vacuum of space.

A.D. Duling said...

Wow! Interesting! Loved it! I watched this in my teen days and never paid any mind to this scene and how it didn't make sense. I havent watched it in a long, long time and wow! It was pretty bad and some great points! I just had to add your blog to my A.D.'s FAV 5 of the A to Z Challenge today! It was so good!
http://adduling.wordpress.com/

You are #5 and I have one more (the bonus) and it shall be posted, so if you do not see my FAV 5 just yet, please do come back!

Have a wonderful weekend!
A.D.

Melissa Bradley said...

LMAO!!! I haven't seen this atrocity in a decade or more, but this scene is one of the worst in movie history. Well,maybe they thought people would think that Nuclear Man had a force field that extended from his body or something.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Melissa LOL They were always making up powers, so you could be right!

Maurice Mitchell said...

M Pax, you didn't miss much

Maurice Mitchell said...

Thanks A.D. Sweet blog you have.

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