Superman Movie Minute #5 – Kal-El In Space


Fire and Water Network All-Stars Chris Franklin and Rob Kelly bring you SUPERMAN MOVIE MINUTE, where they analyze, scrutinize, and you'll-believe-a-man-can-fly-ize the classic 1978 film starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, and Marlon Brando, five minutes at a time!

In minutes 21:00 - 25:00, Krypton explodes and Kal-El makes his journey to Earth.

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19 responses to “Superman Movie Minute #5 – Kal-El In Space

  1. Interesting idea about the spikes/prongs on the rocket being ‘shock absorbers’.

    For me I always thought ‘of course those things are going to melt! That’s what you get for sending your kid into space in a chandelier!!’

    As for the Einstein reference, the only way that I could no-prize (and badly) was that the computer on the rocket was a sort of AI, was scanning Earth for news about what would be going on there while the ship was en route, and would then discuss it with Kal. But I think that’s a stretch.

    1. In Elliot S! Maggin’s book, “Last Son of Krypton” (released soon after the movie was released, with a picture of Christopher Reeve on the cover so my young brain connected it as “official”), Maggin offers a possible explanation. IIRC, Maggin writes how Jor-El had sent a probe to Earth to find the most intelligent person on the planet. That probe finds Einstein and explains to Einstein what Jor-El would like help with. Einstein then helps Jor-El find the Kents because he reasons that they would be the best adoptive parents Kal-El could have.

      Maybe as a retcon, this could be how Jor-El teaches Kal-El about Einstein?

  2. This is the first episode of this podcast I have had a chance to listen to so far. I’m loving it!! When I was 6 years old, this was the second live action movie I saw in the theater (Star Wars was first). Can’t wait to listen to the preceding episodes. Hmm, my own form of time travel I guess..

    Anyway, the discussion of the nature of Kal-El’s journey to Earth as depicted in the movie was interesting.

    Certainly there could or would be a difference in the rate at which Kal-El ages on his journey relative to how much time would have passed on Krypton and/or on Earth (known as relativistic time travel or time dilation). This idea is a part of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

    Explaining Jor-El knowing about Einstein if Krypton indeed exploded a thousand years ago is really going down a rabbit hole. I suppose one would have to start by deciding if a Kryptonian year is equivalent to an Earth year and then going a long way down the theoretical physics path from there. I haven’t seen Superman the movie for a while so I was wondering if the fact that Krypton exploded a thousand years ago, as Rob mentioned, was actually established in the movie continuity (it may have been, but I just don’t remember). Certainly there were continuity differences between the comics and the movie and maybe this just another one of those and the journey was not nearly as long in the movie. The more I think about it, in the John Byrne version of the origin (In Man of Steel) I remember that Jor-El showed Lara an image from Earth of a farmer working in the field (she was horrified by it). That would create the same sort of in story timeline problem. But hey, comics. Who knows. I’m sure we don’t get too detailed we could invent some pseudo science which could reasonably explain. For example, Anj’s idea above about some sort of an active AI on the ship that continues to accumulate and disseminate information to Kal-El (in Jor-El’s voice). I don’t think it is as bad as he seems to think. I seems plausible at least in a comic book/comic book movie sense if not an actual science sense. By the way I liked the idea of those spiky things on the ship serving a purpose in slowing the craft’s decent as it enters the atmosphere.

    Maybe they weren’t thinking so much about the science details, and the reference to Einstein (whether or not it can be reconciled with the in story timeline) was placed there more for the audience’s benefit. It re-illustrates that Jor-El wasn’t just a taking shot in the dark and sending his son to some random planet that may or may not in fact be suitable to sustain his life. It shows that Jor-El had actually studied the planet in enough depth to be more sure that they had some for of civilization and potential for technological advancement and that he would be giving his son a chance to lead a happy and productive life on his new world. And also, as you guys mentioned, it sets up the idea of time travel. OOO, foreshadowing!

  3. I can’t explain the Einstein reference, but time dilation is a very real phenomenon as an object approaches the speed of light. It appears that Kal-El travels about 1.5-2 years (based on his apparent physical age when the Kents find him). If his space chandelier is traveling at close to light speed, it’s certainly plausible that a few thousand years could have passed. Relativity can be pretty nutty.

  4. Later in the movie, Lex Luthor explains that (according to his interview with Lois) the Planet Krypton exploded in 1938, and it took 2 years for Superman’s rocket ship to get to Earth.

    1. Yeah, this movie emphatically states Superman was 30 in 1978 in several areas. If you assume he’s 18 when he leaves Smallville, he spends 12 at the Fortress before leaving for Metropolis. Even though Chris Reeve was a few years younger than 30!

  5. Thanks again for the in-depth discussion of Superman’s origins. However, we all know he’s really a kid from Cleveland. If you live in Ohio you can get the Superman shield on your license plates. Be one of the cool kids – like me. The plate contains the phrase “Truth, Justice, & the American Way.” It was originally intended for it to say Ohio: Birthplace of Superman but DC Comics (probably rightly) nixed that, You can see the plates below:

  6. The time thing is one of those elements from this film that I always argue with myself about when I watch the movie. There’s this one part that says, “But this doesn’t add up,” and another part that tells that part to, “Shut up and enjoy the movie already!”

    I mean Jor-El says that he’s been dead many thousand of Clark’s years but later in the film Lex said the planet exploded in 1948 and that it took Kal-El three years to get to Earth, so he landed in 1951. The film came out in 1978 but let’s assume for a moment that that the 12 years Clark spent in the Fortress actually ended in 1977. So that means he left home around 1965, which is fourteen years after 1951. Which makes sense considering Clark’s senior photo in Superman III says 1965. So he’s 4ish when he lands.

    So that all makes some sort of sense but the thousands of years thing always sticks out. The only thing I can think of as a real world explanation is the thousands of years thing was from an earlier draft and it stayed in. This happens in films all of the time. The process of film making is maddening and sometimes things get missed. This is why Clark yells out, “Father!” in the Lester/Legit cut of Superman II even though he’s been talking with his mother earlier in the film. If I was going to come up with a no-prize in story I would say that it took Kal three Earth years to get to here but there was hyper drive technology and bending of space and all that so it only “seemed” like three years but it was thousands of years in Kryptonian time. The problem is this makes little to no sense. If Jor-El was watching Earth thousands of years ago civilization would have been so primitive that sending him here probably would have been a no-go.

    So…I am going with the “thousands of years” was a mistake of script and in my head canon Kal was launched in 1948, which leaves room for Einstein.

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