Did Superman really turn back time?

So, near the end of the movie, Superman flys around the earth really fast, and reverses time to the point where he can save Lois. When I first watched this scene (aged about 9), I was in awe at this feat. Ever since, I’ve just assumed that this would somehow be possible.

But how can flying around the earth, in the opposite direction to its rotation, reverse (or even slow down) time? Is there any science based in fact here?

Yes, he did.

No, it isn’t.

It can’t. They needed a happy ending, so they created this bit of fluff explanation. It’s always annoyed me, because it makes no sort of sense, and isn’t event consistent with the comic book it’s supposed to be based on (where Superman could himself travel into the past, but not turn back time in any part of the rest of the universe.)
The classic example of what happens when you try to reverse the earth’s spin is in the H.G. Wells short story 'The Man Who Could Work Miracles", and in the underrasted movie of the same name based on it

(Although I must in fairness add that even Carl Sagan has pointed out that you can avoid ill effects by slowing down the spin gradually enough. Only Supes definitely wasn’t doing that.)

Maybe he wasn’t really turning the Earth back, but flying at faster than the speed of light to travel back in time - the appearance of the Earth rotating backwards was actually just Superman’s perception. He did the flying close to Earth so he could keep an eye on things and know when he had travelled back far enough.

I never saw it as him turning back time, I always saw it as him going back in time and seeing everything from his POV.

It’s called “Frame Reference Dragging”. You see, Superman is really dense, and if you rotate a dense object at near the speed of light, you induce eddys in the space-time continuum (you may see his sofa). These eddys can allow you to move forward or backward in time at a rate faster than the reference frame. So Supe circled the earth really fast creating an eddy that moved Earth back in time to before Lois died.


I’ve always seen it that Superman travelled BACKWARDS in time, and the Earth rotating backward was merely what it seemed like from his perspective. He inserted himself into the time stream at just the right moment to save Lois’s life; he didn’t go back a little further–say far enough to STOP THE FREAKING MISSILE FROM HITTING IN THE FIRST PLACE–because he is, despite his prodigious education, an idiot. This, of course, created an alternate timeline, so when he returned to the point of origin, there was another Kal-El then, whom, being a dick, he then murdered.

Can you tell I hate that scene?

Me too. But it still was a silly plot device.

He didn’t “reverse time”, except for himself; he travelled backward in time by exceeding the speed of light. (That’s why you can’t do that – exceed the speed of light, that is.)

Flying around the Earth was irrelevant; he could just as easily have flown a straight line away and back and achieved the same effect. But flying around the Earth that fast was much more visually dramatic, so that’s why they did the scene that way.

I have had seeveral debates about this, and that just doesn’t happen. He actually reverses the rotation of the earth.

You can tell because after the Earth is spinning in the wrong way he stops and the Earth is still spinning that way. He then goes the other way around to get it spinning in the right direction again. If it was simply his perspective then the Earth would have been going the right way after he stopped, without him needing to get it going in that way again,

Boy, that’s what happens when I leave a window open on a thread like this – pretty quick pileon for that particular question (which seems to come up every couple of years here).

That’s a blunder in the visual effects. Or something that makes far less sense than time travel.

Over 30 minutes and no Cher jokes?

What the hell is this place coming to?

In the late 70’s, there was an article in a comics-journal/comics-world type of fanzine that pretty much panned the movie and everything in it. The author seemed to me to be awfully biased, perhaps wanting everything to be pretty much the same as in the Silver Age/ Bronze Age comics. He even advocated for the Kryptonian building design to be the same as he was familiar with. (You know, all that Space Needle jazz.)

But he had a pretty good point about the anticlimactic ending.

Paraphrased: If Superman can do THAT, he can do ANYTHING, and then why should we care what he does at all?

  • “Jack”

Actually I think it was necessary, or at least prudent, to do it by orbiting the Earth. He wasn’t time travelling for the hell of it; he needed to reach a specific moment. Clearly even the Big Red S is going to need some space to do that, but he also needs to keep an eye on his regress and progress. Easiest way to do both is to keep Earth in sight the entire time, which means he’ll have to orbit it.

So speaking purely theoretically, if you exceeded the speed of light, you would travel back time time. As Superman is not from Earth, is it not possible that his powers would allow him to break the speed of light?

By the very same logic, it is possible that I am, in fact, also Fabulous Creature, a ruthless supervillain who will not be satisfied until the Earth is conquered, every government overthrown, all its women stampeded, and all its cattle raped.

I never understood Superman anyway. As True Blue Jack points out, once you have a Superman, everything is done and over with. He can stop all crime, he can turn back time (if he could find a way!) he can see all and do all, so that should pretty much be the end of crime, right? And once you have Superman, you don’t need any other crime fighters so the Justice League or whatever is useless.

And I also think he spun the Earth backwards.

Here’s a thought: how can Superman, who derives much of his power from the sun, travel faster than light?

There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.

Well, he didn’t start out as proctically omnipotent. At the beginning he couldn’t fly (hence the “…abl to leap buildings at a single bound”, which makes zero sense for a guy who can fly), he was tough but not invulnerable, and strong but not ludicrously strong. He sure as heck couldn’t outrun a Time Barrier, or whatever.

But he kept getting more and more powerful through the years, and they had to create Kryptonite and Mr. Mixyzpltk (later Mr. Mxyzptlk – no joke. They misspelled it once, and, to keep consistency, retained that) and other limitations.
Absolute Power doesn’t necessarily Corrupt. But it does make creating Dramatic Situations a Bitch.