It’s impossible, of course. Falling object LL descending distance d at velocity v for a given time t, being met by rising object S at acceleration a, with v equal to a times t, and d equal to one-half a times t squared, would result in falling object LL rapidly disassembling into her component parts, some on rising object S and quite a bit on the ground g, making a terrible mess and putting the kibosh on the romance like you wouldn’t believe.
So overall I think it’s best if we stress the fiction more than the science here, and focus on the matter at hand. A handsome man from beyond the stars has suddenly appeared directly under Lois, sweeping aside the laws of physics for her immediate benefit.
“Easy, miss,” he assures her. “I’ve got you.”
Her surprised squeak of a response — “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” — is one of the great moments in American cinema, partly because her comic timing and the crack in her voice are utterly perfect, but also because she’s expressing the surprise and anxiety of a person who suddenly finds herself starring in a different movie than the one that she thought she was in.
It’s easy to imagine this scene going wrong; all you’d need is for Lois to be grateful rather than horrified. “Oh, thank goodness,” she would say, “I thought I was falling to my death, but here you are and you’ve saved me, hurrah!” And then she’d wave to the crowd like a homecoming queen, instantly comfortable with the idea that gravity is backwards.
What Lois is actually expressing is more along the lines of, “Holy shit, what’s happening? What the fuck are you, and what are you doing to me?” I mean, obviously she’s pleased that she’s moving away from the ground rather than smacking directly into it, but she’s fallen into the clutches of a monster from outer space, and that’s going to take a minute to get used to.
But John Williams and his orchestra understand what’s happening, even if Lois doesn’t. They’ve been alternating between urgent danger trills from the string section and rising he’s coming, he’s coming excitement over in the brass area, but as soon as she falls into the hero’s arms, the woodwinds take over, with a sudden heart-melting burst of the Love theme.
Meanwhile, the people on the ground are attempting to get their heads around this. “I can’t believe it, I just cannot believe it,” says a newscaster into her mic. “He got her.” They’ve accepted the creature as a “he”, at least, which must be difficult to discern at this distance.
And then the helicopter busts loose from its perch and falls toward the crowd below, which is probably something that the crowd should have been budgeting for from the start. I know that superhero movie New Yorkers are the model of blasé, but even inveterate bystanders should have been able to see this one coming.
Really, their only hope is that another entirely magical creature shoots up from a side street — say, Jim, they might say, that is an even worse out-fit — to take care of the impending tragedy.
But the vision in primary colors reaches out a casual arm and plucks the helicopter from its descent, turning the disaster into a street party. The last time we saw him do anything super was when he petulantly kicked a football and then ran home really fast from school, but this is what he was born for.
As soon as his hand hits the helicopter, the music erupts — transitioning immediately from danger trills into a full-throated rendition of the Superman March.
The crowd below bursts into ecstatic cheers, instantly accommodating an extraterrestrial superhero into their worldview. There’s no hesitation down here at ground level, because this isn’t meant to be a group that’s external to the audience in the theater. They’re our representatives, and they understand exactly what’s happening and how exciting it is.
This is the first time in the movie when the Superman March is really appropriate, a triumphant public moment as he gets a standing ovation from basically all of Manhattan. We don’t see him, as the filmmakers feared that we would, as a ridiculous cartoon character. He is Superman, and the ritual of summoning is complete.
On the way up, he tries to look in her eyes and establish a meaningful connection; he’s been hoping that something like this would happen for days.
Her response is to blink at him, and give the ground another worried look. Metropolis may have accepted this creature as established fact, but Lois Lane needs more information before she commits to a conclusion.
The March comes to a thrilling final flourish as Superman flies them all back into place, and the music ends as soon as the helicopter hits the landing pad.
“Gentlemen,” our hero says to the dazzled ground crew, “this man needs help.” Somebody else needs to take care of the unconscious pilot; Superman has more important things to do.
And we suddenly find that everything else has gone quiet. The cheering crowd, the ostentatious victory march — it’s all faded away into quiet, and comfort. This isn’t a public event anymore. After all of that excitement, the only thing that matters now is her, and him, and the beating of her heart.
How did they pull off the flying effects?
1.57: A Man Can Fly
— Danny Horn