Around $200 million worth of tickets have been sold to screenings of Man of Steel thus far, with fans around the world eager to behold Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan's serious new take on the world's most famous superhero. Along with a big dose of sci-fi detail and an angst-filled origin story (and maybe some religious allegory), moviegoers were treated to a cataclysmic display of carnage and destruction. (Light spoilers below.)
When Superman (Henry Cavill) and his nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon) duke it out for almost the entire third act of the movie, their incredible speed and power are largely on display in Metropolis, the fictional city that is largely based on New York.
In a study done exclusively for BuzzFeed, scientist and longtime disaster expert Charles Watson worked with his team at Watson Technical Consulting to model and anticipate the damage done to Metropolis, both in the form of human casualties and monetary cost. They ran analyses of the World Engine ground zero in Central Manhattan and central Chicago, finding that the major damage would be a mile in diameter.
WTC estimates that, in the days after the attack, the known damage would already be stunning: 129,000 known killed, over 250,000 missing (most of whom would have also died), and nearly a million injured.
The impact, WTC writes, "seemed to be similar to an air burst from a 20kt nuclear explosion in terms of shock effects, but without the radiation or thermal effects."
In terms of the strictly physical damage done to the city, the initial estimate is $700 billion. To put that in context, 9/11's physical damage cost $55 billion, with a further economic impact of $123 billion.
Overall, WTC estimates that the damage would be $2 trillion.
The numbers are staggering, but then, so is the imagery. Superman and Zod's battle is one of epic proportions, these two superhumans from a distant planet laying waste to the gleaming city. They toss each other into buildings, with each crash easily blowing holes through the architecture and sending the towers — and the many people inside of them — free-falling to the broken pavement below.
The rain of searing wreckage blew streets apart; people became trapped under fallen buildings and overturned cars, crushed beneath facades and hot and twisted metal. The onslaught from the back-and-forth battle was random and merciless; the two Kryptonians paid little attention to the damage they were doing to anything but each other.
In the end, Superman wins the day. But at what cost?
WTC delivered its report to BuzzFeed in the form of an editorial written by The Daily Planet's Perry White, who is played in Man of Steel by Laurence Fishburne. We have excerpted it below; the entire letter and report can be found at WTC's site.
Disasters can bring out the best in human nature, but also uncover the worst. The financial toll is equally enormous, and it is here the darker side is unfortunately revealed. The dust from collapsing buildings had not settled before LexCorp's infamous Kinetic Assessment Cartel (KAC) were spreading across the city, calculators in hand, tallying the damage and, no doubt, getting a jump on their potential competitors for lucrative post-apocalypse recovery contracts. KAC's initial estimate of over $750 Billion in direct physical damage is truly astronomical, and probably correct, but not as astronomical as the profits these vultures hope to reap from the city's misfortune. Of course the city must be rebuilt, but we must say we are disappointed in Mayor Berkowitz for giving LexCorp a sole source contract for this vital task. We suspect the Mayor will regret this contract at some point. With billions more in cleanup, economic impact, and other the total will easily be in the trillions of dollars.
Finally, while we honor the bravery and dedication of our Armed Forces, especially the sacrifice of Col. Hardy in destroying the World Engine, we would be remiss if we did not point out that our military was initially not only ineffective, but the source of considerable unnecessary damage. An assessment of the Battle of Smallville by Dr. Edward Johnson of the University of Metropolis has shown that fully 87% of the damage to Smallville was caused by friendly fire, with billions of dollars of aircraft, satellites, and other hardware lost during the ensuing conflict. Again, we do not fault the courageous airman and soldiers who valiantly fought alien invaders possessed of superhuman strength and vastly superior technology, but our leaders showed failures of judgment and management that will require serious review.