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In Superman: The Movie (1978), Lex Luthor plans to become wealthy by (Spoiler alert but you've had forty years to see the movie so I'm not hiding it) buying desert real estate, then nuking the San Andreas fault and causing the western half of California to collapse into the ocean, converting his land to oceanfront property.

He seeks to ensure the success of his plan by (a) launching a second missile towards Hackensack, NJ, thus ensuring that at least one missile would hit its target and (b) hanging a lump of Kryptonite around Superman's neck.

My question is this: What if Superman had gone after the California missile first? The Hackensack missile would have hit, but under the plan as described, Luthor would not have profited from that. He would have made himself into a mass murderer for no gain. His choice of Hackensack rather than, say, Gotham or Metropolis would seem to increase that risk, as Hackensack is a relatively small town as compared to the entire coastal population of the state of California. The second missile seems most likely to create a way for his plan to fail.

To be clear, I am not asking what the screenwriter's motivation was for including the second missile (I assume it was an unused bridge to events in the sequel); I'm asking what Luthor's motivation was.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Paulie_D, Tim, Nog Shine, J M, BCdotWEB Feb 8 '18 at 9:45

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    If you're actually asking for Luthor's motivation for including the second missile to begin with, maybe you can point that out a little more to make this less of a "why didn't story play out in the way I would want it to?" question, which is what it tends to look like a little right now. – Napoleon Wilson Feb 8 '18 at 0:10
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One of the reasons he used 2 missiles, as you have already stated, was to try and ensure Superman would not have time to catch them both. New Jersey appears to be along about as different a trajectory possible to one heading towards California (unless they were both coming from Russia :-D )

Did Luthor already know about Ms. Teschmacher's mother living in Hackensack? He doesn't seem too concerned about leaving her to save Superman so perhaps if he did foresee the potential betrayal he was counting on Superman's valour in promising to save Ms. Teshmacher's mother before going to for the California bomb. Perhaps Superman never saw his plot as that much of a problem anyway considering he knew he could repair the fault line.

I am sorry for such a crap answer but the question, as Napoleon has pointed out does contain a lot of 'what ifs' and the like but you are right - the second missile was originally intended to explode in space, releasing Gen. Zod & Co. for the sequel (check out the 'Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut' workprint to see how that would have worked)

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