They collected the stones, they professed their love, and blasted the evil planet before it had a chance to destroy the Earth. But… did they? I decided to nerd out and do the math and see what would actually happen if the 6th largest moon in the solar system was left hovering at the edge of space. Spoilers: it’s very, very bad.


I was recently watching the cinematic masterpiece The Fifth Element for maybe the one thousandth time, when something at the end caught my eye…
They stop the evil planet thing from hitting the Earth, and everybody celebrates. The evil planetary entity is now just a big hunk of harmless rock out in space. The world was saved by the power of love!

But something occurred to me that I’d never realized before…

They’re still f**ked.
Because gravity still exists right? And now there’s this giant moon-sized object hovering right above the atmosphere… That’s still a problem.
So I decided to fix the ending of The Fifth Element.

It’s a little different now.

All right, so we are going to be talking about the end of a movie, which means spoilers so if you’ve been putting off watching this movie for 27 years…

I mean, let’s face it you were never going to watch it so you might as well just watch this video.

If you have seen the movie, then you know what happens at the end, but just in case any of you have never seen the movie, let me see if I can sum it all up in one minute…. (deep breath)
In the movie The Fifth Element, there’s a bad guy.
Not that bad guy. This bad guy.

This is a giant evil entity in space, that, in this world, returns every 5,000 years to destroy all life on Earth. It doesn’t really have a name, they just call it The Great Evil, but it controls Gary Oldman’s character, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg. And in a scene where Zorg gets a phone call from The Great Evil, his secretary tells him…

So I will be calling him either the Great Evil or Mr. Shadow for this video. Or the Dark Planet

Anyway, the only way to stop the Great Evil is to combine four sacred stones, which represent the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water, and a fifth element, which turns out to be a genetically enhanced superbeing created by an alien race. This is Leeloo, played by Mila Jovavich and she is so important, they dressed her in seat belts to keep her safe.

Anyway, The Great Evil has been using Zorg to steal the stones so there wouldn’t be a way to stop it this time and that’s what most of the movie is about is Zorg trying to steal the stones while Leeloo and Korben Dallas, played by Bruce Willis, are trying to protect it.

So at the end of the movie, they get the stones and take them to a pyramid to destroy the Great Evil, who is flying toward Earth at tremendous speed, but as the clock ticks down, they have to figure out how to activate the rocks and even then it still doesn’t work until Bruce Willis tells her he loves her and at the last second, he kisses her and she’s so disgusted by it she vomits a gamma ray burst, which stops the Great Evil in its tracks.

And this… is what I was talking about at the beginning of this video.
Because the movie treats it like the Earth is saved, done deal, pop the champagne and get busy in the hyperbaric chambers but this is a huge problem.

And this is the part of the video where we talk about why.

The President’s Men

First off, let’s get a sense of what we’re dealing with here. We know how big it is and where it is by a couple of lines in the movie.
In this scene that happens pretty close to the end, the President describes it as 1200 miles in diameter:

And here, after they stop the Great Evil, one of the President’s people says it stopped 62 miles from impact

62 miles, by the way just happens to the the exact same altitude as the Karman Line, which is considered to be the border of space, about 100 kilometers. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or not.
But right away, if you’ve got this giant moon-looking thing literally at the border of space… Well that’s gonna be a problem for some satellites

Of course this is the future, so the satellites might have the ability to avoid it, but I think for the sake of not losing my mind, let’s just leave out any future technology that might solve the problems in this video.
Because the satellites are just the beginning of the problem…

The Density Question

This thing has mass, and it’s going to fall toward Earth, but also, the Earth is going to fall towards it. At least part of the Earth.
To know how much, we need to calculate its mass. We know its size, we know its shape. But what about its density?

Because I mean if it’s lighter than air, no problem! It can bob on top of the atmosphere like a cork in water. Probably not the case though.

Earlier in the movie, it was glowing red with a partially molten surface and jets of fire or plasma coming out of it. Now maybe this is a star-like object, and what we’re seeing is a ball of fusing gasses, but it’s way too small to have enough gravity to sustain fusion.

Something that small could be a neutron star or a quark star, but the gravity of something that extreme would have sucked in the ships at the beginning and swallowed Earth whole so I’m going with it’s molten rock because it looks like molten rock and at the end when they defeat it – well it looks like the moon or Mercury.

Which, by the way, in some of the lore around the Fifth Element, some suspect that the actual moon was a previous Great Evil that got defeated. So, I’m gonna go with it being a moon-like density.

Earth’s moon has a mean density of about 3346 kilograms per cubic meter. S to find the mass, we cube the radius of Mr Shadow, which is 1931 km over 2, or 965.5 km, and multiply by 4-thirds pi to get the volume. We then multiply the volume by the mean density, giving a mass of about 1.26 times 10 to the 22nd kilograms.

That’s less than the moon, but that’s still a lot of rock floating overhead. In fact, it would be the 8th largest moon in the solar system. Just hanging there.

Gravitational Effects

The good news is, it won’t be hanging there for long. The bad news is… It won’t be hanging there for long.
First off, gravity would get weird. We’re used to thinking of gravity as the force that pulls us to the ground, but that’s a simplification. Gravity is exerted by every massive object on every other object with mass.
And the closer the objects are, the greater the gravitational attraction, because gravity falls off according to the inverse square law.

So to measure the amount of gravitational force this thing would apply, we need to multiply the universal gravitational constant (6.67430e-11) by the two masses and divide by the distance. Specifically, we’re talking about the distance between the centers of the objects.

So Earth’s center to the center of Mr. Shadow. You can get that by adding the Earth’s radius to Mr Shadow’s radius, and then add 100 for the space between them.
Anyway, all this math tells us the gravitational force equals 9.081 times 10 to the 22nd Newtons. Which is a lot. It’s 458 times stronger than that of the moon.

(1.982 times 10 to the 20th Newtons)

You know, funny thing about the moon is uh… it causes tides. Let’s talk about that for a second.

Tidal Force

Tides happen because the moon’s gravity pulls all the ocean water towards it, and the sides facing each other feels the gravity the strongest. So the water around the planet creates a slight bulge. And the reason it seems to rise and fall throughout the day is because the Earth is rotating so what we see as the tide rising and falling is really just us passing through the Earth’s bulge.

Insert immature bulge joke here.

So if the moon can do that, what would a tidal force 458 times stronger do?
The answer… A lot.

Immediately water from all around the world would pool toward the new moon in the sky, causing massive tsunamis along coastlines around the world. If it’s above Egypt, which is seems to be in the movie, a biblical flood would swell over Cairo from the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Below Mr. Shadow, trees and building would be ripped out of the ground. Cars and any unfortunate people would float off the ground like the rapture. Which might be a good thing, it’ll get you away from all that rushing water.

And then there’s the atmosphere.

All the air would flow toward the object as well, causing hurricane force winds all around the planet. The air pressure around Egypt would increase while on the other side of the world, it would get dangerously thin. People in New Zealand might struggle to breathe and even see the sky turn black as the air rushes away from them.
And last but not least, the land would be pulled toward the object as well.
The tidal force would cause the plates on Earth’s crust to shift and warp, causing earthquakes all over the planet and setting off volcanoes at the fault lines.
All of this destruction… and it hasn’t even fallen yet.
And when it does fall, chances are it won’t be all in one piece.

Roche Limit

In my video about a hypothetical Earth with rings, I talked about the Roche limit. The Roche limit is a distance above Earth, or any large object in space, where the tidal forces are great enough that if an object gets closer than that limit, it will be torn apart by the tidal forces.

Again, it has to do with that inverse square law that gravity works on so a large object, like Mr. Shadow, would feel the gravity a lot stronger on the side closest to Earth and a lot weaker on the opposite side. And that difference in forces eventually causes the rock to break apart.
It’s kind of like when somebody holds out a piece of paper and you grab it so fast, the other person doesn’t have time to let go. The pull exceeds the strength of the paper and the paper rips. Same idea.

Some of the olds in the audience might remember the Shoemaker-Levy-9 comet from 1992, it was torn apart when it passed by Jupiter and eventually plunged into it, leaving a gnarly scar bigger than Earth.

So Mr. Shadow would most likely break apart and fall in an elongated teardrop shape. ASSUMING… that it’s in a fixed position.

Falling or Floating?

In this shot right after they freeze the planet, you can see it is moving a little bit. It’s hard to tell how fast it’s moving, I personally doubt that it’s anywhere close to orbital velocity, but I suppose one could make the argument that the filmmakers showed it moving to suggest that it was in orbit and wouldn’t just fall down to Earth like we’ve been talking about.
In which case everything would be fine, right?

We’re going to consider that option as well, so there’s two scenarios: Scenario One is if the dark planet is motionless and Scenario Two is if it’s at orbital velocity just above the Karman line. Place your bets for which would be worse. Here we go.

Scenario One

Okay, here’s Scenario One.

Mr. Shadow gets blasted by Leeloo’s energy vomit and slows to a stop, 100 kilometers above the Earth. It hangs in space for a moment before Earth’s gravity pulls it down.

Immediately, the Earth’s oceans begin surging toward Egypt and the Mediterranean, causing massive kilometer-high tsunamis along coastlines, with the Earth’s rotation causing east coast tsunamis to be slightly larger.

Of course this tidal force wouldn’t just affect water, the Earth’s crust would warp and shift as well, causing catastrophic earthquakes along fault lines all around the world. Not to mention opening up dozens of volcanoes.

Imagine like a couple dozen Krakatoas all going off at once. Or even a supervolcano like Yellowstone.

As the dark planet descends, cracks form along its surface as the bottom of the planet is pulled harder than the top, causing it to elongate and break apart.

On the ground below, Leeloo and Korben notice a “lightness” as the center of Earth’s gravity moves toward the falling moon. As it continues to fall, the Earth’s gravity will continue to weaken until objects and people themselves begin to float.

Inside the temple, Korben and Leeloo lift off the ground, scrambling to maintain control as they fly faster and faster into the ceiling which I’m assuming has a hole at the top? Because that’s how the beam came out? Let’s assume there’s a hole in the top.

From this hole, they’d be able to stop themselves and watch the dark planet break apart into a cluster of fragments, some large and some small, raining down toward Earth for the next 2 and a half minutes.

It’s then that they would notice off in the distance a wall of water headed their way. It might look like a dust storm way off in the distance but a distant roar sound getting louder and louder would give it away.

Right about the time that they’re able to rationalize that threat, they’re distracted by the sound of distant cannon fire. And they look around to figure out where it’s coming from, maybe someone’s shooting at it for some reason?

What they’re actually hearing is sonic booms as fragments of the planet enter the atmosphere at supersonic speed. And it’s only now that they can see individual fragments getting closer and closer and closer. And then… Well exactly how bad would these impacts be?

Well if we look at the Chicxulub impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, that impactor was thought to be 80 kilometers in diameter. Mr. Shadow is 23 times larger than that. As it broke apart, it would be like dozens of Chicxulub asteroids raining down.

Granted, the Chicxulub asteroid was traveling at 20,000 meters per second, that releases a lot of kinetic energy. The Mr. Shadow remnants would only reach 1400 meters per second tops. But still, the sheer amount of mass falling to the ground would release two orders of magnitude more energy than the impact that, you know, wiped out almost all life on the planet.
Yeah… Leeloo and Dallas ain’t gonna make it y’all.

Literally everything in a 2 kilometer radius would be buried under the debris, and the impact would kick up enough dust and debris to cover the planet for hundreds of years.
This dust and debris along with the clouds of ash from the dozens of volcano eruptions would trigger powerful lightning storms all over the planet. It would look like the planet was shorting out or something.

The energy released from the impact would encircle the entire globe, basically vaporizing everything within thousands of miles from the impact, and setting fire to that entire hemisphere.

A hemisphere that contains about 75% of the Earth’s population so that’s pretty much gone in the first day.
By the way, in the movie, the president says the population of the planet in a line to the priest…

So that’s 150 billion people dead. (think) That is a LOT of people, 200 billion people, is that even possible? That sounds like more people than have ever lived. It’s like 8 billion now. Hold on a second…

Huh… That’s pretty close. I think population will taper off over time though.

But not nearly as fast as it would taper off if the end of the Fifth Element happened, I think it’s safe to say it would be an extinction level event. On Earth, thankfully there are places like Flotsam Paradise where people can survive off Earth.

Scenario Two

But yeah… Bye Bye Earth. But there is that second scenario. If Mr. Shadow goes into orbit. Which obviously would be safer because it would stay in space and not fall to the ground… right?

Remember when I talked about how the gravity of this object would affect the tides and pull on the tectonic plates and set off earthquakes and volcanoes and all that? Yeah, imagine that going all the way around the planet every 90 minutes.

Not only would it create biblical tidal waves and set off volcanoes all around the world, it would eventually cause so much heat from friction it would literally evaporate the oceans and melt the Earth’s surface.

Of course the Roche limit rules still apply so the dark planet would do the teardrop thing and break apart, and since there is still SOME atmosphere at 100 kilometers, it will slow these pieces down, causing them to rain down on the planet, burning up through the atmosphere and possibly creating enough heat to set the atmosphere on fire.

There would be multiple, maybe dozens of Chicxulub-size pieces crashing down all over the world, at almost Chicxulub velocity. Just one Chicxulub after another after another as these things enter the atmosphere.

Eventually the pieces of debris and dust that are high enough to not be pulled in by the atmosphere would form a nice little ring, which I’m sure would be nice to look at.

Except the planet below the rings is a scorched husk covered with thick clouds of smoke, ash and water vapor. Earth would probably look a lot more like Venus, but with rings.
Even the roaches and tardigrades would check out.

Unfortunately, pretty much any way you slice it, the end of the Fifth Element is a massive disaster.

Everything’s over on Earth, even love.

Mr. Shadow won. Zorg won. But he’s dead, but… he still won.

I guess if there’s a moral to this story, it’s that I overthink things. Kind of a lot.
That, and if the world is threatened by a planet-sized evil entity, maybe don’t put all your hopes on some washed-up cab driver who barely has a license, instead, you should heat up a delicious meal in 2 minutes with today’s sponsor, Factor.

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