Shelbyville Daily Union

June 14, 2013

Messianic Man of Steel

JOHN CURTIS - Daily Union Staff Writer
Shelbyville Daily Union


The latest film version of Superman isn't just sci-fi action movie about a super-human crime fighter. It's also a Greek tragedy, revealing Superman's inner turmoil and his eventual emergence as a messiah, the messianic "Man of Steel." 

The film opened around the country on Thursday with a special Wal-Mart premier in the evening, followed by the typical midnight showings. It employed a messianic theme that other films have used. A mysterious savior appears to right all wrongs, someone who seems to part of a bigger plan and purpose.

"Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero, who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response."

However, "Man of Steel" doesn't just employ a literary messianic theme, at times it's dialogue borders on blasphemy. Although it comes uncomfortably close, it never crosses that theological threshold and even has a scene where Superman seeks spiritual guidance in a church.

Superman's earthly father tells Clark, "You are the answer. Somewhere out there you have another father and I have to believe he sent you here for a reason."

As he prepares to send his infant son to earth, Jor-El, Superman's father on Krypton, tells Superman's mother, Lara. "He'll be a god to them."

Jor-El advises Superman later, "You will give the people of earth an ideal. They will race behind you. They will stumble and fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun and you will help them accomplish wonders."

Wow, these two dads sure had a lot bigger plans for Superman than just "fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way."

According to "Man of Steel," Superman was born in an unconventional way. He was sent by his "heavenly" father to planet earth. He was sent to give people hope and give people an ideal. He was raised by a working class family. He stepped on the public stage at the age of 33. He accomplished wonders. He willingly gave himself up to evil men to save the human race. Sound like anyone you know?

Parallel's between Jesus Christ and Superman may have always been part of the Superman mythology, but they have never been portrayed so unashamedly. 

True to his humble nature, Superman never claims to be a messiah. On the contrary, at one point he seeks spiritual counsel from a minister in a church. There is a stained-glass window behind him, lit by the sun. Over Superman's right shoulder is a stained-glass picture of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, seeking counsel from God, before his arrest.

Like Christ, Superman allows himself to then be arrested and turned over to evil men in order to save the people of earth.

After that, the parallels between Superman and Jesus fade and the action kicks up a notch.

The film was reminiscent of Christopher Reeves' portrayal as Superman, going off to a lonely place to receive knowledge of who he is and what his mission is from the recorded instructions of his dead father. At times, Henry Cavill bears a family-type resemblance of the late Reeves.

In this film, Superman doesn't save everyone. He is even faced with the moral dilemma of whether to take a life to save a life. And, though 9-11 was almost 12 years ago, the wanton destruction of Metropolis was still not easy to watch.   

This version of Superman is different. It is not just an super-human action movie, although it is that. It is the psychological saga of the one who became the "Man of Steel," a messianic "Man of Steel".