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Monday, March 10, 2014

Man of Steel

I’ve always known Superman was an allegorical story of Jesus but never expected Hollywood to emphasize the Christ-like components of plot and theme in such a clear and distinct way as portrayed in Zack Snyder’s version, Man of Steel. What an exciting surprise for a Christian movie-goer in this day and age! My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment when Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill) wrestles over his calling and the timing in which to reveal himself to the world, ultimately prophesizing his rejection as savior of mankind. And then when he is revealed as this amazing “super man,” he announces that he has been on earth for 33 years. 

There are many other such Jesus analogies, but the most obvious is a scene in a church where Clark professes his doubts to his pastor while a stained glass image of Jesus kneeling before the Father is prominently displayed in the background – a Garden of Gethsemane moment! The pastor tells him that sometimes one must have faith before there is trust. Amazing to see this Gospel message in a major Hollywood tent pole film—and written by a Jewish man, David S. Goyer. Just these few scenes and lines of dialogue make this movie a rarity in today’s box office.

Even though the plot meanders a bit and is somewhat confusing, I highly recommend this movie. I loved how the story is flipped on its head, starting with Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) finding Superman’s wintery lair where the hologram/soul of his dead father, Jor-el (played by my favorite, Russell Crowe), instructs him on the ways of Krypton. There, Clark saves her life from a lethal injury, thus revealing his true identity to her at the beginning of the film, which makes much more sense to the viewer. This Lois is less quirky than the other Lois Lanes we have seen, and smarter as well, playing an important hand in the salvation of Earth. The ending of the film is where most Superman stories start—with Clark donning a pair of hipster black frames and working for The Daily Planet alongside Lois. A nice variation in story structure.

For those who are fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman flicks, you will find the same dark tone and Gotham-type atmosphere in this film. Nolan shares credit as scriptwriter and his influence is certainly felt. I wasn’t sure if I would like the darkness in this version, but it worked. Some of the campy elements from the older movies (like the prominent S on the front of the suit) are explained as a natural part of the plot instead of being contrived—although there is still no explanation for the blue suit and red cape. In addition, there is quite a bit of backstory to the demise of Krypton which allows for greater development of the motivation behind the antagonist, General Zod (a scary-looking Michael Shannon), and his evil cohorts. I won’t bother going into the plot detail in this review, because it is somewhat complex, but fortunately the labyrinth of twists and turns does not detract from being entertained.

At every turn, there are Christ references, such as the taking on of sins, dying for mankind, going down into the pit of Hell to vanquish the enemy, all of which are played out very nicely. I think a second viewing would reveal even more Jesus references which could make for a nice Bible discussion. There are at least two encounters between Clark (suited up as Superman) and Lois where he rescues her as she is hurtling to earth, sweeping her up into his arms before she crashes to her death. She clings to him and then he gently and lovingly sets her on safe ground. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of Jesus? And then the look of affection in his expression as she gazes at him with gratitude brought tears to my eyes, and my husband’s. The world needs to see the loving, caring Jesus and not the harsh, mean and judgmental savior that religion portrays. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 2:4, it is the goodness of God that brings man to repentance.

I also liked the relationship Clark has with his earthly parents in Smallville, Kansas, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. Costner espouses great wisdom when needed, coaching Clark to delay revealing himself to the world until the right time. Lane is sweet and loving as the mother who knows her son doesn’t really belong to her and, therefore, harbors fear that one day the world will take him away. It is a nice picture of Mary and Joseph caring for the Son of God who had a calling greater than anything they could explain or understand.

As I watched this movie in a very packed theater, I noticed that people seemed to be restless and uncomfortable during the spiritual scenes. My husband didn’t notice this, but I sensed the Holy Spirit stirring in the air, convicting some to take a deeper look at the parabolic truths being presented, even if in a Hollywood movie. Our Lord can use any thing and any person to send the message of salvation to His yet unborn children who are still trapped in the world, living out their days wondering why they walk around with a giant hole in their heart. It is because it is waiting to be filled by Him. I pray there were many in that theater who will seek out the Truth and find their Savior before the dooms-day scenarios portrayed in so many summer blockbusters become a reality. 

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