Sunday, June 23, 2013

Man of Steel


I have always loved the Superman myth. When I was six, my mother used to have to beg me to take off the Superman suit she got me for my birthday. I think she was scared I would jump off a roof and try to fly. Yep, I've always loved Superman.

And so I was excited to see that another Superman movie was coming out. The connection to the Dark Knight series through Christopher Nolan was encouraging. I liked the idea.

And I was not disappointed. I found it to be a movie that was exciting, fast-paced, and full of themes that made me think. Much like the Dark Knight series.

What themes? Purpose. Destiny. Power. Love. Sacrifice. Heroism. And many more.

There has been talk that Superman was a representation of Jesus and his mission, a representation of the gospel. In fact, this idea was unashamedly put forth by Warner Brothers, presumably to sell more tickets to Christians. For the record, I found this oversimplification to be a distortion, as explained very well by my friend Patrick in this blog post. (Click it. Read it.) Jesus indeed did not come to exercise power, be a hero, or to promote "truth, justice, and the American way." In fact, he turned down every opportunity to assume that role. He conquered evil by becoming a suffering servant. Patrick is exactly right.

But there are themes in the movie that serve as awesome springboards to think about why we're here, what we're facing, how to live, and yes, victory over evil. Here are some things that jumped out at me, in no particular order:

  • The people of Krypton had for centuries been born only for one purpose, each baby artificially engineered to have a single life purpose. Clark, on the other hand, struggles to find his identity and purpose, and ultimately has to make a choice about his destiny. Regardless of superhero status, this is a struggle I can identify with.
  • To me, this was the best part of the movie. Unlike earlier Superman stories, it was not really about a self-assured hero with no doubts. It was about a young man trying to find his way, having to make complicated choices about what's right and wrong.
  • He did not always make the best choices in my opinion. This is very human. It is also yet another reason that trying to make him a picture of Christ is off base.
  • I did not see the battle with evil as a representation that violence and force is the way to win. Instead, I saw the story as an allegory for the battle that is taking place in the spiritual realms, behind the scenes. Let me explain:
The Bible does teach that Jesus came to conquer evil through servanthood, humility, love, death, and his resurrection. And that we are to follow his example, giving up our rights for the sake of others. This is how God wins.
But it also teaches that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  And all through Revelation there is imagery that the Messiah has conquered through his blood. So to me, the Superman fight against the evil General Zod is a picture not of beating bad people with violence, but symbolism of the fact that fighting with love and suffering in the physical world represents real, but unseen, battles in the spiritual. In other words, to me it is "literature" of the same form as Revelation: a visual representation of things so far above us that we can't possibly understand the real thing.
Regardless, I love the fact that we are talking about these things. And whatever Warner Brothers' motivation, the discussion is being brought out into the open by a movie; and to me that's a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. If I may be so bold as to comment on my own post, there is something I forgot. I absolutely loved the choice of title. Of course, Man of Steel has been a nickname for Superman since the early days of the character. But putting that moniker on this particular movie was the right choice, because it's a play on words that drips with irony. This movie portrayed better than any previous versions that Clark - the person inside - was anything but a man of steel. On the outside, sure...indestructible. Steel. But inside as vulnerable as any of us. And that's cool.