Man of Steel: Superman as the Messiah

When I attended a pre-release 3D screening of the latest superhero film, I did not expect the clever interplay of Jesus Christ’s life story. As each parallel was revealed, my assessment went from mere coincidence to overt recognition of the filmmaker’s intent.

The new film is crafted as an origin story, which is a recurrent theme for most of the recent reboots of franchise tent pole movies. By revisiting the hero’s origins, the filmmakers can better explain motivations and influences. Superman was written by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, two Jewish writers. Superman was introduced as Hitler’s rise to power was underway across the Atlantic, so it is no surprise the two nebbish writers dreamt up a hero to vanquish evil. Intriguingly, the Superman motif draws on Nietzsche’s vision which in turn is reminiscent of Hitler’s rantings. On Krypton, all the residents have Hebrew-sounding names. In the Old Testament, Moses is saved when his parents send him off in a strange vessel. Kal-El is launched toward earth when his parents correctly foresee the end of their world.

Like Moses, Kal-El is found by ordinary folk who raise him. In Man of Steel, the Kanas upbringing of Clark Kent is maintained. His noble parents have a sense that their son is destined for great things, and urge him not to use his powers for revenge. Clark wanders anonymously for 33 years until he is called to save his people. Sound familiar?

If so, watch for the way Superman falls back to earth after three days away. His outstretched arms and longing eyes are reminiscent of countless images over the last many centuries.

But enough about what might be my overthinking on the religious allegories.

 

No 30 pieces of silver in this sequence, but his own people do not believe in him

No 30 pieces of silver in this sequence, but his own people do not believe in him

 

Facing not the Roman Army but the invaders from Krypton

Facing not the Roman Army but the invaders from Krypton

Man of Steel is a solid rebooting of the Superman story. Long gone are the kitschy elements that also plagued Batman; note that Christopher Nolan was involved in both superhero reboots. Screenwriter David S. DeGoyer is proving he is adept at adding depth to famous characters, while still respecting the mythos surrounding the figures. He has done so for DaVinci (on Showtime), Batman and now with Superman.  Who knew that the comic book heroes from Marvel and DC Comics, whose stories once sold for a dime or a quarter, would now undergird the entire movie studio business?

Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill plays Superman with an appealing mix of confusion and determination. Cavill is in that small Venn diagram intersection of buff British actors playing American icons.

The Superman / Lois Lane interplay is well-structured. Amy Adams plays the female reporter as a strong-willed and inquisitive character. Future film installments will no doubt explore the ménage a trois among Superman, Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Lane’s boss at the Daily Planet, Perry White, is played by the increasingly corpulent Lawrence Fishburne. He is far more savvy than previous cigar chomping Perry Whites.

Lots of storyline still to play out

Lots of storyline still to play out

Some down home advice for the youthful Clark Kent

Some down home advice for the youthful Clark Kent

The 3D production was effective and not as literally in your face as with prior iterations of the technology. Hans Zimmer’s score is full and grandiose. The CG effects are blended well, whether on earth, on Krypton or in space. In fine supporting roles are the two fathers, Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner in his usual role as a pick up driving country guy. The final 12 minute showdown seems interminable, how do seemingly indestructible foes finish fighting?

Whether you see it via the Biblical references or with a full tub of popcorn, Man of Steel is an enjoyable and thoughtful summer film.

 

 

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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