Christian Metaphors in 'Man of Steel'

Monday, 17 Jun 2013 09:44 AM

By James Hirsen

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“Man of Steel,” the first blockbuster of the summer movie season, is based on the origin of the DC Comics character, Superman. Interestingly, the film also features imagery and metaphors that evoke the earthly life of Christianity’s most central and revered figure.
 
The superhero movie is directed by Zack Snyder (“300” and “Watchmen”), produced by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight Trilogy”), and scripted by David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight Trilogy”).
 
The reboot of the Superman story boasts an all-star cast that includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe playing Superman’s birth father Jor-El, Kevin Costner in the role as Superman’s adoptive father Jonathan Kent, Diane Lane as adoptive mother Martha Kent, and Laurence Fishburne as Superman’s boss Perry White. The lead stars of the movie are Henry Cavill in the title role and Michael Shannon as Superman’s arch-nemesis General Zod.
 
The origin story is reimagined, Nolan-style, as was done with the Batman story. However, Superman aficionados will still recognize the general plot that has been spun so many times on the big and small screen over the last 75 years.
 
As residents of the planet Krypton face looming destruction, Jor-El and wife Lara place their newborn son, Kal-El [Superman’s Kryptonian name], into a minute spacecraft on a launch to Earth. The infant ultimately lands in Smallville, Kansas, where Jonathan and Martha Kent find, rescue, and raise him as their own son Clark.
 
In addition to the darker themes for which Nolan is famous, he and his creative collaborators have included in “Man of Steel” a significant degree of Christian symbolism.
 
The beginning scenes of the movie convey the miraculous birth of Kal-El on his home planet Krypton. Father Jor-El declares that his newly born son is the first natural birth in centuries, and as Superman’s dad sends his son to Earth to save humanity he proclaims that “he [Kal-El] will be like a god to them.”
 
Kal-El’s adoptive father Jonathan is a character that is reminiscent of the biblical figure Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Both individuals are the embodiment of the work ethic, Joseph employing wood and nails in his carpentry tasks, providing goods to the people of his land, and Jonathan skilled with the soil in crop production, supplying food to the tables of families.
 
The spacecraft in which newborn Kal-El had been placed is safeguarded in his adoptive parents’ stable, evoking the image of the humble manger in which the baby Jesus had been placed.
 
As the young Clark Kent transitions into boyhood, he is troubled with his apparent differences from other children. He asks his adoptive father, “Did God do this to me?”
 
“Somewhere out there you have another father and he sent you here for a reason,” Jonathan replies.
 
During the central storyline of the film, Kal-El faces his ultimate trial. He is 33 years old, the same age as Jesus Christ when he reached the summit of his earthly ministry and endured his crucifixion.
 
Kal-El is ready to give up his own life to save the world. At one point in the movie, he surrenders to the villainous Zod in order to save the population of Earth, after Zod threatens to obliterate humans from the face of the globe.
 
At a point of intense tribulation, Kal-El as Clark Kent turns to a priest for counsel. Above his head moviegoers see a stained-glass window, which depicts Jesus in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. 
 
Kal-El must also at a pivotal moment in the film withstand a place of torment, one that is located at the Earth's core.
 
In another scene, when Kal-El is in need of knowledge and guidance, he is visited on Earth by his father’s spirit.
 
Throughout the movie, Kal-El bears taunts and affronts. He responds peacefully, though, despite his extraordinary abilities that could be used to retaliate.
 
Still, with the sundry of examples, the most recognizable Christian symbolism of all is apparent during a battle scene in which Kal-El as Superman leaps from Zod’s spaceship. With arms outstretched he appears mid-air as a superhuman crucifix plunging toward the ground. It is not the end, for he later rises again.
 
Director Snyder admitted to CNN that the Christian material was no accident.
 
“The Christ-like parallels, I didn't make that stuff up. We weren't like, ‘Hey, let's add this!’ That stuff is there, in the mythology. That is the tried-and-true Superman metaphor. So rather than be snarky and say that doesn't exist, we thought it would be fun to allow that mythology to be woven through,” Snyder stated.
 
The executives at Warner Bros. were well aware of the Christian content and evidently strategized accordingly. The studio aggressively marketed “Man of Steel” to Christian clergy, even retaining a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors from which they could preach about the film.
 
The notes have a fitting designation: “Jesus: The Original Superhero.”
 
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
 
 
 
 
 

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