The Messiah of Metropolis

The director of 'Superman Returns' confirms that the Christ story deeply influenced the film.

In one of his first interviews since the release of "Superman Returns," Bryan Singer reveals the biblical meaning behind the movie magic of "Superman Returns." Is that the Mary-and-Jesus pieta at the start of the film? Why is Lex Luthor's greatest crime in separating the "Father" from the "Son"? And just why are there two death-and-resurrection scenes in the movie? Singer discussed these and other questions with Steve Skelton, author of "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero."

About "Superman Returns," Time magazine wrote, "Earlier versions of Superman stressed the hero's humanity.... The Singer version emphasizes his divinity... He is Earth's savior: Jesus Christ Superman." However, certainly Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie" stressed the parallels to Christ. Do you see your version as different or similar in that regard?

It celebrates that notion. These stories are told in so many different ways. From Sunday School to pop culture. But if you're going to have lines like Marlon Brando saying, "I send them you--my only son," and they're being spoken with absolute seriousness, then when you carry it forward and you have him return after five years, face an immeasurable conflict and then... I mean, if you're going to tell that story, you've got to tell it all the way. You've got scourging at the pillar, the spear of destiny, death, resurrection--it's all there.

At the first of the movie, after Superman crashes back to Earth, he collapses into his mother's arms. The scene recalls the Renaissance images of the dead Jesus in Mary's arms.


Yes. The night of shooting that scene, Eva, Brandon and myself knew it was a mother cradling her son, but certainly an aspect [was of Mary and Jesus]. There were certain key frames that were very special, important to me artistically, and that was one that was very much inspired by that image.

Just as Superman is a Christ figure, do you see Lex Luthor as a Lucifer figure?

Yes. Because he doesn't care. He just cares about land. And he muses about billions of people being drowned. But he's very much the opposite of Superman.

There's another thing Marlon Brando says. It always felt very religiously allegorical to me. From the original film, the mother says, when they're putting the infant Kal-El in the space ship, she says, "He will be isolated. Alone." And Marlon Brando holds up this crystal and says, "He will not be alone. He will never be alone."

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