The Messiah of Metropolis
The director of 'Superman Returns' confirms that the Christ story deeply influenced the film.
BY: Interview by Stephen Skelton
The blade in the back, the Kryptonite. And Lex--who was bald [like traditional depictions of the demonic Lucifer]. I wanted him [Superman] to be beaten and beaten and beaten and beaten and beaten and stabbed and still have some life in him. And then instead of ascend, he falls.
And he falls into the water. And when he falls into the water, we hear the voices. He's with his father, in the water. His father is explaining to him things that are much larger than this miniscule moment.
That there are forces out there greater than even himself. And huge things about human beings, problems that human beings cannot solve for themselves. And then we cut to, what do we see--a seaplane. And this unusual, strange modern family flying around trying to find him.
I remember sitting with one of my writers and we were watching the visual effects of him [Superman] falling to Earth [after pushing the kryptonite-laced landmass into space]. And his hands are extended and he falls to Earth in that very...
It's the crucifixion pose.
Yes. And he [the writer] looked at me--and he went to Catholic school, it's very interesting--and he said, "Are we? Are we? Shouldn't he open his legs a little bit more? Are we? Is this too on the nose?" And I said, "If we're telling this story, we're going to tell this story. Some parts are going to be subtle. But this one is not."
"Either we're going to have him float down kind of in the position [of the crucifixion] or not But if there was ever a time to hammer it home, this is it."
When they're wheeling him through the hospital, and they see him splayed out on that gurney, and you see the look on all those faces. I thought to myself what was it like for people who put that kind of faith into this being [Christ], who far exceeds their own lives, and yet in some way represents them, and then by his example in some way they feel a kinship to.
And suddenly he's [Superman is] splayed out on a hospital bed, and his life is now in the hands of mortals. And on the musical score actually, the title of that piece of music on our score is "In the hands of mortals." Suddenly, there's a doctor, there's a guy there with the paddles. I didn't necessarily imagine that whole [biblical] event. But the moment they took him [Christ] down… and when they strip the [Superman] suit off, there's the body. And there's the wound. There's the penetrating stab wound! And it's the unthinkable. And so I just sort of imagined the intimate story [of Christ's death].
And I dare not draw comparisons to things like... I don't even want to give a quote. I would rather the audience discover these moments. But you know, even when they try to use the paddles, they say, "Shock at 250." "Well he's not human." It all echoed in some ethereal place--like maybe he's listening.
There's a moment when Lois and Richard [her fiance] and the child save him. And then there's the other moment when nothing can save him. The needle doesn't penetrate. The defibrillator, they raise it to 300 because he's an alien and it explodes. And now, he's just, he's just left for fate to occur. Which does occur.
In Entertainment Weekly recently, when asked if Superman was relevant, you said, "Look around. Aren't we crying out for him?" How are we crying out for this kind of a savior figure?
I think people right now, more than ever, have become--we've become an individual, selfish culture, at times. I think he represents that kind of character that can walk among us, but has a selfless side. And when there is so much bad happening, it's very, very important to be able to look at a character, even if he is in tights [laughs] and say, "Hey maybe I can be a good guy like that."
He's the light in the darkness. He's the light to show the way.
"They can be a great people, Kal-El. They only lack the light to show the way." He is that light. And that's something he's maintained for 70 years. He's always been the good guy.