The Kryptonian Gospel
'Superman Returns' presents a gospel story as moving as 'The Passion of the Christ'--and possibly more affecting.
BY: Stephen Skelton
I Thought I Would Never See You Again
Where Did You Go?
"Miraculous." That's the one-word review of "Superman Returns" that I offered to the opinion-taker outside of the theater. The new movie takes most of what we loved about the 1978 "Superman: The Movie" and kicks it up a notch. Taking its cue from that earlier film, the gospel imagery on display in the new Superman movie is, in fact, awe inspiring.
But don't take the word of this Christian evangelical for it. I saw the movie with a friend who is not a Christian believer. Immediately afterward, as we said goodbye, we remarked casually about what a great movie it was—both of us having different reasons for thinking so, I was sure. Then the next night, we spoke by phone. Without my asking, he volunteered, "I can't stop thinking about 'Superman Returns.' I mean, the Gospel imagery was just so incredible."
And then he said it: "You know, 'Superman Returns' spoke more to me about Jesus than 'The Passion of the Christ.'"
I know my friend's reaction is one that will be replicated millions of times over in the coming weeks. "The Passion" was a literal presentation of Jesus Christ, which meant that nonbelievers could easily dismiss it. But "Superman Returns" speaks of Christ through symbolism, which often reaches the heart before the head.
Many people have already realized theparallels between Superman and Jesus Christ
. David Bruce, the founder ofHollywoodJesus.com
, tells me that the offline email correspondence he has received about "Superman Returns" almost rivals that of "The Passion of the Christ."
It is an apt comparison, in many ways. Certainly, the studio behind "Superman Returns" has hopes for a "Passion"-sized box office take. But there is also a spiritual kinship in the subject matter itself. Like "The Passion," at the center of "Superman Returns" is a figure based on the Savior.
As the movie opens, we hear Jor-El, Superman's Kryptonian father, once again establish this as the story of a heavenly father who sends his only son down to Earth. "You will travel far, my little Kal-El, but we will never leave you—even in the face of our deaths. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father. And the father, the son."
Moments later, we learn that Superman--our Christ figure--left Earth five years ago and ascended to the heavens, returning to his home planet Krypton to confirm that it was destroyed. The time he is away from Earth is reminiscent of the time between Christ's ascension and return. While gone, he finds that he is, in fact, the planet's only survivor--the Only Son.
When Superman comes back to Earth, he finds a world much worse off than when he left. Most upsetting to him personally, Lois Lane--our Mary figure, with resonances of both the Magdalene and Mary the mother--has moved on. She has a fiancé and a 5-year-old son named Jason (which is a derivation of the name Jesus).