Is Superman still a Christian hero?
What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society intended?
What if a child aspired to something greater?
(Jor-El, Man of Steel)
In June 1938, Superman first appeared in comic books and since then has become a legend that needs no introduction. When I first heard that Zack Snyder was directing the newest Superman movie, I was apprehensive. Zack Snyder is the director of 300, Watchman, and Sucker Punch—I thought his Superman would be (to put it mildly) different from all the others. Little did I know just how wrong—and right—I would be.
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel begins with the famous tale of Krypton self-destructing. But Snyder expands the story and explains that Jor-El and his wife have the first natural birth that Krypton has seen in centuries. This is a surprisingly Christian idea, especially because it is that natural-born son who is destined for greatness. Superman (or Kal-El, as he is often referred to in the movie) is then sent to Earth where he is found by a couple in Kansas and grows up in hiding while learning how to use and control his powers.
Enter Zod, the banished Kryptonian general who has finally found Kal-El. Zod and his few followers decide to make Earth a new Krypton by changing the atmosphere. Reluctantly, Kal-El reveals himself to humanity and singly-handedly defeats the invaders—causing about eight zillion dollars in damage and killing about a million people.
In this struggle to reveal himself and accept his role as Superman—as a saviour—Kal-El is profoundly Christlike. He is thirty-three (like Jesus) when Zod attacks Earth, and beforehand (like Jesus) lives a hidden life, moving from one backwoods job to the next and leaving names such as “guardian angel” or “ghost” in his wake.
At one point, Kal-El seeks advice from a priest before he reveals himself to the world. A closeup of Kal during the interview shows us the famous image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to the Father for the strength he needs to take on the sins of man. The priest says to Kal-El, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and the trust will follow.” And at that moment, Kal-El chooses to sacrifice himself and save the world.
Other aspects of the movie hint at Christianity. Zod’s right hand woman, Faora-Ul, tells Superman that the Kryptonians are the stronger species because they have evolved “beyond morality”—yet they are the ones who ultimately fail. Jor-El talks about how the destruction of Krypton is directly related to their contraceptive mentality. In obedience Superman lets his dad die, which examples Christ and His foster father St. Joseph.
Aside from Christian themes, Man of Steel has original action sequences (you literally feel like you are flying), a superb cast, and depth of information. Have you ever wondered why Superman has special powers? How he can shoot lasers from his eyes and blow icy breath? How kryptonite could have fallen to Earth from Krypton if there is no gravity in space? Snyder gives the audience realistic answers for these unrealistic aspects, creating a believability that is truly refreshing.
At times, the lack of actual storyline and dialogue cuts into the quality of the story and the succession of fight scenes, while thrilling, leave less room for character and story development. (I have never seen a movie where the spark of romance has been kindled so quickly—I guess saving someone’s life more than once really gets those endorphins moving, even if you haven’t spoken to them for more than five minutes.) But despite these flaws, in Man of Steel Snyder has transcended the common idea of Superman. No longer is he the awkward cat-up-a-tree rescuer. He is, as Jor-El brilliantly puts it, “an ideal to strive towards,” a Christlike figure that stands for everything good and inspires us to fight against evil so that one day we will “join [him] in the sun.”