Finding Christ in... Man of Steel!
Over the past 77 years that Superman has been around, he has been constantly been compared to that of the only real live superhero Himself, Jesus Christ. As many know, Superman was created by Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, both Jews themselves, and was based largely off of the story of Moses told in Exodus. In later years, throughout comic books, films, television, and more, Superman not only became the king of superheroes, but he also became the one superhero to use Christ-like symbolism in various forms of media. Smallville, the ten season TV series which chronicled the life of Clark Kent from when he was in high school until becoming Superman, did this numerous times through either Clark being in cross-like poses (one of those episodes even being called "Salvation") or offering himself up as a sacrifice for those around him. The show even went so far as to hint that the show's final villain, Darkseid, was actually Lucifer himself, and later calling Clark "The Light".
Now, I want to give up a DISCLAIMER here before you all decide to stone me as a heretic. I am not saying Superman and Jesus are one-in-the-same!!! On that note, I am also not saying that you can receive ANY form of salvation from or through Superman. The point of this article is to not only look at the biblical illusions within the film Man of Steel (remember the title of this blog...), but also to (hopefully) get Christians to critically think about what they're watching, listening to, and experience and try to see Christ through them in order to meditate on Him at all times. At the end of the day, we receive salvation through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ by believing that He has conquered death and saved us from our sin, that is the good news of the Gospel and there is NOTHING and NO ONE on Earth that can replace Him or that, not Superman, not anybody. All I hope and pray to accomplish here today is to share what I have seen through watching Man of Steel and hopefully point someone to the Word or at the very least get someone to critically analyze what is going on around them through a biblical lens.
If you jump back with me to 2013, there was a lot of hype for Man of Steel for various reasons. One of the ways people got excited was by creating a sermon outline based around Man of Steel that shared the Gospel of Christ. Now, I don't really want to sound like I support that, because honestly I think it's absolutely wrong to build a sermon around anything BUT Scripture. So when I heard that news, it kind of creeped me out and put me on edge for when I saw the film myself. I mean, I suppose it doesn't matter how you come to Christ or what draws you to Him, but I'm still not sure I'd base a sermon around a movie, period. I only mention this because it was something I remembered that put me slightly on edge and it had to do with the film, so that being said, let's move onto the film... SPOILERS may lie ahead.
I want to start out by pointing out the obvious. The story of Superman, at least his origin, is heavily inspired and influenced by not only the story of Moses, but of Jesus Himself. With Moses, people equate the destruction of Krypton to Egypt's killing of all the Jewish babies, thus making baby Kal-El's rocket his basket down the Nile. When comparing Superman's escape from Krypton to Jesus coming to Earth, it's often said that because he was Jor-El's one and only son, that he sent Kal-El to Earth to help change the world. This is further supported when Lara, Superman's birth mother, says, "Make a better world than our, Kal" seconds before Krypton's impending doom.
Side note, Superman's birth name, Kal-El, has Hebrew roots. El is translated to "of God" or simply "God" (my name, Michael, means "Who is like God?". I'm sure Samuel, Daniel, and Gabriel, all biblical names, means something like that as well). Kal has been loosely translated, or compared to, as the Hebrew word for "voice" or "vessel", thus making Superman's native name mean either "Voice of God" or "Vessel of God". Interesting, huh?
There's a flashback scene in the film to when Clark was a kid, and he saves a school bus from drowning in a river. Later, one of the boy's mother is seen talking to Jonathan and Martha Kent (Martha's original name in the comics was in fact Mary Kent) and tells them that her son saw what Clark did and that it was a miracle from God, "God's providence".
Continuing on with the flashbacks in this film, there's a scene where a tornado appears in Smallville, Kansas. Clark and his father, Jonathan, rush to get as many people to the underpass as possible to shelter from the tornado, when they realize that they left their dog in the car. Clark tries to go save the dog, knowing that he could use his abilities to get in and out safely, but rather than let his son get outed as a "freak", Jonathan insists on doing it himself. He does in fact free the dog from the car it was trapped in, but at the cost of bumming his leg. Once out of the car and free, he realizes he doesn't have enough time to get out of the tornadoes path, and Clark sees this too. As Clark is about to speed over to save his dad, Jonathan simply raises his hand in the air, signaling him not to. Jonathan sacrifices himself for his son's life so that Clark doesn't have to live under a microscope. Now, if that's not true and sacrificial love I don't know what is. Surely Clark could have saved his father and surely Jonathan didn't have to save the dog, but this scene is here to show how important and powerful a father's love can be (if you didn't already get that by Jor-El dying to save his son from General Zod in the first 20 minutes).
As the film continues, we see Lois Lane follow the story of the mysterious savior around the the ends of the Earth (like a disciple?), eventually leaving him to save her life not once, not twice, but three times throughout the film. She follows him without hesitation, keeping the secret of who he is when asked and backing his plan to defeat Zod and his army later in the film.
One of the biggest indicators of a Christ-like comparison to Superman in Man of Steel is his age. In the film, Kal-El has been on Earth for 33 years, and after 33 years he finally finds out who he is and where he came from. Not only that, but after this time, he also finally receives his mission in life when General Zod and his army arrive and demand for Kal-El or the planet will be destroyed. Superman gives himself over as a sacrifice, willingly turning himself into the authorities in order to save Earth. Obviously, this can be directly correlated with Jesus turning Himself over the Pilate to be tried for a crime in which He did not commit, thus resulting in His death, resurrection, and ascension.
Before turning himself in though, Clark goes to a catholic church and asks a father what he can do, telling him that he is the one that Zod is looking for. When the father asks what his gut tells him, Kal replies by saying that he doesn't think Zod can be trusted, but that neither can the people of Earth. The father responds by saying, "Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, the trust part comes later." For those of us who are born again Christians, I think we can often, on some level, relate to that statement. Through this scene, we see a stained glass window behind Superman, with Jesus carrying his cross clearly seen directly behind him. This is not only meant to add weight to the decision that Kal has to make to sacrifice himself for Earth, but it also adds to the idea that he is the Christ-like figure of the film, an idea that holds true for the most part until the very end...
Side note, the same composer who composed the score for the History Channel miniseries The Bible and it's spin-off film Son of God, Hans Zimmer, also composed the score to Man of Steel.
But before I get to that, let's talk about one of the most pivotal scenes in the film. Throughout the film, Superman is aided by the "ghost" of his biological father Jor-El through Kryptonian technology that kept his essence alive to guide his son when the time was right. The ghost of Jor-El could be considered a "Holy Spirit" type character as he guides his son towards the path of becoming a hero, battles against the enemy of the film (Zod), and aids Superman's disciple (Lois) in escaping her prison. Interesting, huh? But in this pivotal scene, this is the last interaction Jor-El's ghost has with his son. Jor-El shows Kal that Lois is in trouble and that he can save her, "you can save all of them." After this is said, Superman falls out of the side-wall of the spaceship and makes the Christ-like pose seen above before dashing to save his one true love (Jor-El's ghost can even be seen disappearing in the background as he flies towards her). This is the moment in the film where the Christ-like comparison hit me straight in the face, though sadly, we still have to get to the final scene.
Now, Superman doesn't die in the film, or resurrect as he does in the Bryan Singer interpretation of the character in Superman Returns, in fact, he does the exact opposite and this is where we need to remember that although there are Christ-like qualities to Superman, for all intents and purposes (because yes, he's technically Kryptonian) he is still human and not God Himself. At the end of the film, Superman banishes the Kryptonians to the Phantom Zone in an explosion, a Hell of sorts if we're going to compare them to fallen angels (Revelation speaks of them all being thrown into the Lake of Fire), but General Zod survives. Superman faces Zod in mortal combat as parts of Metropolis are blown to bits by the fight. At the end of the fight, Zod uses his heat vision to attempt to kill a family in Metropolis' Union Station. With seemingly no way out, the first-day hero snaps Zod's neck and kills him. He wasn't happy about doing it, in fact he was extremely sorry that he did, but nevertheless it shows us that Superman is NOT the perfect savior that we all desire and crave for because even Superman breaks the 10 Commandments, even he is not above the Law! That's exactly why we have and need Jesus!
You see, we are all fallen beings, that's a result of our own pride. However, God saw us and loved us, He continued to love His creation even though they/we rejected Him (Genesis 3). So He sent His one and ONLY Son to Earth to save us from totally annihilation (John 3:16). Jesus lived among us for about 33 years, until He was crucified. Though after three days, He rose from the dead, He conquered death through His resurrection, and He said that all we have to do to be saved is repent of our sin, turn away from our natural, evil ways, and believe that He is the Messiah, that He is the Christ, and that ONLY by His grace and mercy can we be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the good news of the Gospel. So many films, television, music, etc. point towards Christ, most of the time without them or the audience realizing it. I hope you can watch Man of Steel differently now, through a more biblical lens, and see why mankind needs a Savior, why we need Jesus Christ, our real and true Superman.