Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Superman Returns Review

Finally Big Blue returns to the silver screen. Superman Returns is a wonderful delight to watch. Producers, actors, and directors finally have discovered how to make superhero movies. Superman Returns captures the essence of the first two Superman movies (Superman I and Superman II with Christopher Reeve as Superman). Superman has been the most iconic and long lasting superhero. As such there is a certain type of mythos attached to the Superman. Superman is a larger than life character, god-like if you wish. Superman Returns captures the Superman mythos. With in this film, there is no better Christ-like figure than Superman.
The Superman Christ-like figure is proliferated throughout the film. Even Singer resigns in claiming that there is a spiritual sense to the movie. First, Superman is an Alien who lives in the world but is not of the world. Superman is also sent to earth by his father, Jor-El. As is explained by Jor-El, played by Marlon Brando, Kal-El aka Superman is sent to earth to bring them to the 'light'. He even states "I send them, you my only son...". Those references bring to mind quite clearly Jesus Christ. John 1:4-5 "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." And John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son in to the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Superman is raised by simple farmers similar to Jesus being raised by a carpenter.
Superman is also referred to as a savior by Lois ("The world doesn't need a Savior"). And yet Superman points out to her that he hears all of the 'worlds' cries for a Savior. Almost as if the prayers of the people reach Superman when he is floating above the earth. Probably the most clear picture of Superman as a Christ-like figure is the last quarter of the film. Upon realizing what Lex Luthor was doing, creating a perverted version of Krypton-like land in the ocean, Superman sweeps to action. But Lex had the land interlaced with Krptonite. Weak, Superman is beaten and stabbed with a Krptonite 'knife'. The whole scene is quite similar to Christ's Passion...being beaten and pierced. To stop the Land growth Superman lifts the perverted land and casts it out into space. As on the cross Jesus Christ takes the whole worlds sin, so does Superman in throwing the land away. Especially when he 'dies' and is floating in a cruciform shape before descending to earth.
The whole movie plays upon the Christ-like figure of saviors. Superman is most certainly a Savior. The movie is well done, even though it is long. I highly recommend it.


James said...

I agree with the Christ-figure theme of Pastor Ryan's review. I can add a couple of things.

A couple of times in the movie, Lois asks Superman if he will be around, and he responds with something like "Yes, I am always around". To me this is symbolic of Christ's promise to all believers. "I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).

It always interests me when I see Christian symbolism in a movie, and makes me want to know more about the director and writers a to what find of faith they may have. Is Bryan Singer a Christian?

As the great Danish film director Carl Th. Dreyer once said, "If you want to know me, then get to know my pictures".

I am looking forward to seeing more movies by Mr. Singer. I must say, This is the best I've seen of the superhero movies, especially the Superman series. But Spiferman I and II are still among my favorites.

Travis M. said...

I pretty much agree with everything Ryan and James have said about the film.

This film is basically symbolism galor throughout the entire thing. It is good in some ways, but then again it is plague by it.

As soon as I saw the first Trailer of the film, Christ came into mind. The way he parishes for all mans's sins. Superman is basically doing the same thing the moment he becomes Superman himself. Right then he gives himself to these humans that he does not know, but wants to know in truth. He does this because in some instances he wants to change lives by saving them. But in Superman's case his alive and he is seen through lives that look upon his.

It is almost like Jesus' life, but Jesus lives within us and Superman lives for us.

Singer could be a different issue. Great director considering he probably the biggest Superman Fan around, publically. He also made the first two X-MEN films. He is great drawing the human weakness into plain view, especially with all of his hero characters. In Bryan Singer a Christian, who knows, but I think if he portrays Superman as such a Christ like figure, deep down he is.

Ryan Oakes said...

Jim, I'm glad you picked up on the comment of Superman "I am always around." There is just so much symbolism within this movie, as Travis also mentions. Travis has picked up on an interesting perspective. Superman does help all these people that do not know him, and his motivation is to help them and also get to know humanity better. But as Jor-El states that Superman is to be an example to inspire others do we really see others being 'inspired' by Superman? Just a question to discuss.

Also concerning Bryan Singer. I don't know if he is a Christian. He does relate much to Superman in that Bryan is adopted and that he is Jewish. Now whether he is racially a Jew, I don't know but his adoptive parents are Jewish. So he probably grew up on the same stuff the Siegel and Shuster (creators of Superman) grew up with such as Moses, Sampson, and the like. Also Singer is openly homosexual. So here we begin to see that the gospel, ie. christ-like figures, can be expressed by non-Christians, if Singer is not a Christian. But Singer is a fantastic director, he is able to capture the essence of the characters and story and that is what he does with Superman Returns.

Colleen said...

I was struck by how much MORE I saw in this viewing of the movie when I was looking for it. I had noticed the obvious stuff before, but when Superman is lifting up the crystal "rock" it made my hair stand on end when I viewed it as sin. Our sin is just like that. It's huge, so huge that we can't even picture it. It encompasses everything, everyone. It can ruin lives and it will just keep growing if not kept in check.What a huge burden, and what a God who loves us enough to take it on...his only son. It reminds me of how much sacrifice Christ physically and mentally endured...for me.

Evan said...

Colleen, what a wonderful point you brought out regarding our sin in comparison to superman casting away the destructive crystal. I had never put the two together before, but it does indeed create a wonderful picture concerning the massive destructive sin "mountain" that Jesus took on for us! I will certainly have to watch the film again to see what other "Christ-like" themes are present.

James said...

The master German director, F. W. Murnau, was also openly homosexual. Yet, he directed "Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans" (Fox - 1927), which to me expresses the greatest statement for the Judeao-Christian institution of marriage that I have yet seen in the movies. And in the top 25 of most "Best" movie lists ( see

Pastor Ryan, if you run short on ideas of what to show, I recommend this film and Dreyer's "Passion of Joan of Arc", Both are great films and filled with Christian symbolism.

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superman is my most favourite comic hero and its movie features are also good