Superman Film has Echoes of Christ

In the upcoming launch of the film 'Superman Returns,' Superman comes back from a deathlike absence in order to save the world.
( [email protected] ) Jun 21, 2006 03:44 PM EDT

In the upcoming launch of the film "Superman Returns," Superman comes back from a deathlike absence in order to save the world.

Steve Skelton, author of a book drawing parallels between Superman and Jesus, said that: "It is so on the nose that anyone who has not caught on that Superman is a Christ figure, you think, Who else could it be referring to?"

Superman, a character first penned in the 1930’s, has over the past seven decades changed with the times. Tom de Haven, who has written a book on Superman as an American icon (as well as a novel about Superman’s high school days), spoke of how back in the 1930’s Superman was a hero fighting the Great Depression, cleaning up slums and aiding the destitute.

De Haven claimed that by the 1950’s Superman’s role changed. Instead of saving people from the Depression, Superman took to the task of solving the post-war urban lawlessness. Superman became a crime fighter and his earliest television incarnation was that of a perfect father figure.

In a more recent analysis of the Superhero, Quentin Tarantino in his recent hit "Kill Bill: Vol 2" had the final villain in his film contemplate Superman saying: "Clark Kent is how Superman views us... Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."

The comparisons between Jesus and Superman are not recent, beginning almost with the character’s creation in 1938 according to Skelton, author of the book "The Gospel According to the World’s Greatest Superhero."

Parallels have been drawn between the story of Superman being sent to Earth by his father to that of the New Testament. It has even been suggested that the "El" in Superman’s Kryptonian name Kal-El and that of his father Jor-El is similar to the Hebrew word for God. Other theological comparisons have also been made.

The upcoming film "Superman Returns", which premiers on the 28th June, also has a number of parallels to the Bible.

The preview trailer shows Superman, eyes closed, listening to the voice of his father (Marlon Brando from the 1978 film "Superman"), saying that he has been sent to Earth because humans "lack the light to show the way."

He continues saying, "For this reason, I have sent them you, my only son." The similarities to the Bible have quickly been picked up by online message boards and Web logs. Tom Gilson a Christian blogger said that: "The allusion to Jesus Christ could hardly be accidental."

One contributor to Urban Honking, a Portland based blog site asked: "Is this a new Superman for the new Evangelist red state America? Superman as Jesus?"

The story of the new film in which Superman returns to Earth after a long absence, is one which has been likened to the biblical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

News reports that the leading role of Superman could originally have gone to James Caviezel, star of “Passion of the Christ” (the role finally went to Brandon Routh) led to more speculation that the film makers were deliberate emphasising New Testament comparisons.

The new film will itself contain a number of scenes reminiscent of the suffering of Christ. Superman is stabbed at one point, as Jesus was with the Roman soldiers spear, Superman also stands in one scene with his arms stretched out in a similar way to Jesus at the crucifixion.

However not everyone is pleased with parallels being drawn between Superman and Jesus. Amy Pedersen, for example, who is writing her doctoral thesis in art history on superhero comic books at the University of California, described such comparisons as "a misrecognition."

Pedersen pointed out that the original creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jews, inspired by the story of Moses and the supernatural golem character from Jewish folklore.

She continued saying that any Christian allusions to Superman were recent innovations that compromised the Superman myth.

Pederson said: "This does not need to be a consistent cultural form from its beginning to its present, but something has to be maintained."

The director of "Superman Returns", Bryan Singer claimed that the idea of the Superman as a messiah figure was simply another case of modern storytelling borrowing from ancient motifs.

Singer, himself a Jew, spoke of how his Christian neighbours played a powerful role in his local community. He said: "These allegories are part of how you're raised. They find their way into your work."

Singer continued: "They become ingrained in your storytelling, in the same way that the origin story of Superman is very much the story of Moses."

Studio executives are unlikely to discourage any religious association with the new film, having witnessed the effect of the Christian market in the cinema in such recent films as "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

Steve Skelton commented that: "The way in which the Christian population can get behind a movie that they can agree with is a huge push financially." He continued saying: "It's a smart move in terms of attracting an audience." Skelton also gives out Bible-study kits which take biblical lessons from classic TV episodes.

Craig Detweiler, the director of the film-studies programme at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena said that the religious aspects of the new film were unlikely to alienate mainstream audiences because Superman is firmly rooted into secular culture.

Detweiler claimed: "Just like Jesus, in some ways (Superman) transcends parities and politics and can not be co-opted to serve the narrow interests of others. That could be one reason why studios aren't afraid to let Superman go that way, toward the religious.""