Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Superman Returns: The Gospel Story?

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains info about the plot and/or ending of the movie. If you haven't seen the movie yet, reading this post may "spoil" your movie-going experience.

Originally, I was not at all interested in seeing Superman Returns. I think I misunderstood the commercials as portraying the new movie as a remake of the 1978 Superman: The Movie with Christopher Reeves. Although I figured the plot line might be a little different and the CGI would be much better, most everything else would be similar (even the music).

While browsing Google reviews, I read that the movie was actually a sequel to the original Superman movies - a Superman 4 if you will. At that point, I was much more eager to see the movie.

First of all, I guess with this Superman movie I was hoping for something a little more realistic and less "fairy tale" than the earlier movies. For instance, I really hated the original Batman movies, but loved Batman Begins. I wasn't looking for a gritty Superman at odds with "truth, justice, and the American way," just something real and authentic. Here are my thoughts...
  • Overall, I liked the Superman Returns. I thought it was a little slow in the beginning (and a little long overall), but the end really worked for me - I'll explain later.
  • I know that John Williams' original theme score to the first Superman movies is great. But I was ready for a new, yet worthy theme score. Superman Returns comes back with a music score very similar rendition of John Williams' original score.
  • Through much of the long beginning of the movie, I kept noticing how much I was reminded of the original Superman movie. Even Brandon Routh reminds me of Christopher Reeve.
  • At the same time, I really felt the film had an unbelievable feeling to it. How come Superman looks so young now? How come no one has noticed Clark Kent has been gone at the same time as Superman? How come Lois Lane looks younger now that she has a kid (I swear she looks about 19)? How come Superman can fly and hover? Not in the films, of course, but originally Superman didn't actually fly. He made very big leaps. You know, "Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
  • So midway through the movie as I was watching, I was becoming disappointed in the movie. Somewhere however, things started to change - I think it was about the time Lois decided to track down the source of the EMP pulse (leading her to Lex Luthor).
  • First, Kevin Spacy played a great Lex Luthor. A little crazy, a little sane. Very believable and not as comic a Gene Hackman's.
  • We get to see the "seeds" of another Superman sequel. That could be really great depending on how they deal with it.
  • We also get to see Superman suffer and actually need help from someone else. He gives all he has and almost dies. He's in coma. He needs to be hospitalized. And then he comes back.
As we got to this point in the movie, my old understanding of successful film formula kicked in. You see in every successful, popular film we see the vague rendition of the Christ story...
  • The Good guy starts in normal life (Jesus is born, grows up)
  • Something changes and that life is disrupted (Jesus' ministry)
  • skinflint comes (Jesus' conflicts with religious leaders)
  • A final struggle ensues with a climax (Jesus' struggle on the cross)
  • The bad guys seem to have won (Jesus dies and is buried)
  • The good guy comes back and gains the strength for a final victory (Jesus' resurrection)
  • Things have changed forever; a new world begins (Jesus appears to many)
  • Normal life returns, but character is different (Jesus ascends)
So then it hits me hard , I'm watching the Christ Story. Yeah, I know it's different and all the points don't line up - but it's a lot like the Gospel. (Another warning: This is a major spoiler)
  • God dwelt with Adam until the Fall separated them; Superman had to go away
  • People got used to not having God's presence around. They didn't need God; Lois wrote an prize-winning article "Why the world doesn't need Superman."
  • Jesus came and was God made flesh. He ministered performing miracles; Superman returned and began catching bad guys and saving people again
  • Jesus was betrayed by a man and died on the cross saving humanity; Superman is betrayed by Lex Luthor, but battles to near death saving humanity.
  • Jesus lies dead in a tomb for three days; Superman lies in a coma - no one knows if he will return to life
  • Jesus raises from the dead, and gives the great commission to the disciples telling them to be His hand and feet - His body; Superman recovers and visits Lois' little boy. He passes on the Superman legacy, "The father shall become the son, and the son shall become the father"
There is some dialog between Superman and Lois Lane that goes something like this. Upset that Superman went away for some years, Lois came to the conclusion that "The world doesn't need a savior?" Hmmm... Then Superman takes her up in the sky (yes, kinda like the first one), and responds. He says, "What do you hear?" She says, "Nothing." He replies, "You hear nothing, but I hear a million voices crying out for a savior." (He has "super" hearing.) Wow! That is a definite parallel with the world and the true Savior!

THE POINTI'm hoping you're getting my point here. My point is not whether I liked the movie or not. We can and should use popular culture as a common ground to share our faith. With the story in Superman, you could talk to a child about what Jesus has done!

There are many Christians that shelter themselves from the world and it's culture. It is one thing to not be conformed to the culture, it is another to not even be aware of or understand the culture. Jesus didn't hide in the synagogue during his ministry years. He walked among the people, even quoting lines from common plays of the day. We can do the same.

So get out there. See a few movies. Take a friend, share a lunch, and talk about Jesus. Don't forget to visit to help you scope out this spiritual themes to discuss. The world does need a Savior!