06 July 2006

The Superman Savior

Kudos to Brandon Routh for reincarnating Christopher Reeve’s All-American good-looks, his naiveté, and even his mannerisms. Congrats to both Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane for managing to appear five years younger after Superman returns from a five year hiatus. Apparently, space-travel and child-bearing are good for the skin. Kevin Spacey plays a suave and satanic Lex Luther, coolly ready to kill billions of people in the name of building his own empire from his own land.
The trumpets announced the John Williams’ fanfare theme, and we’re off to high adventure. This version of Superman was more global than past years. News reports note his escapades in India and Hong Kong and other international locations. Lex Luther is free in the world (due to Superman’s failure to show up at his court date) and on to his latest and greatest plan to take over the world. There is something familiar in his “noble” desire to give the power of Superman to all the people, something akin to the serpent’s promise to Eve that eating the apple would bring her the knowledge of God. Alas, his interview with Lois reveals his true desire of power. Kitty, Lex’s ditzy girlfriend, sings, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” and the battle for earth begins. The brilliant scientist from a distant planet invests his power in his only son to save the world. Later, a scene with Superman hoisting the Daily Planet globe on his shoulders in the vein of Atlas foretells the ultimate victory. The earth rumbles with the evading evil, and we are thrust into Independence Day but with a savior (also note the Titanic sinking ship but again, with a savior). To save earth from this vice, Superman takes this burden on his shoulders heaving the offending land into orbit. (Side note: it seems to me that kryptonite has an inconsistent influence. Earlier, just walking on its rock sapped him completely of power. Now, he seems to be able to cling to his power long enough to lug the whole island to outer space before succumbing to its fatal sway.) Of course, in doing so he gives his life, falling to the earth. Dead. The savior is dead. The world mourns. Until a woman passes the guarded entrance and steps into an empty tomb, er, hospital room.
Biblical images flood the screen. I wonder if I am seeing spirituality all around me because of my personal filters or if the writer and director have inserted these likenesses purposefully. The powerful Superman meekly takes a beating, reminiscent of Christ’s moments before the cross, finally pierced in the side with kryptonite. Lex Luther has bruised the heel of Superman. Superman descends to the depths, followed by an ascension scene.
If you want to draw allegoric analogies, you can even find just a taste of Da Vinci Code fallacies, if you really want to. Superman with a lover and perhaps even a son? (And could this lead to Audrey Tautou, giving her the ability to heal headaches and claustrophia?) But in Superman’s words to Jason, I’d prefer to see Christ’s commission to His disciples and all following believers (c.f. John 16-17). We are different (hated, even), but we are needed to shine a Light in this world.
Of course, in the end, the savior disparities glare. For starters, while Isaiah tells us that there is nothing in his appearance to attract us to Him, that He will be despised and rejected by man, Superman enjoys fame and chiseled appearance. The people have been waiting for the savior, and Superman is exactly what they wanted, exactly what they expected, exactly what they had seen in their image. Christ was not the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for, nor is He the Messiah the world wants. Christ is outside of our expectations and outside of our image. Superman is raised as a human, but he is not human. To apply this to Christ would be to commit the heresy of Docetism, the Gnostic belief that Christ only appeared to us as human rather than actually being human. As far as Lex Luther beating Superman up, Lex was able to take Superman’s power by manipulating kryptonite. However, Satan did not take Christ’s life. Christ gave it willingly. In both death scenes, Superman was saved by an outside force, a human. But Christ’s resurrection comes from Deity, and in this victory over death and evil our true hope lies.
The need for a Savior goes far beyond the need touted in this movie. Evil is portrayed as something out there, forces wielded by a satanic figure, and while this is true, the movie neglects to recognize the evil residing in each human heart. Superman’s father tells him that the human heart is still suffering monstrous deceits and that the humans could be a great race if they had a leader to show them the way. I believe that God did design us to be a great race. I believe that our heart has been deceived. I believe that Christ is the Way. But I also believe that to denigrate the gospel message to only these aspects is to substitute moral betterment for the salvation we need. In addition to our heart being deceived, our heart is deceptive. There is no need for atonement in the world of the movie. There is no need for any real change in the movie. This Superman savior is a poor substitute for the Christ Messiah. Superman is right, the world is crying for a Savior. But the answer isn’t limited to a savior flying the world over every night fixing things here and there. It comes through crushing the head of evil. The world desperately needs healing, and this healing comes through the ultimate victory over the evil in the world and the evil in our hearts; it comes through restoration to our Creator.
The world longs for myth: we long for the hope of something bigger than ourselves but still a part of us. This is fulfilled in Christ, but can we accept this Messiah? And can we, as Christians, participate in this victory in the world today?

No comments: