Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"They played it up more than Narnia did."

That was Sara's reaction. Superman was more of a Christ-figure in Superman Returns than Aslan was in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

This journal article from my neighbors on the eastern side of Nebraska cites several parallels between the superhero and the messiah, and those comparisons are from the '78 Christopher Reeve film.

The new film makes many of the same allusions. Superman is of divine birth, and lives a dual life of human and supernatural at the same time. Then there's Lex Luthor and his cronies playing the role of the Roman guards flogging the messiah. And when it looks like the end for Superman -- the stone is rolled away, as we find he's gone!

Then there's the less than subtle arms-wide-open-on-the-cross-are-you-idiots-he's-Jesus pose as Christ, er, Superman makes his triumphant return.

Does he die? Go see the movie. I'm not going to spoil that one way or another. True to the genre's form, it does look like he's had it, but of course, every superhero movie, well, every good superhero movie makes you think the end is at hand before the hero saves the day.

But no matter to the plot specifics, it's not subtle. Superman is clearly a Christ-figure. An imperfect representation, to be sure. Does it paint an accurate portrayal of Christ? Not a chance. But it does point to the need for a messiah, very pointedly with dialogue like this line from Clark Kent to Lois Lane, "You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one."

Did the first Narnia film make that point? I'm not sure. CS Lewis' Aslan is more like the Christ I know. Did the film of his classic clearly enunciate that? I would hope so, but now I'm not so sure. Sadly, the film that probably should have may not have.

So we're left with Superman, a film that clearly points to the need for a savior, but then presents us with a flawed messiah.

I liked Narnia, but I wanted to like it more. I wanted to be indifferent about Superman, and enjoy it as a popcorn movie, but now I'm torn. I love that it's playing the role of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Lord, but I'm bugged that its hero ran away, not to mention the sexual tension with Lois. But that's Hollywood. As Sara points out, Superman played it up, Naria downplayed it. The films like Narnia coming from a rich Christian heritage are watered down and the pop culture icons are portrayed as Jesus.

But that's probably overstating it. He stars in both, flawed though they may be, and that's a Hollywood I can live with.


Jerry Ray said...

Don't forget that _Superman Returns_ also made Superman, the world's biggest Boy Scout, into a Superbabydaddy, who spends an abnormal amount of time using his powers to stalk his ex.

I liked Bryan Singer's work on the X-Men movies, but Superman was kind of a mess.

Lea said...

Just noticed those things.
I agree with Jerry, it was kind of a mess.

Steve said...

It was very mumbo jumbo. I wish Singer had stuck with X-Men. X-Men 3 was ok, but really just an action movie. Didn't have near the character development the first two did.