A review of the new “Man of Steel” movie, that opens today. (H/T ECM) This might be an excellent movie to take Dad to on Father’s Day – see below for the reasons.
Clark is an extraordinary man of character who comes by his heroism tendencies honestly. His Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, put their lives at risk to save their infant son and stand up to the evil schemes of General Zod. And by way of hologram, Jor-El encourages his adult son to stand strong for the people of Earth, saying, “You can embody the best of both worlds.”
His earthly mom and dad also give him some direct examples: During an unexpected tornado, Jonathan Kent puts his own life at risk to save others, clearly showing his son the meaning of self-sacrifice. He talks repeatedly to his boy about the importance of good choices and solid character. And when a preadolescent Clark is having something of a breakdown thanks to the onset of his supersenses, Martha Kent talks him through it. “The world is too big, Mom,” Clark cries from inside a locked closet at school. “Then make it small,” Martha coaches him lovingly. “Focus on my voice.”
So when Clark finds out about his otherworldly origins, he cries out to his father, “Can’t I just keep pretending that I’m your son?” To which Jonathan immediately embraces the boy and retorts with a breaking voice, “You are my son.”
Those kinds of parental moments of love and instruction are obviously reflected in Clark’s subsequent choices, large and small. Even when he’s in the heat of thunderous battle, he takes the time and puts in the extra effort to deflect harm from an innocent or break a wounded soldier’s fall. And it’s these kinds of others-focused actions that eventually motivate human soldiers and civilians alike to unquestioningly accept Clark (aka Superman) as one of their own—belying the Kents’ fears of his probable rejection.
And not just character, but spiritual issues:
[T]his Man of Steel movie is one of the most spiritually symbolic and Messianic-image-packed treatments ever made about this character. Here, Clark Kent even comes to understand—at the age of 33, no less—his responsibility to step up, face off with and destroy an ultimate evil that threatens all mankind.
But that’s at the end. At the climax. All through this film dialogue and images hint at connections between Superman and Jesus. Several people, from Jor-El to Jonathan to Zod’s female second, Faora-Ul, talk to Clark about his ability (or lack of ability) to save the people on his adopted planet. Superman levitates with his arms spread in a cross-like form on several occasions. When he goes to his church to ask a priest for advice, the camera’s eye frames a stained-glass representation of Christ over the young Clark’s shoulder. The priest tells him, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”
After Clark rescues a bus full of children, a kid’s mother states, “This was an act of God!” Clark asks his dad, “Did God do this to me?” When Lara worries about her infant son’s safety on Earth, Jor-El assures her, “He’ll be a god to them.” Bad guy Kryptonians tell Superman that they will win because “evolution always wins.”
And their conclusion:
“It’s the most realistic movie I’ve made,” director Zack Snyder (who helmed Watchmen, 300 and Dawn of the Dead) told the L.A. Times. “There’s no tongue in anyone’s cheek. I’m not apologizing for Superman in any way. I’m saying, ‘Superman is a thing that must be taken seriously and embraced and understood.'”
Indeed, his version of the now 75-year-old superhero story is straightforward and earnest. It’s an honest-to-goodness sci-fi opera that reflects both the classic roots and the modern comic book sensibilities of its well-known superhero legend.
[…][W]e come to what Snyder calls Superman’s “inherent goodness.” The director says, “If you really think about it, you still want him to be right and to make the right choices and to do the right thing. I think that we all hope for that in ourselves, and I think that’s what always has made him a very interesting character. He’s a Christ-like figure. There’s no two ways about it.”
And Snyder leaves that inherent goodness and Christ-likeness in his film for all to see. (Through the cascades of sci-fi dust and debris, of course.)
Evolution News even commented on the evolution issue:
No, I haven’t seen Man of Steel yet since it just opened today but I do want to. Among other points of interest: the bad guys, pursuing Kal-El a/k/a Clark Kent to Earth, are animated in the film’s telling by an eerily Darwinian philosophy.
In one clip, chief bad guy General Zod confronts Superman’s birth father Jor-El and calls on him to join in a campaign against the “degenerative bloodlines that led us to this state.” Later, in a duel with planet Krypton’s assassin sent to wipe him out, Superman gets knocked around, which prompts the villainess to observe that he is weak: “The fact that you possess a sense of morality, and we do not, gives us an evolutionary advantage. And if history has proven anything, it is that evolution always wins.” (See the MTV clip above.)
The only problem with her analysis is that evolution, in the presumed Darwinian sense here, “always wins” by discarding things that don’t give an “evolutionary advantage.” That would seem to include the exquisitely tuned conscience with which human beings are gifted — what advantage does that confer? — the existence of which, as we know well, poses one of many enigmas that a Darwinian view is helpless in explaining.
I think that it would be a good idea to go into the theaters and see this movie at least once to signal Hollywood about what people really want to see. Obviously, it would be great if we could go into theaters and see William Lane Craig debates and Thomas Sowell lectures, but when something good and wholesome comes out of Hollywood, we should go and see it so that we at least send a message to the movie makers who are influencing the culture. When an organization like Focus on the Family clears a movie, then surely it’s safe to go see it.
If you don’t feel like going out to see a movie this weekend, here’s a list of older “character” movies that I also recommend:
- Rules of Engagement (Samuel L. Jackson)
- The Lives of Others
- United 93
- Taken (Liam Neeson)
- Cinderella Man
- The Blind Side
- Cyrano de Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu)
- Amazing Grace (Ioan Gruffudd)
- We Were Soldiers
- Stand and Deliver
- Blackhawk Down
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- High Noon (Gary Cooper)
- The Way Back
- The Incredibles
If I like Superman enough, I might even add it to my list of favorites.