Superman Returns

Comic Book Action. Superman returns to earth after a five year absence of soul searching and psychoanalysis. “I have sent you, my only son,” “The son becomes the father and the father, the son.” With these words, Jor-El, an obvious derivative of a name for God in Hebrew (“El”), casts this new installment of the Superman franchise into its original religious mythical status. Singer, in an attempt to bring another unique twist to the comic book saga, does what is original in our secularized society, but is actually old hat to us religious people. He emphasizes the deity aspect of the caped crusader (and for that matter, all superheroes). One character likens the Superman situation to Prometheus and the gods. To which, Lex Luthor, the villain responds, “The gods are selfish beings, who don’t share their powers with mankind.” Thus expressing the hubris of all humanity alienated in sin from their Creator.

Lois Lane gets a Nobel Peace Prize for her article “Why the world doesn’t need Superman,” thus illuminating the real life tragedy that Nobel Peace Prizes are more about reflecting the hegemony of political power than promoting actual Peace. Oh, kinda like Yassir Arrafat getting a Peace Prize, maybe. In one particularly powerful moment of the film, Superman flies up into the stratosphere and he hears the cacophony of billions of people in need of his saving powers. He then brings Lois Lane up there (How she is able to breathe at this altitude, Superman only knows) to show her his response to her claim that “the world doesn’t need a savior and neither do I.” He tells her, “Everyday, I hear people crying for one.” This was particularly moving to me because I have thought of this “God’s-eye view of the world of pain and evil many times, and this scene captured it so beautifully.

There is also a resurrection scene where Superman is dying in the hospital bed after being infected with Kryptonite. But then, they go to the room to see how he is doing, and alas! The stone is rolled away and the body is gone! Or rather, the window is open and Superman has flown away.

Unfortunately, regardless of some of this beautiful religious correlation, I think that the Savior mythology is more akin to The Da Vinci Code than the New Testament. This is more a Gnostic Jesus of Joseph Campbell than a Hebrew one of the Four Gospels. Because, here, Superman fathers a child with his “Mary Magdalene,” Lois, just as he was fathered (the son becomes the father), who of course, has superpowers, thus affirming a mythology of Christ as an office that is appropriated by a succession of avatars (Much like the Mask of Zoro handed on to the next generation), than an individual who is the culmination of all history and hope.
But I still think it’s better than a secularized Superman.

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