Gunty is associate publisher/editor of the Catholic Review.


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Christian imagery in "Man of Steel" also looks at role of fathers

If you plan to see the Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” released today, bring earplugs. But also bring your New Testament.

You know the Superman story. From TV’s George Reeves and Tom Welling to the big screen’s Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh and now Henry Cavill, it’s a timeless tale of a boy whose parents die in a tragic accident (in this case, their planet is destroyed) and then is adopted by a couple who show him love and affection, and teach him what it means to be part of a family.

This latest edition has a lot of violence – hand-to-hand combat, world destruction, that sort of thing. For a story about someone sent to save the world, a lot of the planet gets battered and a lot of people die in the attacks by the villain (General Zod, played by Michael Shannon) and his cohorts.

The movie also has its share of Christian allegory and family values. It’s also a good look at parents, and especially a boy’s relationship with his father as he becomes a man.

 (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Under the direction of Zack Snyder, “Man of Steel” takes a new look at the backstory of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. A veritable assault on the senses, with loud explosions, imagery that encompasses the viewer and even seat-rumbling bass tones, it can be overwhelming. Add the 3D option, and you could be on sensory overload.

As Clark begins to use his superhuman powers, it attracts the attention of the world, specifically Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. In the newsroom, someone asks, “He’s 33 years old. Why don’t we know anything about him?”

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is the Doubting Thomas in this tale. She sees, but – at least at first – she does not believe the strength and goodness Kal-El displays.

She asks him what the “S” on his outfit stands for. He tells her it’s not an S, that on his planet, it is a symbol for hope (it’s also his “family crest”). Hmmm, a man who symbolizes hope, coming to save the world.

Via Kryptonian technology, his father is able to teach him about their planet, telling Kal that he can be “a force for good; that’s what you can bring them.”

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) also tells him: “You will give the people an ideal to strive toward. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Perhaps he means, “… they will join you in the Son.

Kal-El experiences the angst of knowing that he has been given great skills and great responsibility. He faces the epitome of evil in General Zod, and must battle Zod (Could it be Satan?) for the fate of humanity.

As we celebrate Father's Day, “Man of Steel” also takes a good look at the role of fathers in shaping their sons. Jor-El gives Kal everthing he can, and sends him away, in order to save him. Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) adopts him and teaches him how to deal with his abundant talents.

Jonathan tells him: “You're not just anyone. One day, you're going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it's going to change the world.” He senses – and trusts – that Clark will make the right choice.

If you see “Man of Steel,” look for the Christian imagery and values behind the CGI landscapes and special effects. Decide if you think Kal-El/Clark Kent made the right choice, and think about how he was inspired to become who he is.

Also see: 

Movie Review: Man of Steel

6/17/2013 11:34:05 AM
By Christopher Gunty