The Second Coming of Superman: Finally, a "Christian" movie not marketed to churches

Thank you Hollywood. Thank you Warner Brothers. Thank you director Brian Singer. Thank you for leaving me and my church alone!

Next week the highly anticipated film "Superman Returns" debuts in theaters. Early reviews are incredibly positive, and some are predicting the return of the original superhero to the silver screen will break box office records. But the web is also chatting about the movie's apparently overt Christian themes. That made me wonder - why didn't I receive any marketing materials at my church? Why no posters, toys for the children's ministry, or helpful super-sermon ideas? Why wasn't America's comic book messiah marketed to Christians?

CNN's entertainment page is running an article titled "Jesus Christ Superman" that discusses the film's Christian credentials. Billed as a sequel to the original movie directed by Richard Donner in 1978, "Superman Returns" has a digitally resurrected Marlon Brando playing Superman's "heavenly" father that has sent is only son to earth as a "light to show the way."

In the new film, directed by Brian Singer, Superman returns to Metropolis after an absence of five years just in time to rescue humanity from cataclysmic destruction - a story line that could be seen as symbolic of Jesus' death and resurrection or his eschatological second advent. In one scene the man of steel is stabbed in the side with a kryptonite shard just as Christ was pierced by the Roman's spear. And another scene shows Superman with outstretched arms reminiscent of Jesus' crucifixion.

Finding messianic overtones in the Superman mythology is nothing new. As the CNN article points out:

[Superman's] comparison to Jesus is one that's been made almost since the character's origin in 1938, said Skelton, author of "The Gospel According to the World's Greatest Superhero."
Many simply see the story of a hero sent to Earth by his father to serve mankind as having clear enough New Testament overtones. Others have taken the comparison even further, reading the "El" in Superman's original name "Kal-El" and that of his father "Jor-El" as the Hebrew word for "God," among other theological interpretations.

The Time article, "The Gospel of Superman" by Richard Corliss, says that Brian Singer's new movie emphasizes the character's similarities to Jesus even more than previous incarnations:

Earlier versions of Superman stressed the hero's humanity: his attachment to his Earth parents, his country-boy clumsiness around Lois. The Singer version emphasizes his divinity. He is not a super man; he is a god (named Kal-El), sent by his heavenly father (Jor-El) to protect Earth. That is a mission that takes more than muscles; it requires sacrifice, perhaps of his own life. So he is no simple comic-book hunk. He is Earth's savior: Jesus Christ Superman.
June 19, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments

Rev Ambridge

July 06, 2006  12:01am

The best way to deal with a mosquito bite is to ignore it...don't scratch. If you scratch it will swell to gargantuan proportions and give you more grief than ever. If you ignore it it will eventually dwindle and disappear. I have found that's the best way to treat all the claims and comparisons made by people who neither understand nor accept Christianity. Superman is just a movie; the Da Vinci Code is just a movie, entertainment, nothing more. If I focus on teaching the truth of the Word of God, and not spend my time in embroiled in endless debates, false claims won't get the time and attention they shouldn't get, and Jesus will get the attention He deserves. That's just my point of view, of course.

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Andy

June 27, 2006  6:05pm

"Instead, let's take what's in our culture and use it to explain the things of God. Isn't that what Jesus did?" quote from previous post... Good stuff. It's also what Paul did. A good start would be to tear down the dichotomy between sacred and secular...so that we might see the redemptive character (however small) of movies even the likes of the DaVinci Code, Brokeback Mountain and Syriana. Even these movies can stir our souls and point us to the cross if we allow them. I applaud Warner Bros for their mass marketing approach...although it's also possible they didn't realize the christological connotations of their movie either.

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Al Roever

June 27, 2006  3:32pm

I remember Archie's comment regarding "Jesus Christ Superstar." "Jesus isn't a superstar, Engelbert Whatsisdink is a superstar." (paraphrased) One of the most ignored verses in the Bible is Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know..." (NASB) No matter how hard we try we find it almost impossible to believe our own orthodoxy. "Jesus was fully God and fully human!" We still believe in some kind of chimererical, fantastical combination of God and man. While I do not believe Jesus was ever in His BEING less than God, He could not in His ACTING have done anything AS God. Otherwise, the main purpose of the incarnation would have been obviated. Jesus didn't just come to make it possible for man to go to heaven, He came to make it possible for God to be manifested again in human flesh - to restore the image and likeness of God in humanity. (Genesis 1:26-27; Psalms 8:5-6; Hebrews 2:6-9) He came to show us how a man ought to live and what a man can do in utter dependence on God. As long as we see Jesus as some kind of superman we will never be able to see ourselves as what God created us to be. The supernatural ought to become the normalspiritual!

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Mike

June 27, 2006  2:19pm

I'm grateful to Warner too. However, I need to point out that it wasn't Sony who flooded my inbox with Da Vinci material, it was Christianity Today (and others) who seemed, in my humble opinion, to exploit the movie for their purposes. Just another way of looking at the issue.

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Phil

June 27, 2006  1:47pm

Our Redeemer can redeem anything. Yes even a movie. And I too am glad that the Christian media moguls haven't packaged it and are trying to sell it.

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Mark Goodyear

June 27, 2006  8:39am

Something about this conversation bothers me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. We seem to be assuming that marketing to Christians is a bad thing. Why? Do we think marketing itself is inherently bad? I don't think it is, but I can't figure out any other reason why we would object to marketers approaching churches. As for me, I loved the Narnia marketing blitz. My five-year-old daughter has now read through the series with me twice. (We began it in preparation for the movie and she wouldn't stop.) She and I talk candidly about the Christian symbolism and imagery. When she got a Narnia toy in her happy meal one day, she was surprised by joy. It's perfectly fine not to market Superman to churches. But I wouldn't credit that to the studio executive's high moral standards. They just crunched the numbers and decided their marketing dollars would better serve them elsewhere. And who can blaim them? They have an obligation to their studios to make money. Wouldn't it be great if we all took our work obligations so seriously?

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Monty

June 21, 2006  11:03pm

Ditto Skye! It's been a few weeks without the nauseating, non-stop "Christian" marketing firms pushing door hangers, bulletin inserts, web graphics and even sermon power point slides from DaVinci or something else. What a welcome break and perhaps the paper trail break even saved a few trees. Here's an idea, why don't we let God tell us through prayer, meditation, fasting and His word what we should be preaching, teaching, marketing, etc. I know that doesn't sell movies, or pad the P&L statements of these marketing firms, but it's awfully refreshing. Although I would like to figure out how to get Larry the Cable Guy to use his "Cars" character voice for some church voiceovers, ha!

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Rob

June 20, 2006  1:55pm

May i say, though, that I agree completely. I get nauseated at the amount of marketing to churches that comes with "christian" movies. And it's not so much that the marketing to churches takes place that bugs me. It's the fact that churches don't seem to mind being a pawn for the money-making venture.

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Bill

June 19, 2006  8:21pm

I've not read much about this yet, but my first thought in response to your questions is: The reason there hasn't been much said in advance of the release of this new Superman is the tone is essentially positive. Anything that reflects negatively on Christianity gets boat loads of press. The opposite seems to be true of the positive.

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Drew Moser

June 19, 2006  1:40pm

Yes! Thank you for not abusing our pulpits to promote your film. And thank you for NOT trying to convince us pastors that Jesus is equal to a super human man who wears tights, has an identity crisis, and wilts at the presence of a mysterious gem-like rock. However, I agree with Bob...I'll take free passes to the movie. Just don't expect me to do a sermon series on it.

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