Man of Steel (2013) Director by Zack Snyder – Movie Review
Runtime: 143 min Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language
Listen here for audio of radio interviews about films from a Christian perspective with Pastors Ted Giese and Todd Wilken on IssuesEtc.org where Christianity meets culture. Click the IssuesEtc banner below to hear the radio interview.
Marketing Man of Steel to Christians
Warner Brothers released Man of Steel over the 2013 Father’s Day weekend and in an attempt to market the film as a father/son family outing, the studio aided in producing special resources to accompany the film’s release. This isn’t too unusual. Many film studios create an online campaign that will generate additional buzz in advance of a release date. The first week of a film’s run is one of the most important as it determines how long the film will be shown in theatres and how many theatres it will be shown in. This, in turn, maximizes the revenue the film will generate. So what’s so interesting about the Warner Brothers on-line advertizing strategy for the Christian viewer?
CNN reports that as part of the online advertisement strategy Warner Brothers studio helped produce a website to promote the film specifically to Christians. On this website the studio provided sermon notes for pastors to use Superman as an illustration while preaching on Father’s Day. It appears Warner Brothers wished people to draw a connection between Superman and Jesus and they hoped these resources would facilitate this conclusion. The sermon notes the studio provided suggested that congregations watch the movie trailer in their church during the sermon. This sort of marketing is unsettling, but what’s more unsettling is that the Jesus they are drawing the connections with is a truncated Jesus selectively found in Scripture more akin to the ‘Jesus’ of pop culture than to the Jesus of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Warner Brothers wasn’t acting alone in this endeavour. To accompany the film the American Bible Society produced a special Father’s Day “Talking Points” PDF. This PDF was also made available on www.manofsteelresources.com. At one point the document says, “Where Man of Steel begins, the New Testament presses deeper still. A hero who came to save humanity is also one who was there during its creation. He’s more than just a champion against evil; he’s a powerful example of what is good. As a father, you should be striving to live out this example every day. You can be that hero for your son or daughter by giving them unconditional love and support.” How does this all factor into the film and what other concerns might a Christian watching this film have?
A Boy Influenced by Two Fathers
Man of Steel is a sci-fi super hero film about a child of two fathers. One is the embodiment of Nurture, the other the embodiment of Nature. The young Clark Kent is the adopted son of Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), a farmer from rural Kansas, while the same boy, who’s alien name is Kal-El, has a biological father, the space alien named Jor-El (Russell Crowe), from the planet Krypton. Once the boy is grown he becomes Superman, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill).
As an adult, after his full identity is revealed to him, he must decide whose son he is; on the one hand, because of his unique biology, Superman has physical abilities that confound the laws of physics, while on the other hand he is studied in the careful and conscientious humility of a farm boy brought up to be both respectful and dutiful in society. As the film unfolds, this boy growing into a man must decide if he will side with the people of his biological heritage and allow the eradication of humanity to ensure the survival of the last remnant of the Kryptonian aliens or whether he’ll side with his adopted humanity and fight to protect humanity against the last of the Kryptonians led by the zealous general Zod (Michael Shannon). To complicate matters he’s an outsider to both of these competing interests.
The Man of Steel vs. Jesus
As to the theme of ‘making a decision’ in the context of Jesus’ life, Scripture teaches that Satan tempted Jesus to use His powers in an improper way following His baptism in the Jordan River. The resistance of this temptation could be seen as “making a choice” although it isn’t often talked about in this way. For 40 days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness but, unlike Superman Jesus prevailed against His tempter. This is one of the stark differences between the Jesus of Scripture and fictional Superman of Man of Steel, and one of the key places where the analogy of Superman as “Christ” breaks down. Within the film there’s a pivotal scene in which Superman kills an enemy where he could have resisted this temptation and spared that life. This scene doesn’t sit well with many viewers.
When exploring the theme of ‘purpose driven’ living, Man of Steel draws on a long standing pop culture misconception as to the main purpose of Jesus’ life – that His central purpose was to be a moral teacher and example towards moral living. Jor-El echoes this in his vision for his son.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is more this: He literally gives His life to die for humanity. Jesus does this to save people from more than temporal death. He does this to save them ultimately from everlasting death. In fact Scripture depicts Christ Jesus’ fight for humanity as a fight won with personal sacrifice, humility, and conviction tougher than steel. Jesus won His fight with humanity’s enemies at the cross without throwing a single punch. Isaiah prophetically talks of Jesus saying that He “was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Jesus did not fight with physical might against the enemy. For this reason the Jesus of the Holy Bible is starkly contrasted with the fictional Superman of Man of Steel, who at no time is depicted as truly putting his life on the line to save humanity. This narrative contradiction makes the desire to draw a connection between Jesus and Superman one of the film’s weakest points.
Post 9-11 Images of Urban Destruction
Rev. Ted Giese is associate pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; a contributor to Reformation Rush Hour on KFUO AM Radio, The Canadian Lutheran and Reporter; and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter @RevTedGiese.
 “Warner Bros. paid a theologian, Pepperdine University's Craig Detwiler, to prepare a nine-page set of "sermon notes" for ministers who want to preach about Man of Steel, titled "Jesus: The Original Superhero."”
 Divine Attributes
 1 Corinthians 15
 Isaiah 53:5