"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Does the World Really Need Superman Returns?

Having cleared the decks of a few things, I finally got around to seeing Superman Returns. It's reasonably entertaining and worth seeing. What I found most interesting about it was how much Christ imagery and other references to Christ there were in the film. Certainly, the presence of Christ references in the Superman saga is nothing new, although that was an aspect of the story that was not emphasized in Superman: The Movie, Superman II, and the two dreadful sequels that everyone would prefer to forget. In Superman Returns, the Christ imagery returns as well and is greatly emphasized.

I won't bore you with countless examples, as anyone watching the film with any attention at all will ascertain many such, but I will observe that the central question of the film, "Does the world really need Superman?" is presented as a newspaper story, in a way quite deliberately reminiscent of the famous Time magazine "God Is Dead" cover story of the 1960s. Lois Lane, the jaded author of the Pulitzer-winning story titled "Does the world really need Superman?", talks to the hero about that very question, giving the answer she gave in the story, and interestingly phrasing it as, "The world doesn't need a savior."

In answer, Superman slowly ascends with her into the heavens and looks down on the world below, listening to the arguments, worries, and anguished cries of the multitudes of people below. (This moment gains further power from its resemblance to the scene in Bruce Almighty when Bruce hears millions of people's prayers simultaneously.) Superman looks at Lois and says, "You wrote that the world doesn't need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one."

Of course, the film is no allegory, and Superman is no precise Christ figure. He apparently has had an affair with Lois in the past and fathered a son with her, and he requires help from humans in order to avert his own death in the film. However, such differences are what make the Superman mythos more interesting and rich in its implications.

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