THE BLOG

'Man of Steel' or the Second Coming of Christ?

18/06/2013 10:17 BST | Updated 17/08/2013 10:12 BST

As the caped hero from Krypton floated into space gazing lovingly at the ghost of his father, with outstretched arms against the backdrop of Earth, he most deliberately resembled a chiseled version of the late Messiah.

Sitting somewhere in the hills of Hollywood is a wealthy puritan Christian in a white short-sleeve shirt, holding a neat copy of the bible, looking up to the crucifix on his wall and calling Warner Brothers impatiently. "We must spread the word of Christ!" He shouts to the producer on the other end of the line. "The Lord's work must prevail! Superman will be the vehicle of His message!" Man of Steel is a work of Christian propaganda. There is no other way about it, there is no denying it, nor is it subtle or intellectual: it's simply 'in your face', throwing a religious caprice under the guise of Henry Cavill. High-caliber CGI, a top-rate cast and a beloved character of the fantasy world have all but been dominated by the wealthy Christian shouting down the phone.

The premise is a simple allegory: Kal-El (Superman) lands on this planet as a child after being rescued by his parents from imminent destruction. Confused about his special powers, unable to find his place in this world, he wanders searching for answers; passive, kind and yearning to do good he is the epitome of Christian ideals. As his character blossoms and discovers himself, he must forgive the savage ignorance of humanity, defeat the inter-galactic villains and, fulfilling his duty no matter how much of a burden it might be, bring redemption to planet Earth. This is of course not without some serious collateral damage, as tearing down skyscrapers and throwing buses does kill a lot of civilians. The film centers on themes "belief", "trust", "answers to one's existence" and "love". Superman loves the people of Earth and brings himself to the edge of ruin simply to save them. Because of this focus on religious metaphor the movie loses force in most other departments, making for a dumbed-down, gratuitous, plain piece of cinema.

The oh-so moral protagonist battles villains who are on the contrary specifically defined as lacking all morality and seeking only the advancement of their own race: a drive embedded within their nature (which is a sort of morality in its own right nonetheless). We thus have a clash of ideals - moral against amoral. The product of this footing is however rather cringe-worthy. The film is essentially a theology lecture for the mentally handicapped. In addition to the constant recycling of words such as "faith" and "trust" the protagonist decides that the best option is to seek advice from this local priest who tells him that "sometimes you have to take a leap of faith - the trust part comes later." This superhero picture is built on poor logic. Not only is Superman an overblown metaphor for Christ but he also doesn't question why he would go to a priest at all considering that empirical proof of alien life by default disproves religious doctrine.

On the cliché side of things, Man of Steel is a violence-fest that inevitably leads to the utter destruction of New York. Why New York? It's always New York! Why couldn't Kal-El land in his galactic pod in Belize or Liberia or Papua New Guinea? There they would most certainly worship him as a God and not attempt to accuse him of treason even after he has saved the planet. However, the violence is slick and well choreographed - this is indeed a commendable aspect of the film. It is almost dance-like, mesmerizing and a real aesthetic parade. Along with Henry Cavill's coconut-breaking chin the action scenes manage to partially drag this piece of cinema from the jaws of farce. However it is then handed back to the very same jaws when Superman becomes a journalist at the Daily Planet - the employer of Lois Lane - and somehow no one recognises him, despite the fact that he most recently saved the entire world.

All in all the film is a less than successful attempt at the 'dark hero' genre, underlined with laughable Christian propaganda. The ponderous, loving, Plato-reading Clarke Kent comes across as an incomplete character, too simple for the grandiose task set by the director. Man of Steel has ushered in the beginning of the end for the superhero genre, or at least we won't be seeing another one for a while.