I just watched the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. This is the movie that Warner Brothers decided to target market Christian audiences by offering free screenings to pastors and dedicating an an entire website to how Man of Steel can help spread the Gospel.
But how did the film hold up both as a movie and as a Christian propaganda piece?
For a superhero movie in the era of The Avengers, Iron Man, and basically everything Marvel, you have to stand out, and in all honest Man of Steel doesn’t. As Paul Sims points out in the Rationalist Association blog:
…you’d have to agree that Jesus had a lot more charisma and complexity than Superman, at least as he’s portrayed by Henry Cavill in Man of Steel. If a preacher wants to sell me Russell Crowe as God and Kevin Costner as Joseph, I’m buying. But Cavill’s Superman as Jesus? They’ll have to do better than that if they want to convert me.
But it’s more than just Cavill’s acting, for half of the movie there was no conflict – just Clark Kent trying to grow up. But unlike Smallville, the TV series, we don’t see awkward teenage Clark Kent, instead we see maturing young adult Kent flashing back between varying amounts of facial hair to formative situations as a child (and luckily the child was a better actor than Cavill).
Beyond the acting though, the eventual conflict between Superman and General Zod lost me in one key exchange between Superman and Zod’s second in command Sub-Commander Faora-Ul. Faora comments that Superman’s weakness is his morality and that the Kryptonians had “evolved beyond morality.”
This would be bad enough, but then Faora actually makes the statement, “it’s evolution versus morality, and evolution always wins.”
Well sadly I guess evolution lost as Faora, Zod, and their genocidal crew were sent back to the phantom zone.
Never mind the physics issues (and not just the standard Superman conservation of momentum issue where he would kill the people he catches, but statements like “it’s an element not on the periodic table, so clearly it’s alien” or the human physicist recognizing that two alien space engines colliding would create a black hole to the phantom zone), this repudiation of evolved secular ethics fit so well for the Evangelicals who will take Warner Brothers up on the free screenings but is an utter insult to Humanists and the growing number of non-religious viewers.
Perhaps I’m being pedantic but I want hero movies where I can recognize the human struggle within them, not Jesus-like figures who demand that we accept his love (which the Man of Steel also repeatedly does, saying he will only help humanity on his terms).
Final verdict for Man of Steel: Too Christian-saviour complex mixed with shoddy acting and bad science (seriously, I think every science issue they brought in was wrong). Take a pass.