A Conflicted Man of Steel
by Phil Boatwright

Superman, our flying caped defender of the American way, gets a bit of an overhaul in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (opening June 14th). Though he can still leap tall buildings and is faster than a locomotive, now we see him as a vulnerable, introspective outsider with doubts. Along with saving the world from that other alien from Krypton, General Zod (Michael Shannon), this Superman for the new millennium (Henry Cavill) also questions who he is and why he’s here. But he is, as always, a super symbol.

“In the world of Superheroes, Superman is the completely uncompromising figure who exists to represent the best that all of us can be,” says Man of Steel director Zack Synder.

Created by two teenagers in the 1930s, Superman was developed as entertainment, but also as a symbolic savior for a country not yet established in the world, a country facing the fears of a depression and the inevitability of a world war. But America and the rest of our fellow planeteers have always needed a savior, and this caped crusader still functions as a metaphor we can learn from. Like John the Baptist, he points the way to the true Messiah.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Jor-El, Father of Superman in the latest film adaptation.

Today we still face financial insecurity, and while America has established itself as a force throughout the world, it has done so at a price. Despite a generosity of spirit and a willingness to fight for the freedoms of others, Americans have become a people feared by some, hated by many and sadly, respected by few. And like the rest of the world, Americans have come to the realization that we need something more than military might to protect us.

Deborah Snyder, wife of director Zach Snyder and one of the film’s producers, had this to say at a recent press junket concerning the Man of Steel’s message: “I think it’s about doing good and the fact that we all have choices. We choose to either do good or not to. And sometimes it might be hard to see what the right choice is. That’s where faith comes in. Faith and hope.”

Actor Henry Cavill said of his caped character, “He stands for hope, for the ability to conquer adversity against all odds. We will always face hardships in one way or another, and therefore hope will always play a significant part in our lives.”

“You try to make the right choices, but sometimes I think you need faith that your decision is the right one. In today’s times I think that’s a message we could use a little bit more of,” Mrs. Snyder concluded.

True, what they say is true. And certainly today’s moviegoers are seeking entertainment that inspires hope as well as diversion from everyday troubles and woes. The Man of Steel offers that. But Superman is not so much a savior as a reminder that we have one.

We don’t just need a Super-man, but a Super-Savior who is forgiving, just and sacrificing. And millions throughout the ages have discovered this true Superman, this being who is all God and all man. What’s more, they know in the core of their soul that He is not just a comic strip character meant to inspire. He is a living reality.

Journalist Lee Strobel, once a spiritual scoffer, wrote in the well-researched The Case For Christ (Zondervan, page 262), “Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, or the Anointed One, who would redeem God’s people. In effect, dozens of these Old Testament prophecies created a fingerprint that only the true Messiah could fit. This gave Israel a way to rule out impostors and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah…Jesus, and only Jesus, matched this prophetic fingerprint.”

Though even the most devout of Christ’s followers may question his beliefs at some time, an assuredness that Jesus is our Messiah remains in his soul. The Holy Spirit has placed this confidence deep within. But no matter how many books document the personage of Jesus, or how many testimonies are heard purporting miracles done in His name, ultimately there is the need for faith. This was by design. For the only way mankind can please God, the only gift it can offer Him, and the only way people can develop a spiritual character, is through faith.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

People can learn truisms through the exploits of Clark Kent’s alter ego, but it is Jesus who teaches the truth. Those who study God’s Word as much as they seek solace at the movies will know this truth.