Christian Allegory in Man of Steel
The Man of Steel is a reboot of the Superman story, albeit with innovative origin embellishments. The story opens with Lara, wife of Jor-El, giving birth to Kal-El on planet Krypton. The planet is on the verge of collapsing due to mining in its core, so Jor-El and Lara make the decision to jettison their child to safety before Krypton explodes. Meanwhile, General Zod is leading an insurgency against the government for allowing the planet to become unstable. He is apprehended and banished with his soldiers in the Phantom Zone before Krypton explodes. Kal-El lands safely on earth and is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who name him Clark and raise him as their own son. Since the atmosphere and gravity on earth are vastly different than on Krypton, Clark develops extraordinary physical abilities and powers. As a man, he becomes a sojourner working from job to job in search of himself, all the while keeping his powers a secret. General Zod escapes from the Phantom Zone and tracks Clark to earth. He is convinced that Clark possesses the Codex, which contains the DNA of the Krypton people. So he issues an ultimatum to the inhabitants of earth: give him Clark or be killed. Clark responds by turning himself into the authorities. Ultimately, Clark, as Superman, and Zod fight to the finish. And, of course, Superman saves earth from extinction.
By now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Man of Steel contains many Christian references. The trailers for the film alone make this abundantly clear. The Christian messages are explicit and intentional. In fact, Warner Brothers is marketing the film to faith-based groups—as they did with The Blind Side, The Notebook and The Book of Eli. Additionally, Warner Brothers hired a professor at Pepperdine University to write materials for Bible study groups on the Man of Steel Resource Site. Free tickets for the film are even being sent to some church leaders.
Some of the Christian references in Man of Steel:
- As Kal-El’s parents are preparing to send him to earth, Jor-El remarks, “He’ll be a god to them.”
- When a young Clark rescues children from drowning in a bus accident, one mother exclaims, “This was an act of God!”
- Jonathan Kent, Clark’s earthly father, tells Clark that when people find out about him everything will change—even their beliefs. This is a clear reference to people changing their beliefs when they hear about Jesus.
- Before Clark decides to turn himself in he consults with a priest. The priest tells him, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”
- Jor-El tells Clark that humans need “the light to show the way…For this reason I have sent you, my only son.” This is obviously a reference to Jesus in John 3:16.
- Jor-El says that Clark is a bridge between humans and Krypton, which is an allegory for Christ being the mediator between humans and God (see 1 Timothy 2:5).
- Before Clark becomes Superman, he works in harsh, arctic conditions, just as Jesus suffered in the wilderness before he began his ministry.
- Clark is 33 when he sacrifices himself for the people of earth, the same age as Jesus when he sacrificed himself to save others.
- Clark has two natures: son of Krypton and adopted son of earth, just as Jesus has two natures, son of God and son of man.
- Clark heals Lois Lane; Jesus healed people.
- When Clark becomes weak he becomes injured on his side, just as Jesus was pierced on his side.
- As a child, Clark is rejected and bullied by his peers, just as Jesus was rejected by mankind (Isaiah 53:3).
- Jor-El tells Clark that he can “save them all”, and immediately Clark flies away with his arms outstretched in the shape of a crucifix.
- Clark came to earth to save humanity even though people did not deserve it, just as Jesus died for people while they were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
There are several Christian themes in Man of Steel:
- Sacrifice. Superman was willing to give his life as a ransom for many, just as Jesus did.
- Hope. The symbol on Superman’s outfit means hope, which he was sent to offer to people. Jesus is our hope (1 Peter 1:3).
- Redemption. Superman saves the world from destruction, just as Jesus saved us from self-destruction (Ephesians 1:7).
- Free will. Humans have the choice to accept or reject Superman, just as we have been given free will to accept or reject Jesus.
Man of Steel may or may not be an intentional allegory of Jesus. And as we know, all allegories break down at some point. Superman is not perfect nor is he the son of God. But he may serve as a testimony to the hope, power, and love of our Savior. And what is wrong with that?