Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Man of Steel: The Most Pro-life Non-pro-life Movie I Have Ever Seen.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers. If you haven't seen Man of Steel yet, go watch it and then come back and read this. And then watch it again.

Another disclaimer: I have never read the comic books; my judgement is based solely off of this movie, with no prior knowledge of comic book plots, characters, movie adaptations, etc.

Commonly known fact about me: I love movies and TV. I love great writing, character development, plot twists, and especially when mainstream entertainment teaches us something important in a way that is sneaky.

But I mean sneaky in a good way... Many Christian and pro-life or "positive" movies, while they are made with the best intentions, sometimes are not made very well. The writing and acting are poor and the message is so in-your-face, it comes off pretty preachy. Don't get me wrong, some of them are very enjoyable and probably touch a lot of hearts, but I consider myself a tough critic. I stand by my theory that a positive message doesn't have to be in-your-face to make a difference or make a story great.

...or make a character great. Like the Man of Steel portrayal of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman.

So here's some main points that are relevant to my love for this movie...

The movie begins on Krypton as a sort of civil war is beginning to break. The planet is unstable and about to explode, yet the General (played by Michael Shannon) is ready to begin a "new Krypton" with only certain bloodlines surviving. The planet had adapted to the "Genesis chamber" model of reproduction, growing babies on an underwater plant-like structure and genetically modifying the DNA of the babies to predestine their specific task/role in life (General Zod = protect the people of Krypton). However, Kal-El's father, Jor-El (the illustrious Russell Crowe), believed that people should be free, able to choose their own path, and follow their dreams. Heck yes, daddy Superman. Long story short, this disagreement led to his death, just after baby Kal was shipped off to earth for his survival. Fast forward into the future.

Jor-El, doing the right thing.
Because Kal-El (now Clark, played by Henry Cavill) was not actually human, his extraordinary abilities began to grow and develop as he did... X-ray vision, laser beam eyes, super strength, flying, etc. He was afraid of the changes, but his parents (take note here) taught him to use self-control, to master his impulses, and focus on the matter at hand. Emphasis on the self-control here... very "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." His parents taught him to stand up for what is good and right and true, which Clark worked hard to do, even when it meant getting up and leaving wherever he was to start over somewhere else.

OK, so, here comes General Zod, back from banishment, to destroy Clark and turn earth into New Krypton, killing all the humans in the process. Bad stuff. So Clark (now Superman), turns himself in to the government to work as a team to save his adoptive home. He allows himself to be handcuffed, even though he can easily dominate everyone there, but to make his new allies feel safe. He meets them where they are, on their ground (without freaking them the flip out with all of his super skills) so they can build a trusting relationship. Now they're partners.

So much anger, Zod. Calm down, man.
General Zod comes, guns blazing, and is ready to kill everyone. Superman battles it out with him in a pretty even match. During the fight, General Zod declares, "There's only one way this ends, Kal: either you die, or I do." Still, Superman does everything he can to subdue him, stop terrorizing the humans, and move on. However, Zod doesn't have this option...

"We could have built a new Krypton in this squalor, but you chose the humans over us. I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, is for the greater good of my people. And now... I have no people. My soul, that is what you have taken from me!"

And then they fight some more. They crash into a museum-esque building, Superman holding Zod in a headlock. In the emotional climactic scene, Zod yells, "If you love these people so much, you can mourn for them!" and starts to shoot lasers at people. Superman pleads for him to stop, but when Zod refuses, Superman reluctantly kills him.

One of the most important parts of the movie to me is right here: Superman is devastated. Here is a guy who is clearly the villian, who wanted to protect a dead people at all costs, including taking the lives of billions of innocents. And yet, as we see in Superman's cry of anguish, he is still torn apart at the fact that he had to kill.

And here's why I love this movie so dang much:

1. Superman is a good man. He has worked hard his whole life to protect the innocent and the weak, to do the right thing even when it is hard, to control his passions/emotions/instincts, and to preserve freedom and life. He's an ideal hero, and his likable personality and ridiculously square jaw are just the icing on the cake.

Seriously, though, look at his chin. He looks like a cartoon. In a good way.
2. Krypton fell for a reason. They turned to artificial population control, stripping freedoms/hopes/dreams from their citizens, and attempted genocide. And look where they ended up. The couple of survivors had no identity outside of their given task, they blindly followed society's crazy rules to a fault, and were willing to take countless innocent lives to reach an unreachable (and immoral) ideal. Does this make anyone else think of Nazi Germany??

3. I love the theme of protection here, but there is an important element missing to General Zod. What are you protecting? Is it good? And then we have Jor-El telling his son:
"The people of Earth are different from us, it's true, but ultimately I believe that is a good thing. They won't necessarily make the same mistakes we did, but if you guide them, Kal, if you give them hope, that's what this symbol means. The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief the potential of every person to be a force for good. That's what you can bring them."
4. Life is sacred. Jor-El stood up to his own leaders when he saw the planet was being destroyed and all of their lives were at risk. He stood up to General Zod when he proposed "cleansing the people" by choosing which bloodlines survived. The villains killed recklessly and without thought, but Superman, even to the very end, fought not to have to take a life. And when he had to, he was distraught. Even though Zod was a disturbed character (to say the least), it still tore Superman apart to have to kill him. There's something to that!!

5. Good leadership is good. Especially with all of the drama and tension with our government right now, with politics becoming polarized and confusing and what have you, I've been hearing a lot of animosity towards powerful leaders. True, we should not blindly follow anyone who steps up to a podium, but there is nothing wrong about following an intrinsically good leader (Jesus much??). I am not equating Superman to Jesus, but he acts as a supernatural leader who defends the defenseless, preserves life, and stands up for freedom and truth. Not a bad choice for Metropolis. I mean, come on...
"You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." -Jor-El
Join you in the sun, being in the light of Christ... just something to think about.

All in all... good job, Hollywood. You managed to pull of an action/drama with big name actors, crazy special effects, intense action scenes, talented writing, and profoundly Christian themes. I'm betting that last one wasn't intended, but I'm running with it anyways.

Yes, I know that they're also making "Batman vs. Superman" and judging by the trailer, Superman is the bad guy (tears!!) but we'll see how it turns out then.


  1. SO interesting! I don't think I would have gone to see this myself, but you're making me want to! :)

    1. Obviously I highly recommend it. Sorry about the spoilers though!

  2. I did enjoy this movie, especially the beginning where Krypton falls. I thought it was such an interesting commentary on creating children in an artificial way. Now I want to watch it again to catch all the other things you've pointed out!

    1. It's so much fun to find great scenes like that in mainstream movies. Thanks for reading! :)