I started this blog to have a place to share my thoughts about Christian movies, to share about upcoming Christian movies and a place to review current Christian movies, but I don’t just care about Christian movies. I love movies! Yes, this is why I want to see more Christian movies but I am not against secular movies. Because of this fact, every once in a while I will post something about movies in general or about mainstream movies. I just love movies! If you know me you will also know that I love comic books and most specifically I love Superman. It is because of these two facts that brings me to this post. I have had many people ask me my opinion on the new Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer that came online over the weekend. I am an opinionated person, so I would not want to pass up this opportunity to share my opinion on something when I was actually asked to give it! (this might be lengthy, so I divided it up into segments and you can chose which you would like to read.)
A SPIRITUAL CONTEXT
Let me first tie this in a little to the overall purpose of this blog. Ever since 1992 Superman has been portrayed as a Christ figure, obviously this is something that really resonates with me. I have seen many people complain about this saying “Can’t Superman just be Superman, why bring religion into it?” Well, to these people I say, religion has always been in Superman.
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish boys living in Cleveland Ohio. They created this character who has Super strength. Super strength was the only power Superman had that the beginning. He couldn’t fly, he didn’t have heat vision or X-ray vision, he was just really strong. Much like the story they heard as Jewish boys growing up of a man by the name of Samson. Superman was created as a modern day Samson. After they created the character they needed a back story so they created this story of a mother and father who placed their child in a rocket ship to escape a planet that was about to explode. Did you catch that? A little boy placed into a small ship… or ark… to escape death. Siegel and Shuster gave their Samson Moses’ back story. Superman was Moses with Samson’s abilities. He was a super man that fought for the downtrodden, the poor, the weak, he was someone who would lead these people to a freedom from their oppressors. These boys made Superman’s given Kryptonian name “Kal-El” which is an English alliteration Hebrew words. “El” we know is “God” or “of God.” Much like well known Hebrew names like “Samu-El” which means “Heard of God” or Dani-El which means “Judge of God,” “Kal-El” means “vessel of God.” Separating religion from Superman would be to strip him of his depth and his original inspiration.
In 1992 a monster entered the comic book universe in the pages of the Superman comics. This monster’s only reason for existing was to seek, devour and destroy. The only person who could stand up against this monster was Superman. Superman was successful in stopping this monster named Doomsday, but it cost Superman his life. Superman had died in order to save the entire world. But, why are there still Superman comics today? Because Superman came back from the dead! That’s right! Superman died to save the world but he came back! Ever since then Superman has been a Christ figure! The parallels where shown in Smallville, which early promotions relied heavily on the “messiah” aspect of Superman. Superman Returns promotion had a voice over of Superman’s father saying that he sends to Earth his only son. And even Man of Steel had very heavy Christ symbolism involved.
CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM IN MAN OF STEEL
Within the newest verison of the silver screen Superman we can see many Christ parallels. Beyond the ones I already mentioned about his origins when we first see Superman as an adult he is am man (with a beard) who is helping people in need. After the call from Zod telling “Kal-El” to reveal himself we see Clark go to a church and ask advice. He is wondering if he should really reveal himself as the alien in order to save the planet from destruction. While he is asking this, we see over Clarks shoulders, a picture of Jesus praying in the garden. This reveals the parallel between Superman’s torment and Jesus’. Over the priests shoulder (who is telling Clark that he should reveal himself to save the world) we see the cross.
Later in the film Superman has a face to face with his dead father who tells him that he should go, he can “save everyone.” At that moment Superman jumps backward into space with his arms outstretched as if on a cross then he zips away to save the day. This on top of smaller things like Superman revealing that he is 33 years old all point to a large awareness that Superman is a Christ figure.
So, though it might be true that Superman was not created to be a Christ figure, he became that in 1992 which is something that cannot be undone. Superman was a Moses figure from the beginning and then morphed into the Second Moses after dying and coming back to life.
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: THE INSPIRATION
As I have said, I have been a long time Superman fan. I have many favorite stories from the Superman library! Some of them include Batman. When they announced they were doing a Superman/Batman story I was not very happy. Why? Well, a few reasons but most of all because Batman just had his spotlight for three films and I was looking forward to is being Superman’s time. The biggest reason I was upset because I know the most popular Superman vs. Batman story, The Dark Knight Returns, and I hate. The reason it is popular is because if you are a Batman fan you point to it as one of your favorite Batman stories of all time. If you are a Superman fan you hate it because the character of Superman is all wrong. In this story Superman has become a pawn of the Government. The president can tell Superman “go take out this dictator” and Superman goes. Superman doesn’t think for himself, he is not someone who rescues people, he is someone who does the bidding of the Reagan looking president. The first part of the story is very good. However, it ends with a show down between Batman and Superman in a way that you are rooting for Batman to win.
When Zack Snyder announced he was going to be doing a Batman/Superman movie he announced it by using a line from The Dark Knight Returns… and all the Batman fans cheered and all the Superman fans went “oh no!” The Batman logo shown behind the Superman logo is almost exactly like the Batman logo from The Dark Knight Returns and then we see the Batman costume… which is almost exactly the same as the Dark Knight Returns costume. When the first footage was shown at Comic-Con last year we see Batman in the same armor that he wore at the end of The Dark Knight Returns with Superman in the sky, eyes glowing, shrouded in darkness looking very menacing and looking like… a villain.
Needless to say, everything I have seen so far from this movie has pointed toward this movie being an adaption of my least favorite Superman story. And then this trailer leaked…
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN TEASER TRAILER REACTION
The teaser was not supposed to be released until today. After the release of the Star Wars trailer (which I loved) I told my brother “this is the time to release the Batman V. Superman trailer.” Basically I knew that they had sent out the trailer to theaters for the release event and I knew at some point a low quality version would leak. It was time to get ahead of it. Late Thursday night a cell phone video of the footage was released, too late. I always tell myself that I will not watch a low quality leak… I will wait for the actual footage. Then it leaks and I can’t help myself.
My first reaction to the leaked footage was… “I hate it!” it was very dark. It looked to me like Superman was most certainly the bad guy. It looked to confirm all my fears! There was a lot I couldn’t see because the video quality was too poor but I saw enough to really disappoint me.
Then the HD version was officially released. When I watched the HD version for the first I realized that it didn’t seem as dark as I thought the leaked version looked. Don’t get me wrong, it still looked dark but not AS dark. I still was frustrated that it appeared Superman was going to be the bad guy and we would be rooting for Batman.
Truth be told, the more I viewed the trailer the more I liked what I saw. There are still portions that concern me. I think the portion of greatest concern is the clip of soldiers bowing a knee to Superman. These soldiers have a Superman “S” on their shoulder. This brings back these fears of the Frank Miller comic I talked about before where Superman is a government stooge. However, I do not know the context. I will say that I could conceive of ways that this would be ok. Are these a bunch of terrorist using Superman’s symbol to do things and Superman is there to stop them? After all, they do look like Nazi’s and the Nazi idea of Übermensch actually means Superman so, is this a group who thinks that the human race could become Supermen if they get rid of a certain segment of people and Superman is there to stop them? It is possible.
The shot of the vandalized statue that had spray painted “False God” on it at first turned me off to the movie however, the more I viewed the trailer the more it feels that Superman is not the villain but rather he is the underdog. People are turning against him. He just saved the planet from destruction and is now being blamed for it.
I was speaking with my brother about it and he brought up a very interesting idea. His idea was, since the Man of Steel movie was so heavy on the Christ symbolism, what if they are carrying that over to this movie. What if we will watch the crowed go from “hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in this movie? Or maybe the crowed has already turned. When he shared that with me I said to him “Hold on… I need to go lock myself in a dark room and curl up in the corner and think about that for a long time.” It would be very interesting. As I began to think about that, I realized this could, if done right, become one of the greatest multi-movie stories I have ever seen.
Follow me here. In Man of Steel he reveals himself to the world [just as Jesus began his ministry] In this movie the crowed turns from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” [just as they did for Jesus] Put this together with rumors that somehow, in some way we see the creation or an allusion to Doomsday (the monster that kills Superman leading to the Death of Superman story either in Man of Steel 2, Justice League or somewhere down the road. What if the Christ symbolism was so thick in the first one because they are setting it up to continue through multiple films?
Ever since my brother shared that I have become more and more fond of the trailer. Even if I am not correct on this story arch (which I am probably not correct) what I am starting to see is that ever time I view the trailer I am viewing Superman less as the villain and more as someone who is being picked on or persecuted. The human race is starting to bully Superman… Now I am become more interested in this story line. It is something we have never seen before and the question always becomes, how can you created a threat for Superman that presents a challenge. Well, fighting popular opinion is incredibly hard no matter how many Superpowers you possess. What if Lex Luther who is in this trailer and says “we know better now don’t we? Devil’s don’t come from Hell beneath us, they come from the sky.” What if it is part of his master plan to defeat Superman. What if Batman finds out that he is being played by Lex. Suddenly you have a real threat from Lex that has nothing to do with real-estate. We already can tell with this line that Lex is quite literally demonizing Superman. Add this to the fact that when he finishes that line it is revealed to us that the statue says “False God.” It seems that Zack Snyder wants this trailer to show a philosophical/ religious debate going on within the context of the story. Does this mean this movie will be something deeper than a throw down between Batman and Superman? I think when you examine the trailer, all the signs are pointing towards this movie being much deeper than your more fun but simple Marvel movies. Is it possible that what is going on is that the DC Cinematic Universe wants to be what Marvel is… but for grownups?
The dialog in this film is wonderful, even when I hated this trailer I said “I hate it… but it is well written dialog. That is the touch that Oscar winner, Chris Terrio is bringing to the project. As much as I loved Man of Steel
I will admit it was not all that well written. David Goyer who wrote Man of Steel is good with coming up with story ideas but not the best at writing them out. This movie will be a story by Goyer, written by Terrio and in this trailer I can already tell that it will be better written then Man of Steel.
I do find it interesting how so many people complained about Superman killing Zod at the end of Man of Steel and all the destruction in the movie when Superman really never had (until the 90’s) a rule agains
t killing. However, Batman has, from his conception, a rule against killing and against using guns, yet we see in this trailer the Batplane shooting a bunch of guys in a pickup truck (to the point where it can be assumed no one survived. Also, we can see Batman on top of a building holding a sniper rifle. (I realize that this is another scene from The Dark Knight Returns comic and in the comic he doesn’t use it to kill… but still… no one even mentions it.
After thinking long and hard about this, my fears of this movie going wrong where overshadowing the enjoyment of this trailer. I have seen people who know nothing about comics or Superheroes in general who felt that Batman came across as the Bad guy in this trailer. This revealed to me that my bias was getting in the way. As I stripped this way, as I began to look at this trailer as it really is, I began to enjoy it. Remember folks, this is the first TEASER trailer. Star Wars just release their second teaser which was longer then their first. Fantastic Four just released their first full length trailer. To compare these movie trailers you need to compare the Star Wars: Force Awakens teaser trailer #1 to this BvS trailer. You need to compare the Fantastic Four teaser trailer to this BvS trailer. To compare this teaser to the current trailers of either movie is to compare apples to oranges. They have different goals. The trailer was not love at first sight… but I have come to the conclusion that I do in fact love this trailer. Do I think it was perfect? No. But, I am excited for this film!
Check out the trailer here!