Richard Donner’s epic film Superman the Movie is … “swell,” to quote Clark Kent. While superhero films have advanced in production (well, except for maybe Green Lantern), Donner’s original hero films (counting the first and second films about Kent AKA Kal-El AKA Superman) remain high up on my list. While the flash-bangs of Marvel’s Avengers films are wildly entertaining, there’s something organic about the actual story that Donner is intent on spinning.
Marlon Brando’s Jor-El explains to his wife, and Kal-El’s mother, that they are sending their son away from the exploding planet Krypton so that he’ll survive, or the things he’s recorded for little Kal-El when he’s not so small. One can almost imagine a similar conversation between God the Father and the Holy Spirit as Jesus is preparing to be born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem, or echoing the words God says from heaven as Jesus is baptized:
“You will travel far, my little Kal-El. But we will never leave you… even in the face of our death. The richness of our lives shall be yours…You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son. This is all I… all I can send you, Kal-El.“
“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. But always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.“
Watching the comic, adventurous, romantic, superhero film, experiencing the goodness of Kent/Superman, one can’t help but see the messianic character that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish kids struggling with the violence and evil impacting their neighborhood, created based on their understanding of Old Testament types and their hopes for a better world. Sure, Lex Luthor (devilishly played by Gene Hackman) is bad news, as are his two bumbling sidekicks, but how could we see how good the world could be without some evil thrown in to challenge us? Free will, baby!
In John 1, Jesus is described in poetic words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” It’s a reminder that Jesus is bigger than what we merely see or think we see, but something deeper, broader, and more powerful.
The world does have darkness but it also has the great potential for good. If only there would be people to show the way.