Even though he lets on that he didn’t, Jonathan Adams secretly enjoyed the movie Superman Returns.
The resemblance between the origin, character, and ultimate fate of Siegel and Shuster’s Superman and that of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s Jesus Christ have been thoroughly indexed by scholars such as Anton Karl Kozlovic (see: www.unomaha.edu/jrf/superman.htm). How exactly the story of Superman profits from this analogy is less clear, probably because it doesn’t much.
Bryan Singer’s current renewal of the Superman movie franchise, Superman Returns, is as eager as its predecessors to point out these similarities, less out of any new observations it has to offer on the subject than out of the shrewd recognition that at this moment in Hollywood, Jesus sells.
Hence we are treated to a Passion-like flogging of Superman at the hands (or rather toes) of Lex Luthor’s goons, an obvious crucifix pose as a wounded Superman plummets to Earth from outer space, and some corny dialogue that almost begs to be redeemed with some kind of generous religious gloss. E.g.: LOIS LANE: So, I’ll see you around? SUPERMAN: Yeah. I’m always around.
Substitute Mary Magdalene and Christ in this exchange and you have the comfort of the Resurrection translated for the disaffected and inarticulate Post-9/11 generation.
A more profitable result might have been achieved had the producers, screenwriters, and other aspiring evangelists behind this movie suppressed their desire to worship and considered instead the significant differences between Superman and Christ.
For example: Jesus’ “superpowers” are mostly curative, and did not include voluntary flight, heat-searing vision, or inflated physical strength (or at least he did not so abuse his potential during his short life).
Superman’s powers consist almost entirely of physical advantages. So why can’t we have a truly Nietzschean Superman movie, in which the Man of Steel is unbound by pious constraints and free to beat and pummel all his human inferiors into submission?
I think audiences have had enough vicarious nerd power fantasies. Bring on the abuse!
– Jonathan Adams