Making Superman, Jesus and other iconic figures “relatable”

It’s something of a cliché for religion-minded pop-culture writers to talk about the parallels between Superman and Jesus, especially when there’s a new Superman movie in the works, but Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel, said something in one of the film’s newer promotional featurettes that got me thinking about the parallel from a slightly different angle than usual.

Specifically, Snyder described how the approach taken by producer Chris Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer would make Superman relevant to a 21st-century audience: “What Chris and David did was, ‘Let’s let the audience participate in the experience of being Superman, without breaking the things that make him Superman.’ They were able to sort of make him relatable, ground him and make him feel real.”

Two things came to mind on hearing this statement.

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Gods from outer space: the good, the bad and the silly

“He’ll be a god to them.” So says Jor-El, the father of Superman, as he sends his son to Earth in the latest trailer for Man of Steel.

In the immediate context, Jor-El seems to be referring primarily to the fact that his son will have powers that the other residents of Earth will not. But his voice-over, later in the trailer, goes on to speak in even more elevated terms of Superman as someone who will give humanity “an ideal to strive towards,” thereby allowing humans to “join [him] in the sun.” Lois Lane adds to the mythology, as it were, by noting that some people think of Superman as a “guardian angel”.

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Faith & film

The unexpected success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ proved that it’s no longer taboo to make faith-based entertainment and that there’s a huge Christian market just waiting to be explored. So it was only a matter of time before major corporations, who already own some of the biggest Christian book and music labels, turned their attention to film.

Sony Pictures – the studio that made The Da Vinci Code – also promotes Christian movies through its Provident Films label. They had a huge success last year with the low-budget sports movie Facing the Giants, which was produced by a church in Georgia for only $100,000 and went on to gross more than $10 million.

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