As most of you know, it is hard for me to write an unbiased review about any superhero movie. Either I go in with too many expectations, get my hopes dashed, and kick dirt all the way home while calling for the coming of Christ…or I see the movie seventeen more times before I even considering sharing my thoughts with others. You must understand, there were only three career possibilities for me since the night I was conceived: pastor, country music singer, or superhero. In the interest of full disclosure, I almost chose the last.

Though my license tag says BATMAN3, Superman is my first love (he just does not have a cool car that I could be expected to name mine after, like Batman). Ever since I was six years old, when the first Superman came out, my imagination has been consumed with Kal-El’s greatness in a world that did not deserve such grace. After all, who can really do what Superman can? No one in the entire comic world, DC or Marvel, can compare. The legend of Superman has, at times, had to blush at his seeming perfection; through time, his creators have had to insert ways for this immortal to (possibly) fall. After all, when you have a guy who can displace entire planets, who is really going to serve as a legitimate foil for his powers? But the big screen has never seen a Superman who lets loose. The closest yet has come in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, where Superman finally breaks free from his cardboard box and punches Dark Side through an entire city. But even then, they held back the Man of Steel’s power to make it interesting.

Let me start with this: This is not your mom’s and dad’s Superman.

This is Superman in the raw. Now, don’t get bent out of shape, apart from a few incidentals here and there (and these will probably be spoiled by people in the comments who blast me for calling these “incidentals,” so don’t read them if you don’t want to know), the boy scout we all know and love is still there. But it is darker. It is not that Superman himself is darker, but this movie re-imagines Superman and reads between lines that often get left unexplored (except for those of us who watched Smallville). You enter into the struggle of Superman’s two sides at a deeper level than any previous movie. You may find yourself saying a silent prayer for Clark as he attempts to overcome the reality of his power and let bullies skate without witnessing his wrath. 

Because of the depth of character they develop for Clark, this Superman proves to be every bit as good as any we have seen. Henry Cavill is perfect for this role. No slight to the original portrayer of the big screen superhero, Christopher Reeve, but I think we finally have someone who can handle the depth to which Superman needs to go. (And, thank God, Cavill does not try to be Reeve). His look and stature are fitting for the Man of Steel. His character has yet to be rounded out, but starting with this level of emotional depth, it only gets easier. Cavill is going to be donning the cape for a while and I can’t wait to see what they do with him as the explore different aspects of his character.

This darkness is extended into the character of Zod. Zod, Zod, Zod… How do I do justice to Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Zod? It is not that he overshadows Terrence Stamp (Zod in the 1980 Superman), it’s that he digs underneath him (just as Henry Cavill does with Superman), exploring the unexplored aspects of his character. In the end, I hate to say it, you really empathize with Zod. He is the best villian, far and away, of any Superman movie yet (sorry, Gene).

Russell Crowe is out of this world as Jor El (Superman’s real father)—literally, out of this world. His role was much larger than I expected and I think you will be very pleased to see how Jor El’s contribution is mined out for the first quarter of the movie. Lois was on par, at best. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) was, unfortunately, hardly noticeable. But my biggest surprise was Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. They departed from the canon a bit with him (and where they did most was quite possibly my favorite part of the movie), but his role was so crucial to understanding why Superman was the way he was. The interplay between Superman and his “earthly” father creates the core of the emotional drama.

Don’t mistake this movie for Marvel. This is modern Nolan DC. It is not the action, laughter, action, laughter that you may be expecting. I was at the 12:01am showing so believe me, we were all willing to be moved in whatever direction the movie wanted to take us. But I remember only one time that anyone laughed, and, upon further thought, I don’t think we were supposed to. This is 2.5 hours of white-knuckling it, so be prepared. You may want to take a cab, as you might pass out immediately after this thrill ride is over. The special effects and utter destruction that take place may be quite disturbing to many but, let me tell you, this is the zenith of what Hollywood can do. I thought that pinnacle had been reached by Transformers, but let June 14, 2013 mark the end of this era. All other movies can only attempt what has been done by Zach Snyder. From now on, there can only be copycats.

Even though the darkness is present, I don’t think the mood or tone will serve for the hopeful marrying of Nolan’s Dark Knight with his Man of Steel. Though more down to earth than you might think, Man of Steel is just too other-worldly to imagine its eventual incorporation into a Justice League Movie. I am sorry. They will have to reboot Batman for that to happen.

Please understand, Superman movies are not easy to make. God give thick skin to anyone brave enough to attempt such a feat. After all, this is not some barely-known character like Iron Man or Thor, where whatever you pull off is more than expected. There are such high expectations for this movie both because of the grandeur of its 1978 predecessor (the father of all Superhero movies) and because Superman is so culturally well-known and loved that it is almost impossible to please people (especially me). So (and here comes the snapshot review) for those of us who have been waiting for Superman to punch his way out of that cardboard box, we finally have our hopes realized. For those of us who wanted the wrestling-with-himself-and-his-mission Clark, of CW’s Smallville, to somehow be presented to the world, this is it. This movie is no joke. I think I can safely say that this should be the best Superman you will ever see.

Besides saying thanks to Nolan and Synder for taking up this dangerous ball and putting on the big screen everything this Superman fan could have hoped for (with great expectations for what is coming), let me say thanks to them for not being shy about making Superman the Christ-figure he was meant to be (see more below) and for making Superman an American again! (You will see what I mean.)

Superman: Man of Steel Parallels to Christ

  • Jor El (El meaning “god”) sends his son Kal El to Earth to save humanity even though humanity does not deserve it.
  • It takes an alien righteousness to make us righteous.
  • Superman is given to parents (originally named Mary and Joseph) who raise him as their own.
  • Superman’s human earthly father dies early.
  • When Superman is 33 he travels to the “wilderness” (the arctic) to be qualified for his mission.
  • Superman is guided the entire time by Jor El, from whom he learns his mission.
  • Superman is of two natures (Kryptonian and Human).
  • Superman has two names, Kal El and Clark Kent, which finds perfect expression in one personification, Superman (Hypostatic Union)
  • Clark Kent is rejected and made fun of by peers.
  • Superman is continually tempted by the outside world.
  • Superman is nearly omnipotent with the power to destroy the humans who hate him, but does not ever use it for such a purpose.
  • The “S” on Superman’s chest can mean “Savior” (in Krypton is means hope).
  • The most overt of all: Jor El on the ship says to Superman: “You can save her Kal. You can save them all.” Then Superman lightly floats away with arms stretched out in the form of a cross.


Of course, there are many things that don’t parallel the Christ story, but this should at least give you a strong conviction that the producers of Man of Steel are not shying away from his Messianic parallels.

(And, just as a side note to all atheists: this cannot be used against the historicity of Christ (you know. . .  the parallels/myth thing?), so wipe the spit off your chin. Remember, it must come before the Christ-story.)

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    36 replies to "Superman: Man of Steel Review (Spoiler Free)"

    • M. Garcia

      If this is the best Superman movie I will ever see, then, wow I’m really disappointed. Saw the movie this morning at a 10:00 showing with a full theater. Although I agree with the parallels you point out, the movie fails on so many levels for me. The story for what it is doesn’t fully engage you. General Zod seems to have more screen time and is more passionate about his “purpose” than Superman. Now, I understand that “passion” in place of “purpose” can be boring at times but it can also take you engage and life you up. This movie on it’s face did none of that . I will say, that what the movie did do for me is realize that the story of Jesus can take on many mythologies and this Superman will indeed point people to the parallels you write about but at the cost of imagination and good story-telling.

      • C Michael Patton

        Well, it may not be the Superman the people deserve, but it is the one they need. Or, it may not be the Superman people want, but it is the one they deserve. OR, (wait a minute) . . . this is the Superman people hope they deserve, but don’t want or need.

    • C Michael Patton

      You have to think of this in terms of how Nolan does things and thinks into the future. The Superman, in this movie, is presented as a very definite work in development. He is not everything his mythology allows yet. He really is becoming Superman. Zod, as he said, was born and bred to be what he is so we would expect a more defined passion from him. Superman is struggling for a definition of “home.”

    • C Michael Patton

      And who he is.

    • I am closer to the myth and spiritual parallels of C.S. Lewis’s Narnian world…the enchanted world of Lewis’s Chronicles! Good old Aslan, the Lion King of the land of Narnia and of all its creatures, the son of the Emperor-beyond the Sea, true beast and the king of beasts, the highest king over all high kings, and the as-yet-unrecognized good and compassionate Lord of all! 😉

    • Btw, is this not closer to the recourse to Platonic doctrine and imagery? For Plato, the human soul in its depths knows that its present bodily existence is a fall from a sunny overworld of truth into a shadowy underwold of shifting appearances!

    • William Birch

      This is a great review, Michael, and I loved the movie — absolutely loved it. I didn’t know what to expect; but, as you stated, the bar was already set way high due to the hero we already know and love. Snyder and Nolan took it to a new high — a new high I didn’t think they could pull off.

    • anonymous

      “pastor, country music singer, or superhero…I almost chose the latter”

      may your children grant to you as this for father’s day tomorrow!

    • Isaiah

      Very well spoken Michael. I guess we are part of the fanboy fraternity as well as the family of the Son.

      Qohelet wipes the floor with Plato and his Onians.

    • C Michael Patton

      “I have my helmet of legalism and breastplate of self righteousness firmly in place boys n girls so you may fire when ready.”

      Good. But no need for a cup of manliness. You don’t need it. KABOOOM! 🙂

    • Matt H

      don’t know how serious you were being Greg, or if you were merely bringing it up because you figured someone would.

      But to my mind I think these ideas and parallels can be beneficial as we are coming to our are even in faith. The caveat of course being that we absolutely should not idolize or worship such characters.

      But the idea of myth and story pointing to or giving hints at a one ultimately true Story is very valid, and was a driving force behind the conversion of C.S. Lewis as well as many others through history I’m sure.

    • Bruce Meyer

      Spoiler alert, in my comments.
      I LOVED how they treated Pete Ross. They let country bumpkin kid friends remain that way. The way it oughta be.
      Loved how they incorporated the Professor, and the Kryptonian takeover attempts of the past few years of the comics.
      One of Superman’s greatest weaknesses is his unwillingness to kill for any purpose or cause whatsoever. He won’t kill the Joker in any story line except that online one, maybe, or Lex or anyone. Only the undead and machines who impersonate humans.
      Now I can imagine little boys jumping off the porch with a towel around their necks, and grabbing the cat to treat it like Zod.

    • Matt H

      I think the God we see from the Bible clearly reveals himself to people in whatever way He sees fit.

      Whether that’s through the evidence of his creation (so that man might be without excuse), or via a talking donkey, or a burning bush.

      There is of course evidence of people going to far by then worshiping or idolizing creations throughout history and in the Bible itself

    • John Schneider

      Thanks for the well worded elaborate post. I look forward to eventually seeing the film. I confess I an weary of action films. I prefer character development and conversation to explosions and destruction of matter, though I do look forward, conversely to the end of the world as we know it but that’s a different topic altogether. I think the Lord appreciates us exploring the bounds of good vs evil in stories and culture and can use things that some people wouldn’t dream of Him using to His glory – my salvation is the product of one such thing.

    • Matt H

      The scripture that most readily comes to mind here is the Pharisee praying out loud, thanking God that he isn’t tripped up in the same sins as all the poor wretches around him…

      You are correct in that we should test things against the scripture. Jesus wasn’t too big on legalism or self- righteousness.

    • Dave Z

      Am I the only one who doesn’t think portraying pagan comic book “super” heroes as messianic Christ like saviors is pleasing to the Lord? Am I also the only one who suspects that our God may be even less pleased by those calling themselves by His name supporting it? Am I really all alone here?

      Dude, one word: Parable.

    • Matt H

      We both know that I won’t be able to produce a scripture specific enough for you. I wholeheartedly agree that God is against His divine attributes being attributed to other things.

      But do you really think that is what is going on here? Believers don’t see Superman as being God, not do we worship him. He is a fictional character who’s story happens to have some parallels to Jesus.

      Scripture does point to all creation pointing to God so that man is without excuse, God has continually chosen to reveal and communicate himself in ways that we would be shocked at. The burning bush, Balaam’s donkey. Jesus himself spoke in parables comparing himself to a shepard.

      It was Gods perfect will to create us in His image. So while we are terrible, imperfect shadows of Him, there is a sense in His having blessed the idea of us having a better sense of him through the use of less then perfect representations.

    • Matt H

      If I may turn things back to you Greg. Please provide your scriptural smoking gun that informs your position.

      You seem to be indicating that a fictional story that has a character in it to which messianic parallels can be drawn must be a foul act of the devil to draw unbelievers and believes into believing and worship ping that character…

      The God you find in the Bible could not be pleased with a fictional story causing believers and unbelievers alike to take greater interest in Him? funny, because my bible indicates that He is a pretty big fan of stories.

      You think people are really treating Superman like Jesus? straight-face honest truth?

      We are in no way supplementing the Bible with Superman, or indicating anything other than the parallels got us thinking of Jesus.

      Why so serious? you’re taking things to the point of absurdity


    • C Michael Patton

      One final Christ analogy that I somehow missed that is the most overt of all others in the movie.

      Jor El on the ship says to Superman: “You can save her Kal. You can save them all.” Then Superman lightly floats away with arms stretched out in the form of a cross.

      I don’t know what Nolan and Synder were thinking, but I am so glad that they chose the Christ-figure and stuck to it without going postmodern on us. This movie is saturated with Biblical analogies and Biblical analogies alone (as far as the spiritual aspect is concerned).

      Beyond amazing was this film. I hope that Christians everywhere will support this with great delight rather than picking it apart.

    • Matt H

      K… thanks for the links to reviews

      recognizing parallels in a fictional story has to do a verbal/logical/theological Olympic level gymnastics to get to ” Attributing the divine creator’s attributes” to a fictional character.

      We can see and comment on somebody’s sacrifice, but Jesus gave the ultimate, perfect sacrifice… the logical conclusion you are espousing would mean that we wouldn’t be able to call anything sacrifice except for Christ’s.

    • C Michael Patton

      Probably not the best direction to take this post. There are plenty of forums that criticize such things all over. Just look up something like “C.S. Lewis” along with “Satanic” or something like that.

      But I want to keep this post clean. A lot of people are reading this review from the outside world as Google ranks these kind of things highly on our site. The last thing I want is to have people who need Christ come here and see Christians bickering about such a thing. So forgive me as I won’t allow this today.

    • Matt H

      I really would love to see the scripture backing up your perspective Greg.

      God can’t use something from a pagan source for his glory?

      No, I guess I don’t have a problem with fictional stories having fictional messianic characters in them whose origin and mission stories are similar to Jesus in many ways.

      We can compare many characters to Jesus, but they all fall short of His perfection.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “The special effects and utter destruction that take place may be quite disturbing to many but, let me tell you, this is the zenith of what Hollywood can do. I thought that pinnacle had been reached by Transformers, but let June 14, 2013 mark the end of this era. All other movies can only attempt what has been done by Zach Snyder. From now on, there can only be copycats.”

      I don’t know about that. I saw the preview for Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” before watching “Man of Steel” and I thought the special effects and utter destruction that I saw in those previews exceeds even that of “Man of Steel.”

      P.S. Never was a huge fan of Superman because he was too powerful. Stronger than the Hulk, just as fast as the Flash, flies faster than Ironman, it’s just too ridiculous. No wonder Spiderman was so much more popular than Superman.

    • tory green

      Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I was getting a whole trinity vibe in the movie, real jorel- kal-el son of jorel- ghost jorel from the ship….

    • Staircaseghost

      I wouldn’t be too worried about it, Greg.

      The narratives of this movie and of the gospels are not identical in every detail, and if apologists have taught me one thing, it’s that if two stories are not identical in every detail, why then, there’s no parallel there at all.

    • RDavid

      Truth Unites
      “Never was a huge fan of Superman because he was too powerful. Stronger than the Hulk, just as fast as the Flash, flies faster than Ironman, it’s just too ridiculous. No wonder Spiderman was so much more popular than Superman.”

      I totally agree. I remember when they had Superman and Flash tie, and how that seemed over-the-top. In trying to outdo the abilities of others, it made Superman less interesting.

      I saw the movie today, and for a Superman movie it was the best one yet. However, I still find The Avengers gang and Spiderman characters and movies more interesting and entertaining. I am surprised they are rushing the Justice League movie for release in 2015.

      Looking forward to Thor this fall and Captain America next year.

    • Missy M

      The story failed- started strong but immediately went flat after Clark puts on the uniform and switches to CGI and the chemistry between Lois and Superman/Clark failed, Costner and Lane were right choices, though. Zod was a clod, no pedigree, portrayed like a beast not a ruthless military commander. And you seem still led about by your emotions and sentiment which explains your erratic theological and personal expression.

    • Josh

      Michael, you’ve missed an important theological point. One which is paradoxical to your own theological position and your affirmation and admiration of Superman…

      Which my flawless and unquestionable and non-simplistic representation of the two systems will reveal:

      Zod is self determined to be who he is (Calvinistic) = Bad Guy

      Superman represents free will to chose how to live his life (Arminian) = Good

      Thus the underlying theme of the movie is that Arminians represents the good guys and Calvinists represents the bad guys.

      I can’t believe you missed this in your analysis…

      Now the question remains:

      How to you reconcile this with your theology?!

    • David

      Man of Steel: The Gospel of Jesus Christ

      Superman As Super Savior
      A quiz…

      Super Hero Series – Superman – John Van Sloten
      September 25, 2005

      Superheroes Series – What Makes Superman Super? (Apr 29, 2007)
      Pastor Albert Chu

      Man of Steel resources

    • Bishop

      Or… one of the first books I recall about this subject.

      Just a side note: People like Michael bring people to your faith narrative by being relevant. People like Greg and the nonsense they spout that any fifth grader in a liberal Baptist Sunday School could refute are the reason why people like me continue to run the other way.

    • Andrea Candy

      “Let me say thanks to them for not being shy about making Superman the Christ-figure he was meant to be and for making Superman an American again!”

      Oh dear. Christ was meant to be an American?

      • C Michael Patton

        No. It says “and” making him an American. The conjunction “and” should communicate this. If I were going in the direction you suppose, I would have used the preposition “by” or something.

        I hope that this helps. Thanks for commenting.

    • Liza

      From a 52 year old female’s perspective, I never bought into the original Superman movie/s. Even though I thought they were fun, and Christopher Reeve good-looking, I found them to be super cheesy; the costume as well. The Brandon Routh one was a disaster.

      I was not really looking forward to MoS, and couldn’t picture Cavill in it, but went anyway as I’ve admired him from The Tudors (which subsequently led to Immortals, and yes, Cold Light of Day). At first viewing, I simply sat there and drooled at Cavill. The beginning seemed like an eternity before he showed up, and the last part fight sequences seemed unending.

      Second viewing, I thought HC nailed every scene perfectly, whether it be as Clark, Kal-El, or MoS. I will say he didn’t get enough screen time. Almost every actor was perfectly cast, esp the ones who played Zod, Lara, Faora – they looked other-worldly.

      I’ve seen it 5 times (yes, i’m hot for HC), and have to say Zack Snyder did a bang up job with this. Now I appreciate even the fight sequences, the CGI, and how Superman flies/floats/soars/thrusts without seeming cheesy. I can believe he is Superman.

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