Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Gospel In Batman Versus Superman

The Gospel In
Batman V Superman

I have just seen Batman Versus Superman and I left the theatre a little stunned. After seeing all the internet noise about how bad this movie was, I was stunned that it was so good! But I was more stunned by the deep profundity that the movie explored and the spectacular job it did in introducing viewers to one of the most important questions any human being can ask: Who and what is “God”? Could Batman V Superman be the greatest Christian Apologetic Supposal since The Chronicles of Narnia? 

I can understand why so many reviewers have given this movie such negative feedback. It’s not light. In fact, it’s heavy. Most movie consumers want to be amused rather than provoked to muse. But I’m not like most movie consumers. I rarely watch a movie just once and I often watch a movie at least three times. 
“I didn’t see it Lois, because I wasn’t looking!”
Kal-El (Superman's real name), stated in Batman V Superman

The Undeniable Theme Of
Batman V Superman
When the Jewish creators of Superman, Jeremiah Siegel and Joseph Shuster, invested into their original comic-book character the long held hopes that many Jewish people believed the Messiah would possess, they inadvertently created a very Christ-like figure. 
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. All that I have, all that I've learned, everything I feel... all this, and more, I... I bequeath you, my son. 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…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.
Jor-El’s last speech to his son, Kal-El (“Superman”)
From the outset of Batman Versus Superman, the theme is made abundantly clear (and perhaps this is why so many reviewers have disliked the movie?). Who and what is God? After all, Kal-El (which in Hebrew roughly translates to Voice of God with “El” meaning ‘God’) possesses many godlike qualities. Does the existence of Superman prove or disprove God? the movie asks. The are numerous glimpses of TV talkshows where this question is shown to be all abuzz around the world. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and host of the Startalk radio show, is interviewed discussing his reasons why the existence of Superman proves Darwinian Evolution and that there is no God. Putting aside that none of DeGrasse Tyson’s comments are actually scientific (since he is dabbling in Philosophical speculation) the fact that a scientist is stating that this proves there can not be a God sounds like scientific fact. DeGrasse Tyson’s comments reminded me of the quip, Only that which can be proven mathematically or scientifically can be considered true fails its own standard of truthfulness (since that statement is neither mathematical or scientific!). Perhaps Zack Snyder, the Director of the movie, wanted his audience to realise this.

The world is turning against the once beloved Superman. There is a Senate Enquiry being conducted into Superman’s role and lack of accountability. The media are beginning to question Superman’s morality especially after he took on General Zod and in the process hundreds of innocent lives in the twin cities of Metropolis and Gotham died collaterally. Questions are being asked, like: Why does only rescue some? And add into this cauldron the contribution of someone whose name sounds remarkably like Lucifer - Lex Luther - and we end up with an uncanny Christ-like scenario where the once adoring crowds of Jesus suddenly turned and screamed for His execution. 

Batman is presented as a very Apostle-Paul-like character. He misunderstands Kal-El and is bewildered by those who support him. He sets out to destroy him in much the same way that Saul of Tarsus set out to destroy the Christ of Christians. Just as the Apostle Paul came to realise who Jesus really was, so does Bruce Wayne. In fact, he realises that they have much in common. But in the meantime, Batman must employ forces beyond this world to reduce Superman to the status of a mere mortal human being. Just when victory was within his grasp, his eyes are opened (in the movie, in a highly symbolic fashion, his eyes literally are uncovered) and he sees Superman as the answer not the problem. 

¶ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
John 11:5

Martha Kent is shown throughout the movie as a very devout woman who prominently wears a Christian Cross around her neck. She becomes pivotal to the plot of this movie. This is the point in the movie when we realise that both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent were both orphans. While Bruce Wayne grew up bitter and vengeful after the murder of his mother, Martha, Clark Kent enjoyed a fostered childhood being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Just as with the Biblical Martha, who was always busy preparing and serving meals (Luke 12:40) we meet Martha Kent in this movie busy serving in a café.
Lex Luthor: See, what we call ‘God’ depends upon our tribe, Clark, Joe, 'cause God is tribal; God takes sides! No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy's fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has employed some of the derelict Krypton Spacecraft technology to clone/reconstruct General Zod into the arch-enemy of Superman. This monstrous creature was seeded by Lex Luther’s own blood and is determined to destroy Superman. 
Lex Luthor: If man won't kill God, the Devil will do it!

He is ten times everything Superman is - except in virtue and the pursuit of justice. The movie culminates with this monster delivering Superman a very Christ-like end which simultaneously marks its own end. As the lifeless body of Superman is lowered down from the Golgotha-like mound (with two Christian crosses in the top left of the rubble), the cape of Kal-El becomes a shroud as his now beloved disciple, Batman, and the woman he loved, Lois, attend to him. 
Bruce Wayne: You don't know me, but I've known a few women like you.
Diana Prince: Oh, I don't think you've ever known a woman like me.

It is at this point that we have been introduced to an angelic creature who has taken on human form, Diana Prince. She uses “invisible” weaponry and seemingly has just as much power as Superman. By this stage, we have already learned that she has been interacting with humans for centuries and at one point could read Bruce Wayne’s mind.
¶ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:11

C.S. Lewis coined the term, A Supposal, to describe his Chronicles of Narnia. Suppose, he reasoned, if God had created another world where there were talking animals, real-life mythical creatures, and humans. How would appear to them. He supposed the answer to this as the Chronicles of Narnia. While not every detail in the Narnia saga perfectly and tidily parallels the Gospel, it’s remarkable just how much of it beautifully illustrates Gospel truths. I suppose the Batman Vs Superman story is similar. It certainly doesn’t perfectly parallel the Gospel, but it too is remarkable just how much of it is a dramatic illustration of the Gospel that also addresses how we understand the key claims of the Sacred Script. This is perhaps not surprising since any good story is usually just a shadow of The Story of how God made the world, mankind rebelled, God made a way of salvation by sending His Son as our Saviour, and how this mission of eternal justice is now administered by His servants who must likewise step up and become heroes. 

Pastor Andrew Corbett, 13th April 2016

Pastor of Legana Christian Church, Tasmania


  1. Great analysis Andrew. Like you, I loved the movie, and was deeply moved by the spiritual analogy. It was very fitting that I saw this movie on Good Friday.

    Comparing Bruce Wayne to Paul is something that didn't occur to me.

    Props to Warner Bros. and DC for creating a deep and thoughtful movie that explores themes such as this, rather than just making a cookie-cutter copy of Marvel's films (which I also enjoy for different reasons).