Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great Scenes: "Man of Steel"

Today I am introducing a new kind of post that I'm going to start doing off and on called "Great Scenes."  Sometimes in a movie there is just that one scene that really sticks out and sums up the entire experience of that movie for you, and today's scene is no different.

I have recently had a complete 180 experience on this past Summer's Superman film, Man of Steel.  I have grown an actual fondness for it, and when I think back to a lot of the things I said about it last Summer, I feel really ashamed, so time to make up for it by looking at the greatest scene of Man of Steel.  

The crazy thing about Man of Steel is that in the midst of all the big, epic action scenes, the scene I found the most moving and spiritually affirming was quite possibly the quietest scene of the entire movie.

When General Zod shows up on Earth, asking Kal-El (aka Clark Kent/Superman) to turn himself in or he'll wreak havoc on humanity, Clark has yet to reveal himself to the world for fear of how people will react once they learn that an alien has been living among them for over thirty years.  In this scene, perhaps the most pivotal scene of the movie, Clark shows up at a Smallville church where the only person there is the priest, asking the priest for guidance on what to do next.

Over the 75 year history of Superman, there have been many biblical allegories attributed to him.  There is no denying that when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first created him that he was a modern allegory for Moses, seeing as how they were both Jewish kids who felt oppressed.  However, it wasn't really until the comic book writers of the Seventies and Eighties when they started to fashion Superman more as an allegory for Jesus, with the precipice reached in the Nineties' storyline featuring the death and resurrection of Superman.  Whether or not you choose to see Superman as a stand in for Moses or Jesus, there is no denying the spiritual context of this scene in the church.

Even after Clark has revealed to the priest that he is the alien that Zod is looking for, the priest hangs in there and tries to help Clark work through his thoughts and feelings.  Clark knows that he can't trust Zod, but at the same time, he doesn't think he can trust the humans either.  This is when the scene really takes shape, and it's when we finally get the classic Superman from the comic books.

The thing is, Superman could very easily have been a tyrant who took over our planet when he came to Earth.  It was the morals and sense of humanity instilled within him by his adoptive parents, the Kents, that made him the man he becomes.  In this moment when the priest tells Clark that he just has to take a leap of faith, it is when Superman once and for all chooses humanity over his Kryptonian heritage.  He has placed his faith and trust in a people with no idea how they might respond.

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent during the Church Scene

The overarching message of Man of Steel is all about hope and faith, and to me this scene exemplifies those themes perfectly.  Faith means believing in something that we may not see, and seeing Clark after this scene having complete and total trust in humanity is so emotionally powerful for me on a spiritual level.  If only we could be so brave and daring to continue believing when we aren't sure of the eventual outcome.  The humans are scared of Superman, when the Kryptonians attack Smallville, they fire their guns on Superman as well, and yet he doesn't fight them and continues to stick with that leap of faith he took.

For a big budget Summer blockbuster to include a scene such as the one in the church I think is genuinely shocking.  Very rarely is religion even portrayed in films such as these, and if it is, it's usually as a detriment to people who believe than it is to those who don't.  To see a film like this where the priest is not only shown as human, but also as a person with an actual message, it's genuinely fascinating to me, and it's why this was the greatest and most pivotal scene in Man of Steel.  Hey, even Superman needs some guidance from time-to-time.

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