Tuesday, July 17, 2007


One of the good things about being in Toastmasters is being able to give presentations that relate to your interests, within reason, of course. Last night, for the manual I'm working from, it was time for me to present a monodrama. Thankfully, unlike my previous attempt at this assignment, it was well received by the smaller than usual audience.

Basically you're required to play a character who gives a soliloquy or addresses another character. In my younger years, Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) were among my favourite movies, as they are today. The less said about Superman III (1983) and IV (1987) the better. To make it fun for myself, I decided to present the sequence from the first film where Superman's father, Jor-El, played by Marlon Brando, addresses his son. The dialogue was adapted from a draft of the original screenplay I found online and from the 2001 DVD release of the film.

The story goes that Jor-El sent his infant son to Earth in a spacecraft to escape the destruction of his homeworld, Krypton. Two years later, his spacecraft crashes in a wheat field outside the small American town of Smallville. There he was discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who are wheat farmers. Naming him Clark, they take the child in and raise him as their own son. Clark grows up knowing that he is far more than a farm boy. He has been sent to Earth for reason, but he doesn't know where he is really from, and what that reason is.

Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, Clark awakes one morning to discover a mysterious green crystal hidden in his barn. This was sent along with him by his father. He heads for the Artic, and uses this crystal to build his Fortress of Solitude. Inside, he finds a control panel, which activates a holographic recorded simulation of his father, who reveals to him his true heritage as the last survivor of the planet Krypton, and his reason for being on Earth. He learns that his purpose is to use his great powers to sacrificially serve and protect humankind.

Whilst this wasn't necessarily intended by the filmmakers, when I saw these films again as an adult, I couldn't help but notice that they had a Biblical subtext to them. To an extent, this element was also retained in last year's Superman Returns. Superman is almost a Messianic figure, giving of himself for the greater good of all humanity. In Superman II, he faces and defeats his greatest enemy, General Zod, who with his thirst for absolute power, corresponds with popular notions of the Antichrist, as described in some schools of thought in eschatology.


Kitty Cheng said...

sounds interesting. I also see something like that in Spiderman ;)

Anonymous said...

Is it true that one of the writers for these comics is a Christian? This would explain the Christian theme found in some of the comics. Although I have yet to see it in Batman...LOL Sorry Glen


James Garth said...

Superman Returns was a solid 4 star movie in my opinion. I saw it with a few mates who weren't impressed by it at all, but I suspect that's because they didn't pick up on all the wonderful Messianic references and imagery. This was a warm, good-hearted film with some spectacular special effects.

Ross McPhee said...

Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, Superman's creators, were Jewish, so it has been suggested that this is where Superman's Messianic subtext came from.

James, I agree. Superman Returns was everything I expected, especially since it followed the continuity of the first two films, as if 3 and 4 were never made, which is a good thing. In my opinion, Bryan Singer did an excellent job. As with X-Men, he respected the character, the fans, and the source material.

Glen O'Brien said...

For a fascinating read on the guys who created Superman and the American comic book art form in general you can't go past the Eisner Award-winning, "Men of Tomorrow" by Gerard Jones. Neither Seigel nor Shuster were religious so the messianic themes in their creation were latent and unconscious. It was probably Richard Donner who is responsible for the more overtly Christological themes of the later incarnation of the Man of Steel followed through on even more explicitly in Singer's film. There are a quite a few Christians in the comics field (and in comic book movies - Ralph Winter producer of X-Men and Fantastic Four is a committed Christian) and even those who aren't believers often use religious themes probably because they have exactly the right mythic qualities needed to tell a good story. As for the Batman, he is a kind of avenging angel, with an inner stoic untouchable goodness, an angel of the Lord taking vengeance on all those who do evil, the guardian and protector of Gotham. The death of his parents could have driven him insane, leaving him bitter, twisted and self pitying. Instead it placed within him a desire to right the wrongs of this world and protect the innocent so that no one else would have to suffer as he has. Such a "use" of tragedy is possible only by forces beyond ourselves, only by the transforming power of grace. Also, when he punches bad guys it makes sounds like "Bop!" "Bam!" and "Pow!" which is pretty cool.

Ross McPhee said...

Moreland City libraries carry that book. I must borrow it some time. It sounds like a fascinating read.