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"The Break-Up" & "Superman Returns" 

            In "The Break-Up," Gary Grobowski (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Anniston) meet in an unconventional way (he hits on her during a Cubs game while she's on a date with someone else), and their sweet romance is depicted with snapshots while the opening credits are rolling.  Then we begin with "The Breakup" and pretty much spend the whole movie watching this couple's relationship disintegrate.  He asks her if he can relax for a while (that is, play video games) after the company leaves, she wants him to help with the dishes, he wants to do them tomorrow, she doesn't want to wake up to a dirty kitchen, finally he begrudgingly acquiesces, but by then she's insisting that he want to do the dishes with her, to which he replies, "Why would I want to do dishes?"

            It goes downhill from there.  He starts sleeping on the couch and introduces a pool table to the living room.  She's holed up the bedroom.  They both get bad advice from well-meaning "friends":  his telling him to stand his ground and take control of his life;  hers telling her to date others to make him jealous.  By now they both seem to be boxed into adversarial roles, and they fight constantly.  We're uncomfortable watching it, even while a part of us wants them to somehow figure out how to let go of their prideful bravado and learn how to reconcile.  They need a Savior, but there is no one around who cares enough to redeem them, or their relationship.  At the end, it's a pretty empty feeling, being alone, and pretending it's OK.

            In "Superman Returns," Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), star reporter for "The Daily Planet," has won a Pulitzer with her editorial article saying "Good Riddance" to Superman, proudly proclaiming,  "The world doesn't need a savior."  It seems Superman (Brandon Routh) took off for a few years for some personal intergalactic travel, in order to investigate reports that astronomers had found remnants of his home planet, Krypton.  When he returns from his extraterrestrial sabbatical, things are different at The Daily Planet.  Lois Lane has married Chief White's son.  They have a little boy.  Though Clark Kent gets his job back, things aren't the same with Lois and Superman.  But her studied indifference implies some hidden depth of feeling which he has difficulty interpreting.  And just when we think this one is going to be like "The Breakup," a catastrophic event intervenes, in the form of the reappearance of the arch-villain Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey).  His nefarious plot to rule the world can only be foiled by a Superman whose vulnerabilities are exposed, but also becomes downright Messianic.

            Let's see, ordinary-looking man possesses superhuman abilities, and utilizes them to help and rescue people.  His father, unseen by others, communicates with him from another dimension, telling him about his responsibility to the world of mortals.  There are lingering questions about origin, parentage, and legacy.  The would-be superhero is captured, beaten, and left for dead.  But wait, there's an unexpected resuscitation, and a glorious re-appearance, during which the dreaded evil is exiled forever.  And all through the transcendent power of love.  Wow, could we possibly be any more Christological?  Well, perhaps if there were some memorable teachings (there aren't), or some developing disciples (hint:  think of The Da Vinci Code). 

            OK, so it's all comic-book melodrama, and the horned-rim glasses hardly represent a realistic disguise, but there is still some subtlety to enjoy.  Lex Luthor's girlfriend, Kitty (Parker Posey) plays the dumb blonde who has more heart---and gumption---than she knew herself.  Richard White (James Marsden), Lois Lane's husband, realizes that his wife has not completely steeled herself to The Man of Steel, and he's willing to make allowances because of his love for her (think about Mary's husband, Joseph).  Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) understands that her son was a gift from above, and loves him even while acknowledging that he is not really her own, but rather belongs to the world (think about Mary's love for Jesus).  And then there's Superman himself, initially invincible, and therefore aloof.  But later, not so impervious to pain,  the empathy feels like something genuinely human, and he's more likable for it. 

            Yes, Lois, the world does need saving.  And yes, Gary and Brooke, so do we.  Even if we won't admit it.

 

Questions For Discussion:

1)  Do you think the world needs saving?

2)  Do you think you need saving?

3)  How is Jesus like Superman, and how is Jesus not like Superman?

4)  Is a romance always worth saving?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas