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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Five Christ Figures as Depicted in Science Fiction/Fantasy Movies

Published by Madison

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The use of a Christ figure is a concept that is not uncommon in literature, but this concept manifests itself in movies, too. Somethimes it’s obvious that a certain character is supposed to be representative of a messiah, and sometimes the subtlety of the character or his situation can lead to the depiction of a Christ figure by inference. Perhaps no genre of film includes Christ figures more often than science fiction/fantasy. After the jump, we take a look at five characters from science fiction/fantasy movies that you may or may not have realized were Christ figures:

Superman - Superman movies, particularly Superman Returns

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If you think about it, Superman is more of a Moses figure than a Christ figure, at least until his portrayal in Superman Returns. Created by a couple of Jewish guys (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Superman is like Moses in that they were both sent off from their homelands by their parents, and both grew up to lead the people in their new lands. Superman was sent from Krypton in a spacecraft, and Moses was sent to Egypt in a basket; Superman has helped lead and protect Earthings, while Moses led and protected the Israelites from the evil Pharoah.

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Superman, as the title of this article would imply, is also a Christ figure, particularly in Superman Returns. Aside from being about as morally pure as one can be, Superman possesses godlike abilities: Jesus could walk on water, something Superman could do as well. However, Earth’s reliance on Superman as a godlike savior is where the real parallel between Superman and Christ can be drawn. Like Christ, Superman was sent to Earth by his father to lead by example. Toward the end of the movie, Superman is stabbed in the side with a piece of kryptonite, a metaphor for Jesus’ stabbing during the Crucifixion. Later, after after hurling Lex Luthor’s continent into space, Superman falls to Earth in a pose that is unmistakenly that of Jesus on the cross. Finally, Superman wakes from a coma after three days, analogous to Christ’s “awakening” three days following his cricifixion. Director Bryan Singer has not hidden the fact that his version of Superman was intended to be a Christ figure.

Ellen Ripley - Alien 3

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One could argue that Ripley serves as a Christ figure to Newt in Aliens, but I think that’s a bit too much of a stretch. What does work, though, is Ripley as a Christ figure in David Fincher’s Alien 3. Ripley lands on a planet, the only human inhabitants of which are male prisoners and guards, and her sudden arrival and uniqueness spur heated religious debate and inner relection amongst the men. More significantly, Ripley sacrifices herself so that the Queen Alien growing inside of her will die, too. Hammering home the point that this sacrifice is analogous to Christ dying for the sins of humanity (with the Alien Queen representative of the sins), Ripley spreads her arms as she drops down into a large furnace, a pose easily recognizable as, once again, Christ on the cross. Also like Jesus, Ripley returns to life in another form (for Ripley, it’s as a clone) in Alien: Resurrection. If and when Jesus returns, let’s hope it’s not in a crappy, unnecessary sequel.

Robocop - Robocop

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Now, before you scoff at this suggestion, know that director Paul Verhoeven intended to portray Robocop as a Christ figure. If you look for the symbolism throughout the movie, it isn’t difficult to pick up on exactly what Verhoeven was thinking. Detroit, overrun with crime and corruption, desperately needs a savior. That savior arrives in the form of a cyborg, but his parallels to Christ are sprinkled throughout this incredibly violent movie. Officer Alex Murphy is brutally murdered, shot first in his hand, then his body, and eventually his head, symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion, with the headshot analogous to the crown of thorns. Murphy is resurrected in a new form - Robocop - and set to serve and guide the people who look to him as a savior. Toward the end of the movie, during Robocop’s final confrontation with Clarence Boddicker, Robocop can be seen walking on water, an obvious hat tip to the man J.C.

Neo - The Matrix Trilogy

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Look, if you saw the Matrix movies and still need an explanation as to how Neo fits the profile of a Christ figure, you probably have a double-digit I.Q. The Wachowskis portray Neo as a messianic figure without much subtlety. Neo is viewed as a godlike savior, able to do things in both the Matrix and the real world that no one else is capable of understanding, let alone doing. He is the sixth version of The One, implying that had he chosen to “reload” the Matrix, it would have been the seventh version, analogous to God creating the world in seven biblical days. Most notable is Neo’s self sacrifice for the benefit of mankind, a Christ-like deed that results in the familiar crucifixion pose we’ve already mentioned with regards to Superman and Ripley. Heck, even Agent Smith serves as an anti-Christ to Neo’s Christ, one of the many parallels to the Bible that saturate the Martix trilogy. Of all messianic figures in science fiction films, Neo has got to be the most obvious.

John Connor - The Terminator movies

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James Cameron’s Terminator is essentially a science-fiction spin on the Second Coming. In the future, machines attempt to enslave and destroy the human race, facing resistance from John Connor. Connor is clearly a savior for humanity - and like Jesus, a savior for which mankind is waiting - but his similarities to Jesus don’t end there. In a sense, and like Christ, Connor was born via immaculate conception. Sure, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese techincally fornicated, but Kyle came from the future and died almost immediately following his journey back in time, so it’s like he never really existed in the first place. That, coupled with mankind’s reliance on Connor to deliver them to salvation, makes Connor a pretty compelling Christ figure. And if you’re still not convined, the initials “J.C.” should do that trick; that’s not a coincidence.

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