X-Men: Days of Future Past
I really enjoyed this film. But I’ve kept up with the X-Men “franchise” over the years, kinda, and have some familiarity with the characters, and I fear that for the un-initiated, it’s going to be as potentially confusing as…..a time travel movie.
Oh, and I did I mention that this is also a time travel movie?
What I liked about it, from a religious perspective, is that they were completely unafraid to talk about great theological stuff like determinism, predestination, backsliding, and discerning your sense of calling. Of course, they aren’t talking about spirituality at all. Or are they?
All of the X-Men have particular individual gifts, which they’ve all decided can be used to combat evil, and enhance the greater good. In fact, they’ve so developed their extraordinary gifts that they’ve essentially become mutants; something greater than merely human (see “The Nephilim” of Genesis 6:4---though the recent movie “Noah” did something quite different with them).
So Storm ( Halle Berry ) can conjure up rain, thunder, and lightning faster than you can say “Elijah the Prophet.” Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) can disguise herself so well that nobody even recognizes her (see David acting the madman to escape the Philistines). Hank (Nicholas Hoult) can, in a Samson-like rage, turn himself into an invincible Beast on the battlefield. Quicksilver is so fast that, Isaiah-like, he can make time stand still. Well, you get the idea. The Brainiac of the group is Professor Xavier, but, Saul-like, he struggles with depression as a young man (played by James McAvoy) , and also suffers the self-doubt of the one who is head and shoulders above everyone else (in this case intellectually), and to whom everybody looks for leadership. So, the older Professor Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) has to send someone back in time to convince his younger self to buck up and accept his serious responsibilities. Or else the world as they all know it might come crashing down around them.
Yes, there’s also a humanistic aspect here of being very afraid of robotics. The “sentinel” warrior-droids designed to protect us can become so sophisticated that the servants wind up becoming the masters. And not only do they have no weaknesses, they have no conscience, either. And can’t be persuaded to change course, because they’re not programmed to make difficult choices. Ah, yes, repentance, in the literal sense, is here displayed as part of the essence of what makes us human: to admit that our current course just might be in error, and we need to turn things around and go in the other direction.
So, is our future fixed, or can we act in such a way now to re-shape it? Can we call upon our better selves to overcome our self-indulgent selves? Can we inspire/persuade/exhort others to get on board with us, and for those who choose not to, are we sensitive and mature enough to allow them an honorable out, with their dignity intact? And will we choose to use what gifts we do have for the greater good, or instead bury our talent in the ground, afraid to risk putting it to work for fear that we don’t know for certain what the outcome will be?
Yeah, it’s comic book stuff. But it has amazing depth, really. Oh, and a lot of flash-bang graphic imaging. Not to mention a spot-on Richard Nixon impersonation. And who says saving the world from our short-sighted selves isn’t theological?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas