By Michael Parnell
The X-Men are unique in the superhero genre. They are hated and hunted, yet they do acts of heroism to save humanity.
X-Men have powers because of genetic mutation. Some powers are concealed and the hero looks normal. Other powers cause the hero’s visage and physical form to look different than human.
These powers cause fear in “regular humans,” giving rise to people like Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in the latest film of the franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Trask is a weapon designer who believes mutants pose a real threat to normal humans. Consequently, he designs a robot army called the Sentinels which have the ability to identify and find mutants living among humans.
The movie begins many years in the future. A war is being waged between mutants and Sentinels, but normal humans are caught up in the fight. The Sentinels not only are exterminating mutants but also normal humans who may have mutant children. It has become a genocide of nearly all humans.
Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) devises a way to end the war, but it will take sending someone back in time to stop the development of the Sentinels. He and former enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) convince Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to go back to 1973. Logan is to find Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and keep her from killing Trask — the event that caused the development and deployment of the Sentinels now plaguing the future.
Logan is given instructions to find the Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) of 1973 and get their aid. The problem is that Xavier and Magneto are at that time bitter enemies. Magneto once worked with Charles, but now they have nothing but bad feelings for each other.
Logan also finds that Xavier is a drunk who has lost his way. Xavier believed that the mutants, the X-Men, should be a force for good for the sake of all humankind but events in the near past have embittered him. He now finds solace in a bottle.
Magneto, who is believed to have aided in the Kennedy assassination, is being held in a special cell below the Pentagon.
Logan has to get Xavier to believe again and spring Magneto from the most secure place on earth. This he has to do before he can get to the mission at hand.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the perfect summer movie. It provides a great story, well paced and well acted, and will keep people entertained throughout.
As a comic book fan, I feel this is a great example of the translation of source material to the screen. It does not get all of the source material exactly right, but it does not mess with the formula.
The movie provides an opportunity for discussion about prejudice. Do we to want to marginalize those who are different from us? What are we do with those who do not look like us or act like us?
Another level of discussion is prompted by the nature of Xavier’s response to this prejudice. A key part of the story is the need for the younger Xavier to find hope again. That hope that becomes the catalyst the X-Men use to fight for all humanity, both mutant and non-mutant. Without that hope, the future from which Logan came will be darker.
There is a deep well of thought in the idea that the one who is persecuted rises up and blesses those who persecute. Humans need the aid of the mutants, despite human hatred.
It is that hatred which creates a clear dichotomy between Xavier and Magneto. Xavier believes that humans are flawed and are capable of doing all manner of wrong toward mutantkind. Yet Xavier also believes in the need of offering help in spite of the wrong inflicted. Magneto, on the other hand, believes that humans are evil, will remain evil and will always try to subjugate mutants. This means humans need to be destroyed or subjugated.
This easily allows for discussion about the theology of sin and the nature of humanity. Are humans flawed and sinful without any good or is there something worthwhile within them?
Again, this is a great summer movie, easily used to discuss key elements of the Christian faith.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.
Directed by Bryan Singer. Written by Simon Kinberg
With: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Xavier), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), James McAvoy (Young Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Young Magneto)