X-Men: Days of Future Past – the Evolution of Superhero Movies

*the first part of the review will be spoiler free. Later, there will be minor spoilers but that section will be marked.

This past weekend X-Men: Days of Future Past released and I found it to be a beautiful evolution from where the mutant based movie franchise began in 2000. With that first movie it seemed little more than a vehicle to bring the beloved characters to life and in particular, Wolverine. That first movie was strong but so much has changed since then.

Since that first X-Men movie we’ve seen 3 Iron Man movies, what feels like 100 Spider-Man movies, 2 Thor films, 2 Captain America movies, 2 attempts at Hulk movies, and Avenger film, and more. At first, all of these comic movies felt like just a way to get an actor to put on the suit or cape and show how far special effects have come in creating the powers of these heroes but along the way something happened.

Storytelling.

Many don’t realize that it is the narrative for a lot of comic book nerds that brings them to a favorite hero or franchise.

After introducing the world to proper superhero films that infatuation wore off. The next step in the evolution of comic book movies would have to be solid storytelling. Many of the Marvel movies that have been released over the last decade have featured some strong writing.

X-Men: First Class and now Days of Future Past are stand outs for their writing and doing a lot of things right.

The franchise has progressed to a point where Wolverine now fits in the cast and doesn’t have to be at the front. Once, he was relied upon to sell tickets, now the cast and story around him has become central. Who would have thought that Raven/Mystique would become such a central character to the series? I’m guessing not Rebecca Romijn.

Another thing this movie did right is that it was able to undo some of the non-sense that happened in X-Men: the Last Stand. In a way, these last 2 movies have been a reboot of the franchise but it has been handled gracefully and without erasing the first trilogy. I’ve also read recently that this movie is a hand off of sorts. It should be the last we see of the original cast as the baton is being passed to the new crew led by James McAvoy as the new/younger Xavier.

This movie is also filled with lessons we can learn that point us back towards God.

It would be easy to write a blog post about the oppression that mutants received for being different.

There’s a lot of moral questions surrounding choice too. Do we have free will to choose? If coerced into making a decision are we really to blame? Can we look past morality to achieve a greater good?

But to me, at the heart of the movie and one of the most interesting spiritual take aways is the one of the most complex relationship across all comic movies – the one between Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).

Both want the same thing: peace for mutants. But they take opposite paths.

One is after it through peaceful methods and doesn’t believe that non-humans should have to sacrifice any rights so that mutants can have theirs as well.

The other is willing to sacrifice any and all non-mutants (and even mutants if it helps) and will bend or disregard morality for the purpose of the larger cause.

And these two characters are best friends and at times, on opposites sides and against each other. To see the friendship in the young Erik and Charles then to see them later in life trying to maintain and even reunite that friendship is beyond the normal good guy vs. always evil bad guy paradigm.

That friendship between these two who are so different should be inspiring to us and remind us of the relationships that Jesus had.

Our life has made it easier than ever to only associate with those who root for the same team as you do, lean the same political direction as you do, or have the same theology as you do.

If I can be completely honest for a moment, there I believe that there are Christians today who only love church culture and not Jesus himself. They enjoy the structure, the wholesomeness, and maybe even the “show” (many churches have created an event on Sundays more than a gathering of “the church” i.e. the people) but when it comes to following Jesus they miss the mark. They’ve fallen in love with a culture and not the center of that culture.

And so the people they hang out with speak, act, and think like they do.

The people on their social media feeds also think, speak, and act like they do.

They do not have any friends who are not like them.

But this is not how Jesus was at all.

This seems to fly in the face of Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28.19) and the fact that Jesus himself was called “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matthew 11.19) shows that he didn’t hang out exclusively with those who thought as he did. Yes, he spent time with his disciples training and teaching them, but he also had a mission to reach those who didn’t have a relationship with his Father.

But today, many Christians have no relationship with those who aren’t like them and think they are doing “the Lord’s work”. They want nothing to do with those people who are outside of their faith. I think it is because they do not know those people and if they did, they might find out that just because someone doesn’t follow Christ it doesn’t make them a mini-Hitler.

They can be decent people. People who love their families. People with good work ethics. People who want to learn and grow and help others. People with problems. People with difficult choices. People with souls.

In the movie, Charles and Erik were friends. If we just took the body of work of the two, it would be easy to label one “good guy” and the other “bad guy” but the characters didn’t see it that way. Because they were in a relationship together as friends.

When Christians separate themselves from non-Christians they are not only missing a major part of Jesus’ pattern he was teaching us but they also reduce real people with real emotions to “those people”.

The truth is, we cannot be a part of the Great Commission and help people find Jesus if we aren’t willing and ready to be friends with those who are different than we are.

The young Professor X teaches us a great deal about how to have a compassionate and meaningful relationship with someone who doesn’t agree completely with your ideology.

It won’t be easy, but no relationship is.

Now it is time for us to do the same.

Instead of hiding out and only being around those who are like us, instead of worshiping a culture instead of Jesus, why don’t we try loving the way Jesus loved? Why don’t we try living the way Jesus lived?

Who knows, you may some day get the privilege of being called a drunk or glutton too…just like Jesus.

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