“X-Men: Days of Future Past” returns to familiar franchise themes

X-Men Sentinels

Transformers

Noah’s “Watchers”

 

Amazing Spider Man 2 Rhino

Iron Man

 

 

Somehow, I think the Transformers franchise started a trend in “look” even to Noah’s prehistoric giants.

The violence inherent in all the images is more troublesome.

 

 

 

I have always liked the X-Men film franchise. This most recent installment, again directed by Bryan Singer, revisits themes of predestination and free will, courage and hope, intolerance of “the other”,  abuse of power, consequences of atomic bomb fallout (but you have to go back to the other films to understand what caused the mutations in DNA in the first place, see Godzilla), unnecessary wars, and love expressed as agape. To “will” the good of another. There is a lot of “willing” going on in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Briefly, at a distant outpost in China the X-Men gather around the aging Professor X (Xavier) (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) to figure out how to deal with the mutant morphing Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).  In 1973 she killed Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage) who developed the Sentinels from her mutant DNA to deal with the Mutants (the X-Men). The Sentinels are now descending on the X-Men’s enclave to destroy them and time is short.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has powers that can take Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 and prevent Trask’s murder and the unleashing of the Sentinels.

At least this is what I think happens.

There is a cast of thousands in this film – and a message at the end of the film that it took 15,000 people to make it. Entertainment provides jobs indeed.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is a good ride and in some places pretty brilliant. My favorite scene was early on in the Pentagon kitchen after the younger Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is busted out of a secret Pentagon prison where he was put because he supposedly killed JFK. (There’s an interesting theory about who really shot JFK posited in the film; keep an ear out for it.) As the team (including James McAvoy who plays the younger Professor X) and Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) frees him they pass through a large kitchen and it’s like a choreographed hallucination in a blend of 3D, slow motion, and fast action. Just go with it. then there’s the meeting of past and present towards the end, and that’s well done, too.

A note about “agape” in the film, or even sacramentality. When Wolverine volunteers to go back to the past he lies on what is obviously an altar and comes to shed his blood as the film plays out. There is a dying and resurrection as well, and a rebirth through water.

That we as humans, whether of a mutant species of human or not, have free will, and can choose between doing what is right or wrong, good or bad, or  even good and better, is affirmed here.

We all want to go back and change the past and have a chance to re-do those decisions that were not good, or life-affirming, or were selfish and hurt others. In movies we can do this, but the advantage in real life to seeing films like this is that we can enter into the stories with our moral imaginations and resolve to really think and reflect before making decisions and intentionally choose and will the good of others without self-interest.

While very violent (though no blood flows so it can keep its PG-13 rating) it affirms, too, that the Vietnam war was an unnecessary conflict. Violence, guns, knives, explosives have become acceptable. Is Hollywood capable of making entertaining films that don’t go boom in the night and all day, too? That conflict can be resolved without violence?

The themes in the film are more interesting that the characters because we know them already and there is little or no development of them in this film. The acting is ok, but I think Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy were the best. Jennifer Lawrence didn’t get enough screen time. Maybe the franchise is dying out but if you stay to the very, very end of the credits of this film, well, I think the next one is coming: “X-Men: Apocalypse”. Maybe it will be the last one (hint: it’s a character in case you didn’t know.)

The film deserves another viewing but if someone would like to comment, please do.

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