The latest film in the popular X-Men franchise falls short of its immediate predecessor, Days of Future Past, but fans still get the satisfaction of seeing the younger versions of their favorite characters. This time around, the graduates and students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters band together to stave off world domination in X-Men: Apocalypse.
The (Bad) Blue Guy
Apocalypse begins with the introduction of the villain as he was in ancient Egypt. Apocalypse (a mostly unrecognizable Oscar Isaac) is the first mutant but he believes he’s a god. His unprecedented power enables him to rule the world, prolonging his life by transferring his consciousness from one body to another. Not all bow down, however, and an uprising causes his burial under the earth for centuries – until 1983, when he’s accidentally awakened.
The (Good/Bad) Metal Guy
X-Men: Apocalypse has too many characters to fully integrate them all into a compelling story. The one character who has more of a story to tell is Erik Lehnsherr, more commonly known as Magneto (Michael Fassbender). After the events of Days of Future Past, Erik takes refuge in Poland with his wife (Carolina Bartczak) and daughter (T.J. McGibbon), becoming a steel worker. Events blow up in his face when he’s forced to use his powers to save a fellow worker’s life. His anger and bitterness make him ripe ground for manipulation by the power-hungry Apocalypse and Magneto becomes one of Apocalypse’s four henchmen.
The (Way Cool) Fast Guy
Cinematically, the best part of the film is the two-minute sequence when Quicksilver (Evan Peters), first introduced in Days of Future Past, uses his speed to save kids from Xavier’s exploding school. Accompanied by “Sweet Things (Are Made of This)”, he plays deliverer to the backdrop of early 80’s pop culture that makes the sequence laugh-out-loud funny for those of us who were teenagers at the time.
All Together Now
From a faith perspective, I think X-Men: Apocalypse offers quite a bit to talk about. At one point, Charles (James McAvoy) and the other X-Men are fighting Apocalypse. Charles has confidence they will win. Why? Because they are not alone. In this case it’s more than simple teamwork. In the writings of St. Paul, he introduced the concept of the Church as the Body of Christ. There are eyes and ears, arms and legs, hands and feet. All have a purpose and the body is not whole without all the parts. Each of the X-Men brings their own specific gifts to the fight so much so that only together are they able to defeat the bad guy. Leave anyone out of the equation and world domination by the nasty villain follows. Our goal-oriented culture tends to devalue people, treating them as purely utilitarian. As followers of Christ Jesus, we affirm the inherent dignity of every human person, loved and valued, not only for what we can accomplish, but most importantly, for who we are as sons and daughters of God.
The (Good) Blue Girl
The concept of calling also comes across strongly in the film. Storm (Alexandra Shipp), another of Apocalypse’s henchman, has always drawn her inspiration from Raven, also known as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). After the events of Days of Future Past, Raven has become a symbol of the good mutants could do in society. Her influence is not something she ever desired but younger mutants, once persecuted, look up to her. Raven is uncomfortable with her hero status. She would much rather remain in the background but when Charles is abducted by Apocalypse, she puts her reluctance behind her and becomes the leader the world needs. If we look at the “call narratives” in the Bible (Moses, Gideon, Elijah, Jeremiah, Mother Mary), one consistent feature is that all these people considered themselves unworthy of being God’s instrument but they accepted the gift given them by God and fulfilled his will. None of us can earn God’s love. None of us are worthy on our own merits. It is the gift God gives us to correspond to grace that enables us to do God’s will. If you are called to be a leader in the Body of Christ and consider yourself unworthy, you are in good company!