“X-Men: Days of Future Past” and Spirituality
Non-Violence Is Its Own Power:
Science fiction blockbusters such as those in the “X-Men” series of movies have mostly been popular for their action sequences and amazing special effects. One normally would not look to such films for their spiritual guidance. However, just as one cannot find beautiful diamonds without first digging through the rough, sci-fi blockbuster movies similarly have true spiritual gems among them. One of these spiritual gems is the most recent of the X-Men series of films, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
The basic premise of the film itself is ripe for exploration from a spiritual and moral standpoint. For those who don’t know what the X-Men series of films is about: the X-Men series of films are based upon the comic books of the same name, in which the superheroes in question – the X-Men – are simply born with their superpowers through genetic mutation. While they do their duty to save humanity, they are also feared and reviled by humanity itself, by virtue of the fact that their superpowers set them apart from the rest. The comic book franchise was in fact inspired by the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and while the struggle of the superheroes of the X-Men franchise to be accepted by the rest of humanity isn’t exactly identical to the struggle against racism during the period that inspired the comic books, it does have some parallels.
Where the film “X-Men: Days of Future Past” really gets its spiritual standpoint is not just from the premise of the original comic books, but also from the movie’s plot, which involves time travel. While the concept of time travel has been explored in many other sci-fi blockbusters, the particular plot of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has a unique spiritual and moral angle to it.
At the start of the movie, it is revealed that humanity is being systematically exterminated by robotic drones called Sentinels, who were originally created to hunt down and destroy mutants such as the X-Men. As for what causes this dark future, this is where it gets interesting: the start of the catastrophic chain of events that leads to this outcome is none other than the actions of one particular mutant who goes by the alias of Mystique. What she does to start this chain reaction is that she assassinates the CEO of the weapons manufacturing company that creates the Sentinels – she wanted to stop the persecution of mutants such as the X-Men through her deeds, but instead ends up causing their annihilation, as well as that of the rest of humanity!
This basic plot point alone speaks volumes about issues such as violence, especially from a spiritual standpoint. One obvious statement the movie makes is – violence never leads to anywhere good, as its results never lead to where one wants. But if violence isn’t the answer, what would be the answer in the face of the oppression that the superheroes of the X-Men series face?
This leads to the actions of the other characters and how they fit in. For instance, the actions of the leader of the X-Men, known as Professor X, are aimed at “showing [the humans] a better path” – in this case, demonstrating that the X-Men are true heroes, who are willing to do the right thing, and not resort to the baseness of violence. However, non-violence in the case of the movie does not mean non-action; “X-Men: Days of Future Past” wouldn’t be much of an action movie for one thing if this was the case! Rather, the better path that Professor X speaks of is showing that the X-Men are indeed human – having all the virtues as well as faults thereof – and being human, deserving of the recognition of their rights that all other humans deserve.
This is demonstrated by one of the conflicts of the movie – the X-Men have their less-than-virtuous counterparts, mutants lead by the villainous Magneto. Magneto is a villain who wouldn’t stop where Mystique would have stopped – he would have kept on killing, following the path of violence to its ultimate conclusion. And it is worth noting that in the dark future that starts the movie, Magneto has in fact joined the X-Men, seeing that violence has defined the dark future he helped create, and is one of the mutants who helps with the time travel process to undo the damage done.
This demonstrates the spirituality of non-violence on many levels. One level is of having faith in humanity’s better side and hope that this better side will prevail; another being that violence and killing is the most negative way of altering the future; and especially the level where nothing in the future is set in stone, that evil prevailing is not inevitable, and that choosing a better path is always within our reach.
The X-Men series of movies may be considered popular “popcorn movies” on the surface, but “X-Men: Days of Future Past” transcends that label, as it uses the conventions of such “popcorn movies” to express some deep spiritual truths, especially concerning resistance against oppression and the ultimate negativity of violent resistance. One normally wouldn’t expect as much out of a popular movie… and perhaps that is why it is popular in the first place!
– by Phillip Miner
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