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May26ThuThe X-Men face a formidable enemy with a god complex in new film. May 26, 2016 by Kristin Ostensen
Death. Destruction. In one word, “apocalypse” carries the weight of the end of the world, conjuring up images of darkened skies, ruined cities and widespread panic.
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The end of days has been depicted in many films—from Planet of the Apes to Mad Max: Fury Road. But in the new X-Men film, the apocalypse is not an event. It's a person—the first and most powerful mutant the world has ever known.
Everything Will Fall
X-Men: Apocalypse, in theatres this month, is the latest film in the X-Men franchise. Picking up where Days of Future Past left off, Apocalypse is set in the early 1980s and centres on the X-Men, a group of young mutants who have extraordinary abilities due to mutations in their genes.
Leading the X-Men is Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), a powerful telepath and founder of a school for mutants. He's joined by Raven Darkhölme (Jennifer Lawrence), a shapeshifter known as Mystique, and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), whose nickname Beast comes from his blue fur and superhuman strength. With the help of the students of Charles' academy, these three mutants face the enormous task of fighting Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac).
As the first mutant, Apocalypse is thousands of years old, during which time he's amassed the powers of many mutants, becoming invincible and immortal. “I've been called many things over many lifetimes,” he says. “Ra. Krishna. Yahweh.” He sees himself as a god, and when he awakens after many centuries, he is angry to find he is no longer worshipped. This world, which bears no respect or devotion to him, must be destroyed. “Everything they've built will fall,” he thunders, “and from the ashes of their world, we'll build a better one”—one ruled by mutants.
Searching for God
To accomplish this task, Apocalypse recruits a team of mutants, his Four Horsemen, one of whom is Charles' sometime friend, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), who goes by the name Magneto. As one of the most powerful mutants on the planet—Erik can control metal and magnetic fields—he is Apocalypse's top recruit. But he's also his most difficult.
“He's found Erik at the most vulnerable place in his life,” explains director Bryan Singer to Empire. “He's searching for God. He was a young Jew in a concentration camp when he first lost his family and now here comes this man who … claims to be God. The power of persuasion is Apocalypse's greatest power.”
But can Erik truly be turned? Can Apocalypse convince him that his world is a better one, when destroying the world would mean killing billions, including his fellow mutants?
A Better Way
Though the word “apocalypse” is commonly used to refer to any end-times scenario, its origins are biblical. In the Christian tradition, beliefs about the end of the world come from the Book of Revelation, which records a symbolic vision experienced by the Apostle John. In John's vision, the Four Horsemen are the harbingers of the Last Judgment—a concept X-Men: Apocalypse borrows from the Bible.
Yet the film is not so much about the end of the world as it is about one man's journey. As previous X-Men films have shown, Erik has long struggled to find a way to live in a world that has done him much harm. In the X-Men universe, humans often treat mutants with suspicion and hostility, and in some cases, have experimented on mutants or even killed them because they are not human. Erik's answer is always to fight, to respond to violence with violence.
But Charles argues that there is a better way. He knows that peace will only be achieved when humans and mutants work together and learn to understand each other.
The Path of Peace
Charles' response to violence echoes Jesus' words in Matthew 5:38-39: “You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
We may not find our lives in danger, but conflict is a regular fixture of human life from childhood on. How do we respond when someone insults us? The choice is ours to lash out or respond with grace.
What about people whose beliefs or backgrounds differ from ours? Do we adopt an us-against-them mentality and treat them as an outsider? Or do we seek to understand them and show them love? The choice is ours to build walls or bridges.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Erik's choice is clear: follow Apocalypse down the path of destruction or follow the X-Men down the path of peace.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:17, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” As Charles and his X-Men understand, that is the only way to bring about a better world.
(Photos: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)