Posts Tagged ‘X-Men’

I really like books; I like owning them, having shelves full of them, and reading them.  I’m currently in the midst of four separate books between various small groups and my own personal reading.  I started reading Frank Peretti at 11 years old and started collecting the Star Wars expanded Universe at 12; 17 years later my Star Wars  novels count is well over 80 and takes up three shelves of one of my bookcases.  I was obsessed with Christian apocalyptic fiction for most of Jr. High and High School thanks to the Left Behind books (but I won’t say anything more about that – except that I never finished the whole series).  When looking at my bookshelves, I never expected for it to hold a book by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (which is going to be released as a theatrical film soon)JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, G.P. Taylor, Chuck Colson, and two series on Philosophy and Popular Culture (Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Terminator, Green Lantern, Batman, X-MEN, Battlestar Galactica, 24, LOST) sure, you’d find those, but Donald Miller?  Wasn’t he the guy that the “cool kids” read, those on the 21st Century cutting edge of Christianity?  Yeah, that was way too “Christian Hipster” for me when I actually thought about it, and I honestly would have rather read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books if given the choice (which I own but  haven’t finished).

All that changed one night a few weeks ago.  It was a cold Tuesday night and I’d just finished leading a C.S. Lewis reading group called “The Inklings” (what else would you call it?) when I ran into my friend Andy.  We hadn’t seen one another since the Leadership retreat for National Community Church a few weeks prior, so we got to talking.  Before we knew it we got talking about dreams, destiny, and how it takes intense conflict and perseverance to make a good story (all in “epic superhero/comic book movie” context as well as some of my own life story).  All of the sudden a light goes on inside Andy’s mind and he asks me “Have you ever read Donald Miller?”  I said “no”, and I wasn’t so eager to begin.    Andy began to explain that he understood my hesitation, as he didn’t like Donald Miller either, at first.  It wasn’t until he read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that his perspective began to change (and he has now lead multiple smallgroups though this book).  In fact, my friend believed so much that I should read this book that he bought me a copy and had it sent to my house.  When that happens, you’ve got to give the book a shot because someone you respect sees it as a powerful vessel for wisdom, transformation, and change.  So I began reading.

This being my first experience with this author I didn’t know what to expect.  I had recently seen a trailer for the theatrical release of Blue Like Jazz and it looked very “indie and weird” (redundancy?).  I don’t really like “indie and weird”, except when it crosses over into “epic, super-ish, and full of awesome” like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does (and SO WELL), because I live in the land of epic and I don’t’ like to stray outside those borders.  As I read I began to realize that one of the threads going through this book was the story of how Blue Like Jazz was going to become a movie: a ground floor account of the author’s life though that process and how it all went down (from characters, to conflict, inciting incidents, plot turns and the like).  I began to wonder “Has George Lucas done this?” and I found myself wishing the answer was yes.

Miller uses this book to look at his life as a story, and to ask the overall question of “what makes a good story and am I living one, a story worth living and inviting others to be a part of?”  As I read I realized that these were questions that I was (and am) consistently wrestling with in light of some of my experiences.  It brought to mind the ending of the two part episode of Facing Life Head On that I was featured in last year, when the host of the show, Brad Mates, says that I and my fellow interviewees had made our lives “stories worth telling”.  Does that mean that at the end of every day you have to be able to say that the day that just ended was worth it?  No, it does not, but worthwhile things have sure happened.  Often in our own stories it’s others that see the worth that we can’t as we’re in the midst of it, as I wrote about Kirk and Spock yesterday.

The book talks about how in Star Wars, the viewer can pause the movie at any point and ask the question “what does a certain character want and what do they have to overcome to get it?” and you know the answer.  Luke wants to become a Jedi and join the Rebellion; Leia wants to defeat the Empire; Han Solo want money so he can pay off Jabba the Hutt.  Ben Kenobi wants to teach Luke the ways of the Force.  Reader finds themselves asking, “what do I want and what do I have to overcome to get it?”  (Along that line of thinking I started to read Quitter by Jon Acuff and will blog about it when I finish the book).  I started asking myself, “is mine a story that is one others should be invited to participate in?” once the book raised this question.

In addressing this question, thoughts drift to The FENX (how can it not?)  I think of how that part of the my story touches and relates to so many other parts and is the fulfilment of some aspects (like wishing I were a superhero).  It’s also something that so many have been invited to be part of.  From Carl Sears and his wife Sheila at NBC to Brad Mates at Facing Life Head On; from radio show hosts Aleksander Danilov, Rick Amato, Anthony DiMiggaio, and Armstrong Williams to writers like Kate Tumerello and Roll Call newspaper.  Even two wonderful ladies who work at NASA and have become good friends of mine (one I actually went to high school with).  Not to mention friends in DC that find themselves part of the crazy incidents that happen on a regular basis and become wondrous tales.  It isn’t just my story anymore; they’ve all been invited to be part of it, and in accepting it’s become part of their story too.  One of the pastors at National Community Church once said that “everyone had that friend on college that was the crazy one that stuff happened to all the time; you either wanted to be around them or run from them because of that.”  I am fortunate to have friends that haven’t run away yet.

There’s still much ground to cover any always improvements to be made, and some of them monumental ones, but yes, I think my life to be a story worth living on the whole of it.  Remember that a good story requires intense conflict and perseverance – the road of The Greater Miracle is unpaved and sparsely trod – the Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:3-5 for a reason, venturing into the realm of suffering where Yoda dared not go.

What sort of story is your life, is it one that people want to be a part of?  Are you inviting people to be part of it?

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Warning: Spoilers and Continuity issues ahead!

Recently I went to see X-Men: First Class the 20th Century Fox/Marvel prequel/reboot of the X-Men movie franchise. Even though I am an unabashed comic book/superhero fan I rarely offer my thoughts in a written review on such movies, but a recent discussion with a wise friend of mine has convinced me otherwise (as well as my own adventures as a Xavier-esque character with the FENX).

This particular X-Men outing is produced by Bryan Singer (the director of the first two X-Men films, and the ones I enjoy the most) and directed by Matthew Vaughn (who previously directed Kick Ass and was originally going to direct X-Men 3: The Last Stand after Singer left – but he too left the project) so creating a comic book movie isn’t something new for either of them.

As a prequel, X-Men: First Class begins where Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film began, in a Nazi concentration camp. A young Erik Lensherr, with the ability to manipulate metal, is being separated from his parents. It’s here where the prequel expands: a Nazi doctor conducting experiments wants to harness Erik’s ability and will go to any length to do so (even killing his mother right in front of him). This gets his ability going, and revenge on the brain. During the same time period we are introduced to a childhood Charles Xavier and his oldest friend, Raven Darkholm, a mutant shape-shifter (played by Robecca Romijn in the first three films and something the filmmakers have not forgotten in this film). Fast forward to 1962, Erik is now attempting to hunt down the Nazi doctor who unlocked his mutant abilities and Charles is about to receive his doctorate in genetics and a professorship at Oxford University in England. During a chance encounter at a pub he meets Moira McTaggert, an agent for the CIA who needs his expertise on genetic mutation. Upon visiting the CIA he is asked to assemble a special team of people with “abilities” to combat the threat of Sebastian Shaw , a Hugh Hefner type working with the Soviets to start nuclear war between the USSR and the United States (who happens to have a special team of his own – The Helllfire Club – in Emma Frost – a telepath with diamond skin – and Azazel, a demonic looking crimson teleporter). A botched attempt to take out Shaw is the catalyst for the friendship between Erik and Charles and they travel the globe tracking candidates (and even happen across a familiar face who has no interest in joining the team) after using an alpha version of Cerebro to identify them.

As the film progresses along the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis there are some twists and turns, but if you’re a fan of the X-Men mythos you know what’s coming and the movie deals with the material well, setting things up for a sequel that is bound to happen. In many ways the film is faithful to the mythos already established in the comics and movies, but there are some glaring departures (such as Emma Frost being an adult at this time when she’s just a kid in the Wolverine film, Moira McTaggert being an agent with the CIA, and the “Angel” in this film not being Warren Worthington; but that is at least resolved). The focus on Erik and Charles carries much of the film and makes their eventual separation (and Charles’s paralyzation; canonical with the comics or not) all the more powerful because it is partly Erik’s fault. This film does an excellent job of showing why Erik becomes who he does and to a degree you understandably root for him – despite what you know is coming – much akin to Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. However, First Class does it far better in showing Erik’s inability to forgive and his being blinded by revenge juxtaposed with Xavier’s ability to forgive and be “the better man”: not hating humanity because they do not understand.

While I was initially wary of the casting of some of these iconic characters already played by great actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, McAvory and Fassbender both did well as Charles and Erik, as did Jennifer Lawrence and Jason Fleyming as Raven and Azazel – key characters going forward to connect to the movies already produced and set in the future. January Jones did well as Emma Frost, and honestly I’d like to see her go toe-to toe with Scott Summers if an X4 is ever made and they find a way resurrect his character post the death of Jean Grey; considering the Frost/Summers relationship in the comics, Frost should make an appearance in the future.

In the end, this First Class of Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters has begun a worthwhile venture whose legacy I look forward to seeing again on the big screen.

Aaron/The Professor