Monthly Archives: June 2011

Review: X-Men First Class

In the growing number of X-Men prequal movies, X-Men First Class will likely stand as the best. Not long ago 20th Century Fox was considering doing a Magneto origins story and they opted for this movie instead which accomplishes everything that a Magneto origin story would have and much more.

Gut Reaction:

I really liked the Movie over all – I found myself quickly putting it in the top two of my favorite X-Men movies. To give that context you need to know that I’m not just an expert on the comics. I read a re-print of the first 10 X-men comics and a few others when I was a kid, but no more than that. My understanding of X-Men mythology came mainly from the cartoon that came on Fox back when Fox ruled saturday morning cartoons. X3: The Last Stand was, to me the most like the cartoon. I recognize that lots of fans didn’t like it (though they sure forgot to let the box office know) but to me it was the most like the X-Men universe with which I was most familiar. First Class is in that same category and succeeds in having the same full-scale epic feel that I got from X3.

What I liked and didn’t like

The movie is an origin story, and origin stories have an automatic leg-up as there is a driving force that goes deeper than the basic episodic comic book plot. But unlike spiderman, Batman, Ironman or Thor this isn’t the origin story of one superhero, this is the origin story of – in many ways – a whole universe of superheroes and villains. That’s probably my favorite thing about this movie; you get a whole slew of characters; Not only Magneto, but also Mystique, Beast, Havoc, Banshee and, of course, Professor X.

There are a handful of areas where considerable plot holes open up when you watch this in close succession to the other four X-Men movies. For example, Emma frost, who is a teenager in Wolverine, is a 30-something woman in this film. Thats not the least of the issues, (SPOILER ALERT) At the beginning of X3 we see Patrick Stuart in a flash-back with the use of his legs, indicating that Charles Xavier was able-bodied at least until he was middle-aged. At the end of this movie Charles Xavier gets shot in the back, becoming a paraplegic in what seems to be his late 20s. (SPOILER ALERT OVER) There is also a considerable adopted brother/sister relationship with Charles Xavier and Mystique, though there is no indication that they even knew one another in the other movies.

The character of the young Charles Xavier is probably my favorite part, though it is also where I thought the movie could’ve most improved. I would’ve like to have seen some kind of explanation on how it is that a wealthy British boy, raised in a mansion in Connecticut, didn’t end up being a spoiled brat. There is no transformation in the story of Charles Xavier, who is possibly the most ethical person in the Marvel universe. How did he come to have such strong moral convictions about when to use his powers and when not to? He has the ability to completely control someone with his telepathic abilities, but he chooses not to – why? – other than the fact that it would make for a boring narrative.

The one thing that you should know is that this is ultimately not a happy story. While a war is prevented, villains are born and characters die. If you can accept that, then you’ll probably really enjoy this origin story. My parents did, in fact most movie-goers I’ve talked to so far have said that its their favorite of the X-Men films. While it has some cheesy moments and other issues that do push the suspension of disbelief just shy of its breaking point, it is still a very fun movie.

Conclusion

To sum it up: I give X-men First Class four stars for entertainment value, I give it three stars for its film value and two stars for family friendliness. A great comic book movie, not without its flaws and not one to take younger kids to, but it’ll probably on my shelf once its released on blu-ray.

Music Video Friday: Knights of Cydonia

I first discovered this music video in the summer of 2007. It is still one of my favorite music videos. Its an extremely bizarre mixture of the three iconic b-movie genres: Spaghetti western, sci-fi and kung fu. Like most music videos it doesn’t make much sense, but it is visually engaging and fun to watch. The song, written and performed by muse, is actually a pretty awesome tune as well, though the words are fairly incoherent.

I apologize for the random half-clothed make-out scene in the middle of it, but I should point out that they very purposefully have the ‘director and crew’ very visible in a mirror to the far left of frame in that scene. Check it out, It’s hilarious. You’ll also want to read the credits which are pretty funny as well. One example is at the end the Roman numerals MCMLXXXI appear, which translates as 1981 – giving you an idea of the era in which the spirit of the video comes from.

Unfortunately embedding is disabled for this video, so you’ll have to visit youtube to get it. There’s a link to it at the top of the list below. If you enjoy this video there are several more versions of it that you might get a kick out of so here’s my playlist with links to all the various versions of the video.

My Mission, My Adventure

The Mission:

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey asserts that everyone should have a purpose statement in life. This is the 2rd habit “Start with the end is mind.” Its about defining the word ‘important’ for your life. The 3rd habit, “put first things first,” asserts that if you have a standard for what is really important in your life then you can use that to determine how should should spend your time and money.

My life group has been reading through 1 Timothy, a book filled with advice for a younger man from his mentor. In chapter 3 the Apostle Paul outlines the qualifications for church leaders and one of them is that they be ‘temperate.’ One commentator points out that later on Paul says ‘not given to drunkenness’ so its unlikely that he means the same with his use of ‘temperate.’ The same commentator suggested that the word would be better translated as “vigilant.” The Message paraphrase goes as far as to use the phrase “cool and collected.” These may seem like unrelated terms, but where I see them all connected its this: To be temperate, vigilant or cool and collected, you must be purposeful and therefore prepared. The key to this is know what’s important – know the mission so you can be vigilant, so you can be collected, so you can know what to temper towards. Its about personal leadership.

The Adventure:

My lifegroup also recently read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. I read it for the first time when it was first released ten years ago, so it was interesting to return to the book now as an adult. The authors argues that men in the church have become ‘nice guys’ when they’re actually called to be dangerous men of God who seek some kind of adventure. I don’t agree with every point in Eldredge’s book, but with this I agree whole heartedly. Consider Matthew 25, the parable of the talents: The risk-taking servants were rewarded. God doesn’t want us burying our riches in the back yard.

If the mission is about personal leadership, then the adventure is about personal vision. And as we know proverbs 29:18 says ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ A more literal translation of this verse is ‘where there is no prophesy, the people cast of restraint.’ This may sound like a totally different message but it isn’t; both translations mean – when you stop seeking God’s perfect will for your life, you won’t get God’s perfect will for your life.

So I thought it was about time that I defined a few things: My mission and my adventure.

My Mission:

Its difficult, but I think I managed to get it down to one statement:

My mission is to find creative ways to disciple christians and communicate the gospel using film, theater, photography and teaching.

This will change over the years, I’m sure. At the very least I hope to add in the word “lead” and then “mentor others” in the future as my role changes, but for now I think this gets to the central message of it.

My adventure:

Part of the difference between the mission and the adventure is the fact that it is not a simple statement. After all, if you can express it in just a few words, how adventurous can it be? (Unless one of those words is “flamethrower”) Using both scripture and the desires I believe God has placed on my heart, this how I see my adventure at this point in my life.

I seek to accomplish everything I do – through arts, through teaching, through relationships with others – to the glory of the one true God. I seek to chase after God and His will for my life in such a way that others might say of me ‘If the gospel isn’t true, Will has totally wasted his life.” I seek to push myself spiritually, mentally and even physically, pouring it all out as a praise offering to God. I want to visit other parts of the world for the purposes of spreading the Good News and collecting stories to bring back home to tell others so that a desire for missions might awake in their hearts. I seek to live a pure and holy life that inspires others to do that same. I seek to have the kind of selfless, contented confidence that the disciples had, that others might say “He has truly been with Jesus.”

I seek to have a network of friends with whom I can share life who want to join me on my adventures – who hold me accountable and support me when I’m down. I seek to prepare the next generation so that when it is no longer my place to lead or work that there will be others, even more capable, who will take my place. I seek to have lived such a full life that when I am old, young men will say of me “I hope that I will one day be as used up, so I might have equally amazing stories to tell.” I seek to live such that when I am gone that the world around me won’t miss a beat – they’ll merely shed a single tear for the temporary loss of my company, but then smile with the knowledge that I carried the torch as long as was needed and that they’ll see me again one day – carrying on the task that God gave me. Carrying it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

This is my adventure – you can’t have it. Though yours may look similar, it might have more specifics than mine as God’s vision for your life might be clearer. I suspect as I live my adventure that it will become more specific.

Now its your turn

So, whats your mission? What’s your adventure?