Monday, August 11, 2014

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Man and Ape in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
“Monkey See, Monkey Do”
A Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13
USCCB Rating, A-III
Reel Rating, Four Reels      

            In the Genesis account of a new sentient race, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes served as the Creation story, where non-human members of the family Hominadae (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos) gained consciousness. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is their fall from grace, when a conflict breaks their calm society and causes some to commit great acts of evil. Sin is the price of moral freedom, and it is a heavy one. The film is effective in this portrayal if a bit uneven and long; yet, the special effects, acting, and attention to detail – especially primate sign language – is spectacular. In the end, it is one’s choices, not DNA, which determine what makes a “man.”
            Dawn begins a decade after Rise when the Simian flu has wiped out most of humanity; the first sentient ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) now governs a community just outside San Francisco and has not seen a human for a long time. The apes live a peaceful existence hunting deer, building elaborate tree houses, and developing a rudimentary education system. Suddenly, they come into contact with a group of survivors searching for a hydroelectric dam in the hills. For years, they’ve been rewiring the electrical lines in the city in hopes of bringing the power grid back up. Caesar is hesitant but thinks helping them will bring a truce, preventing a bloody war. His advisor Koba (Toby Kebbell) believes all humans are evil and assistance will only make it easier for them to destroy the apes. The humans are just as restless. The colony’s leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) wants an immediate strike while scientist Malcolm (Jason Clarke) believes it’s immoral to kill them.
            The central issue is empathy, the ability to feel and understand another person. While Caesar did lead the ape uprising, he was raised by a kind primatologist and now rears two sons of his own. Koba was a lab monkey, the subject of countless experiments. “We will help the human work,” Caesar says. Koba grunts and points to the various scars on his body: “Human work.” On the other side, Malcolm and his wife work with Caesar, playing with his newborn son and healing his sick wife. Dreyfus can only think of the family he has lost. “We were attacked!” He screams. “They are animals!” He cannot, or will not, see that they too have family and were abused, tortured, and oppressed by humans.
            In the beginning, the apes lived in quasi-innocence. They do get angry, bored, and frustrated but work seamlessly together and never raise a hand to hurt one another. This changes as many apes begin to question Caesar’s leadership and factions spring up in the society. Suddenly, Koba commits a Cain-like offense, and all Hell breaks loose. Caesar realizes he now lives in a very different yet oddly familiar world that will require him to think outside his own species. “Caesar loves humans more than apes!” Koba accuses. “Koba does not care for apes,” Caesar asserts. “Koba cares for Koba.” This is an important revelation, that a human can act inhuman – an ape can act “inape.” Freedom allows a person to act against their nature, sometimes in terrifying ways.
            In this review, I have treated the apes as they are portrayed in the film – persons. They have a soul. In reality, apes, dolphins, and elephants, while very intelligent, do not posses a spirit. It is not moral to treat them as humans; they do not have rights. However, as part of God’s creation, it is immoral to treat them in a disrespectful and wasteful manner – especially abuse, which is a grave sin. Dawn is a work of science fiction and cannot be used to argue for or against certain aspects of animal welfare. This does not exclude the possibility of non-human persons. Indeed, the angels precede man. There is nothing in the deposit of faith that would limit God’s ability to create other material creatures that are rational beings; as technology penetrates into deeper and deeper space it is not so much a question of if, but when this will be discovered. To avoid again committing the genocides that occurred at the discovery of the New World, it would behoove Catholic theologians to prepare for this eventuality.

            As expected for a large budget action flick, Dawn ends with a final climatic battle, but, regardless of the winner, this will not end the war. Life for apes and humans will only become more and more difficult. At the same time, there are a precious few – man and beast alike – who find solace in what they share: the capacity for good. A sentient being does not choose consciousness but it can choose holiness or depravity. Koba believes that militancy is the answer, but such a society will always need an enemy. When it runs out of external forces, it will consume itself. Caesar and Malcolm understand that empathy is not simply righteous; it is the only way to survive.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on July 14th, 2014. 

When Louise Had a Granddaughter

The new Thelma and Louise
“When Louise Had a Granddaughter”
A Review of Tammy by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, R
USCCB Rating, A-III
Reel Rating, Two Reels

            Although her most creative work is the sweet and gentle better half of Mike & Molly, Melissa McCarthy is best known as a foul-mouthed piece of work in films like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Identity Thief. In Tammy, this character is at her lowest point after being fired unjustly from her low wage fast food job and discovering her husband Greg (Nat Faxon) cheating in the same afternoon. In order to clear her head, she goes on a whirlwind road trip with her equally rambunctious grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Tammy contains some really funny moments, especially between Tammy and Pearl, but these are just a few small morsels drowning in a lethal concoction of booze, adultery, and a host of other bad behaviors. It’s an amusing film but not particularly memorable.
            After having a day to rival Alexander’s, Tammy tries to borrow her mother’s (Allison Janney) car to go “somewhere.” When she refuses, her grandma, already packed, supplies the car and $6,700 provided she gets to tag along. I’m surprised Geena Davis didn’t tag along. Along the way, they engage in drunk driving, fighting minors, and bonding over broken stories of the past until Tammy needs money to bail Pearl out of jail. Tammy then attempts to rob from her former employer in the movie’s funniest scene. “Do you want to die?” Tammy growls at an elderly burger flipper through a paper bag mask. “I’m a veteran,” he responds. Tammy is taken aback: “Really? Well, thank you for your service.” Tammy doesn’t get any tough love or sage advice until she meets Pearl’s cousin Lenore (Kathy Bates). “You have to work hard,” she growls. “You can’t just bitch and moan and expect life to give you things.” It’s the kick in the pants she needs but no one has given her. She does have the courage to admit her mistakes and move on.
            The most troubling aspect of Tammy is the casual treatment of sexuality, although “fun” drunk driving without consequences is probably worse. There are literally no role models for relationships. Tammy rightly criticizes her husbands for committing adultery saying “I’m pretty sure they burn,” yet immediately hooks up with Bobby. How does she meet this Bobby? His father, also still married, is having an affair with Pearl after she kicked Tammy out of their hotel room for a one night stand. Probably the most stable couple is Lenore (Kathy Bates) and her partner Susanne (Sandra Oh) who hosts a lesbian 4th of July celebration that includes the ceremoniously burning of a jet ski and Pearl flashing everyone while plastered.
            McCarthy and Sarandon have fairly good chemistry but it’s hampered by how constantly they berate each other. In one of the closing scenes, Pearl gets drunk (again) after promising Tammy not to and gives an obscenity laced monologue where she calls Tammy a “cheeseburger” and blames her for Greg’s infidelity. It goes too far, and even though Pearl apologizes when sober, it still stings. Their reconciliation isn’t well earned even though they have improved slightly by the end.  

            There is a really funny, cute little movie inside Tammy but it’s delivered in a grease stained McDonalds’s bag. In The Heat, McCarthy and Bullock shared much better chemistry because their characters were more developed, funnier, and they genuinely cared for each other as the film progressed. In Tammy, there are only sad people behaving badly; the audience is supposed to like some and hate others, but really we just end up being mostly indifferent to everyone.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on July 10th, 2014.

Family Before Faction


Tris and Four in Divergent
Family Before Faction
A Review of Divergent by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13
USCCB Rating, A-III
Reel Rating, Four Reels       

            The YA fantasy genre has been so overplayed in the last decade that it requires its own set of sub genres including wizardry, mythological, paranormal, and the ever loved/hated vampirism or lycanthropy (look it up, kids). Divergent would fit nicely in the future political dystopia category, yet it stealthily rises above the rest. It is better than the films City of Bones (duh), better than Percy Jackson (okay), better than The Hunger Games (gasp)…even better than Harry Potter (oh no he DIDN’T). Potter has a better trained Shakespearian cast and Hunger Games has more visual wonder, but Divergent manages to surpass them all where it is most important: training teenagers to be spiritual warriors in the postmodern world.
            Set in post-WWIII Chicago, society is composed of five factions based on personality traits: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Each faction has specific roles and uniforms – making shopping easier but stifling any true individuality. Abnegation was chosen to rule this uneasy peace because they were the least power hungry. When teenagers come of age, they take a mental test to determine their personality but are allowed to choose any faction – a permanent commitment. Tris (Shailene Woodley) comes from a prominent Abnegation family but her test reveals an aptitude in Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. The technician says it’s an extremely rare condition called Divergent, dangerous to society because it violates the system. Tris ultimately decides to join Dauntless and try to blend in, but her handsome recruit leader Four (Theo James) discovers her secret just in time to expose a potential coup by Erudite with Dauntless as unknowing accomplices.
            The themes of mind control, oppression, and conformity will be familiar to any high school student reading Brave New World or 1984, but Divergent is unique in its focus on the family. One of prized adages of this nameless society is “faction over family.” If a son or daughter chooses to leave their family’s faction, they are forbidden from any future contact and the parents can be proud they’ve sacrificed another child for the society. Family, love, and sex are hindrances to social order. However, it is Tris’ family that ultimately helps her in the Erudite war, not her Dauntless comrades. Illegally, they become her closest allies, including her Erudite older brother. Due to her upbringing, Tris sadly finds intimate relationships with anyone difficult. Even when she allows herself to love Theo, she is deathly afraid of sexual contact and insists they “take it slow,” a line that’s as rare in a YA films as being Divergent. Yet, his fear of intimacy or even casual friendships is becoming more common in films like The Hunger Games and Frozen. It’s a symptom of Millennials growing up in the homes of the first generation to accept the sexual revolution and its devastating results.
            The central reason the society has been divided in this tyrranical manner is to “fight human nature.” Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), head of Erudite and the primary antagonist, believes people need to be tightly controlled because their instincts are evil, a temptation common to both religious leaders like John Calvin and political leaders like Karl Marx. Christians believe the opposite; we were created good. Even when tainted by original sin, St. Paul can still tell the pagan Greeks that the law “is written on your hearts.” As the not so-YA writer St. Thomas Aquinas would say, “grace perfects nature.” Humans were given free will by God, the person harmed most by man’s sin. Governments should do no less.
            It is understandable that parents may be weary to let the children see such a frightening and violent film, but it is necessary boot camp for this age. The story feels oddly like a training film, imagining a world only slightly farther away form our own with instructions on how to defeat it. This world does not need more doctors, lawyers, or even farmers and small business owners. This world needs families – GREAT families. This world does not need more bureaucracy and surveillance; it needs governments that will respect the freedom and personal initiative of its citizens. Divergent will thrill teenage audiences with its fast paced action, witty dialogue, and attractive 20-something actors posing as adolescents; it will also inspire them to live exceptional lives with a healthy rebellious spirit pointed in the right direction. The secret lies in St. Paul’s insights that virtues (factions if you will) come from the Holy Spirit. With Him, anyone can be Divergent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Vikings in How to Train Your Dragon 2
“Growing Up is Hard to Do”
A Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2 by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG
USCCB Rating, A-I
Reel Rating, Four Reels        


            How animation has grown up! Early animated features like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty with their simple plots, catchy tunes, and happy endings were clearly meant for children, but as the medium progressed it began more mature. Whether it’s dealing with anxiety (Frozen), social impotence (The Incredibles), miscarriage (Up), or the inevitable reality of our own mortality (Toy Story 2, yikes), animated features are becoming more and more adult. The How to Train Your Dragon series demonstrates this perfectly. In his first outing, Hiccup was out simply to prove his own worth.  He made his dad proud, saved the day, and everyone got an easy, happy ending. Here, Hiccup realizes the fiercest dragons are within and must find a delicate balance between giving up his childish dreams yet not losing faith in those he loves. It’s a magnificent adventure with brilliant visuals, a fantastic story, and important themes seamlessly weaved throughout. Dreamworks made a Pixar film.
            It’s been five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) brought peace between his homeland and the dragons, and this third-rate dweeb has turned into a handsome, confident explorer who his father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) hopes will succeed him as village chief. On a routine cartography mission, he is ambushed by a band of dragon trappers led by Erit (Kit Harington) who promptly announce that Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) intends on stealing all the world’s dragons to create an army. Luckily, Hiccup finds an unlikely ally when he discovers his estranged mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), a Jane Goodall recluse who avoids humans and lives with thousands of dragons in a secret hideaway. At this point, they should team up, defeat Drago, and live happily ever after in dragon paradise. Yet, this is only the setup to vastly complex and tragic tale that ends in a spectacular dragon fest to rival the best live-action fantasy movies.
Fresh off his success in converting his father to his dragon-loving ways, Hiccup’s first approach to solving the Drago dilemma is negotiation and diplomacy – a strange response from a Viking but a familiar one to political science majors. If only Drago could see that dragons are kind, loyal creatures that respond to love rather than dominance, there would be no need to capture and subjugate them. Hiccup is completely missing the point. Drago’s desire is not just control of dragons but of humans through dragons. Stoick tries to dissuade his wayward son. “Drago is a madman,” he retorts. “A chief protects his own.” In a heart wrenching scene, Hiccup realizes this time his father was right, and while anyone can change, some simply choose evil. Hiccup assumes responsibility and leads the attack against Drago. Throughout the centuries, theologians have tried to reconcile “turning the other cheek” with “sell your cloak and buy a sword,” culminating in the Just War Theory. Dragon 2 is a great illustration.
Part of Hiccup’s initial na├»ve personality is a lack of proper respect for natural laws. Despite their anthropomorphic traits, dragons are still animals. Valka explains to Hiccup that they operate on a hive instinct under the protection and guidance of an Alpha dragon. In a case of extreme dimorphism, the Alphas are the size of skyscrapers – maybe a distant cousin of Godzilla. Drago uses this trait to force otherwise loyal dragons to follow him. Hiccup refuses to believe that his faithful dragon Toothless could turn on him – a decision that has devastating results. While Tootless’ loyalty eventually returns, Hiccup must learn to use this instinct to his advantage rather than fight a dragon’s nature. Many of Catholicism’s controversial teachings – the existence of Hell, acceptance of some aspects of evolution, eating meat – come from a realistic view of the natural laws inherent in the world. You can’t fight human (or dragon) nature. Look at what happened to the Shakers. However, you can use nature in a holy manner.
As the sophistication of writing increases and cost of production decreases, there will be more animated films like this in the future, maybe even with PG-13 or R content. How to Train Your Dragon 2 does not fit with most other animated films but finds its place among the great coming-of-age stories like The Sandlot, Old Yeller, or any 80s movie directed by John Hughes. Hiccup finds his true self, not on his own, but as part of a community that includes a responsibility to others. This self-discovery comes not from rejecting his family but seeing it completed with the return of his mother. Lastly, the film has the courage to show that growing up is hard and often fraught with pain and suffering. Pro-family. Pro-stewardship. Pro-responsibility. Pro-awesome dragon fights. What more could you ask for?

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on June 14th, 2014. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An (Almost) Faultless Masterpiece

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars
“An (Almost) Faultless Masterpiece”
A Review of The Fault in Our Stars by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13
USCCB Rating, A-III
Reel Rating, Four Reels         

            The Fault in Our Stars is a difficult, painful story about cancer stricken teenagers and one of the most beautiful films ever made about romantic love. It has the courage to approach the frequently trodden yet nearly always disappointing genre of YA romance with surprisingly youthful vigor considering its deep subject matter and without Mandy Moore or sparkling vampires. What a treat! It’s rare to see a film turn almost every expectation on its head in such thrilling fashion. Put simply, this is tale of true love, a love forged in the crucible of pain, suffering, and devotion. While it lacks in addressing spiritual questions, it is incredibly profound in its approach to human relationships. Don’t miss it.
            Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is an average sixteen year-old who likes books, thinks her parents are embarrassing, and also has cancer which requires her to carry around extra oxygen wherever she goes. Her mother forces her to go to an unreasonably lame Christian cancer support group where she meets Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an incredibly likeable dreamboat whose recent successful battle with cancer left him without one leg but a fresh, exciting perspective on life. Hazel is obsessed with a serious, dark novel called An Imperial Affliction about a similar cancer patient that ends frustratingly mid-sentence, written by a recluse Salinger-esque Dutch author. Gus manages to contact the author and uses his “cancer wish” to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet him. While mutual attraction is felt immediately, the romance grows slowly and not at the same pace, allowing the struggles of time to test their love and make it stronger.
            Buddha famously started his world religion with one simple truth: “life is suffering.” An Imperial Affliction continues this theme with the frequently quoted line: “pain demands to be felt.” Death demands attention; it destroys all our expectations and forces man to consider only the most important things of existence. The film pulls no punches in showing the spiritual, emotional, and psychological devastation of being deathly ill when you should be playing high school basketball and eating blizzards at dairy queen. The Fault in Our Stars can be seen as a theodicy of sorts, not as reconciliation between a loving God and an unjust world but how to find love and meaning amid so much pain and suffering.
            Hazel and Gus find this meaning through learning how to love another person. This isn’t the silly infatuation that plagues so many films, but the love demonstrated in the Catholic wedding vows: “I promised to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.” In other words: sh*t happens. Pain is inevitable, and sometimes it even comes from your spouse. Hazel and Gus deal with their problems courageously but often make mistakes and even hurt one another in the process. Finally, they learn that love always entails pain because it entails sacrifice, giving up what you need for the needs of another. That’s an extremely important Christian principle that I hope millions of young adults will learn from this film.
            The Fault in Our Stars would be a timeless masterpiece if not for two glaring problems. Throughout the whole film, director Josh Boone and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber revel in making a teen romance that breaks joyously out of the conventions of the genre. The protagonists are attractive but have physical faults. The parents are well developed and encourage the romance. Not every character gets a happy ending although every character is important and every situation morally conclusive. Suddenly, for one brief moment, the film descends into mediocrity. Hazel and Gus have the obligatory sex scene complete with PG-13 partial nudity. It stood out like a sore thumb, not just because the characters were fornicating but because they were conforming to the notions of what society expected when they had been blazing their own trail the whole movie.
            The second fault is the refusal to engage spiritual questions in a meaningful way. Even the most hardened atheist has to at least contemplate the divine in the face of death, but for all the Christian imagery in the film, it is never a serious question. The concept is mentioned briefly but inconsistently. At one point, Gus mentions that death is oblivion but in another scene states that he firmly believes in the afterlife. The Episcopal Church Hazel and Gus attend (the religion of original novelist John Green) is well intentioned but extremely out of touch with their problems. Worse of all, Hazel says, “Funerals are for the living, not the dead.” Maybe secular funerals, but Christian funerals are not just eulogies. They are a chance to bring the dead to God through prayer.
            Original sin brought many things into this world, one of the worst of which is seeing a child die painfully well before her time. Life is unfair because we deal with the consequences of a sin we did not personally commit, including natural evil. God doesn’t offer a way out of our suffering but does offer a way to make suffering meaningful, manageable, and ultimately salvific through Jesus Christ. Romantic love, properly understood through the sacrament of marriage, is brings salvation because it teaches the family how to love like Christ loves. There is a scene early in the film where the cancer support group meets on a rug made in the image of the Sacred Heart. “We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” the counselor tells them. Hazel and Gus find this image a little silly and maybe sacrilegious, but they do find the heart of Jesus in the hearts of each other. What a beautiful film.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on June 10th, 2014.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

The 2014 Halftime Show

Ty Burell and Sam Eagle in Muppets Most Wanted
We are now six months into 2014 and a few months away from Awards season, so here's my best of the year...so far.

1. Frozen-mania - From becoming the #1 film of 2013 four months into the following year to that mind blowing Once Upon a Time finale to the longest and most boring ride at Disneyland, Frozen has proven to be a worldwide cultural phenomena. I couldn't be happier.

2. The screenplay to The Lego Movie - Not since Muppet Treasure Island has a family film existed where nearly every line is funny.

3. The soundtrack to Muppets Most Wanted - Bret McKenzie is a musical comic genies, but Flight of the Concords already proved that. This sequel is funnier and more sophisticated than the original with a soundtrack full of catchy tunes. Like the original, there's also a mystery guest duet with Miss Piggy that steals the show.

4. God's Not Dead - The best film of the past six months, maybe the year. Time will tell.

5. The pro-life message of Gimmie Shelter - While October Bay, Juno, and Bella had their moments, this is the film that really has the power to change lives.

6. The "Time in a Bottle" scene from X-Men 7 - The biggest laugh of the year with spectacular editing and special effects to boot.

7. Doc of the Dead - Great documentary on the history of the zombie genre, except a brief segment about a Walking Dead porn parody. That's gross - even for zombies.

8. Sam Reily's as Dievel in Maleficent - It's a small but nuanced performance that takes a relativity unimportant character from the original and really fleshes it out well. 

9. Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars - These two have some the best onscreen chemistry of any romance film. Made a little creepy by the fact they were brother and sister in Divergent.

10. Divergent - 1984 for teenagers. Super cool.

TV Shoutout - Paranormal Witness and The Wil Wheaton Project are fantastic. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Past You’ve Always Wanted

“The Past You’ve Always Wanted”
A Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13
Professor X, Wolverine, and Beast
USCCB Rating, A-III
Reel Rating, Four Reels        

            Only a week after Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past brings another fantastic special effects bonanza that’s just as profound but better written than its large lizard friend. This is the seventh X-Men film and the best. The plot involves time travel, mutant killing robots, vomit brown 70s costumes, and wisecracks from Wolverine; it is pure, unfiltered entertainment with the all important message that it’s never too late to change. Of course, time travel helps a lot with that.
            The future is grim for Prof. Charles Xaiver (Patrick Stewart) and his band of brothers. The year is 2023, and nearly all mutants have been killed or captured by sentinels, robots that can adapt to any mutant power. Luckily, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) can someone how use her intangibility to send a person’s consciousness into their past self. It’s a bizarre time traveling method but at least it avoids the awkward problems that faced Marty McFly. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) volunteers to make the trip to 1973 and convince young Charles (James McAvoy) and young Eric (Michael Fassbender) to put their grievances aside and fix the future. “I was a different man,” Old Charles tells him. “Be patient with me.” Wolverine grunts, “Patience isn’t my strong suit.” He wasn’t kidding. 1970s Charles is a drug addict, wallowing in his own pity, while Eric is imprisoned in the Pentagon for his role in the JFK assassination. In the course of the events, new characters are introduced and old favorites reappear; the cast boasts an astounding eight Oscar nominated actors among them. The best is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a rebellious teenager who uses superspeed to rob department stores and pull pranks. The sequence where he takes out a dozen Pentagon guards in a millisecond to the tune of “Time in a Bottle” is the best superhero moment I’ve seen in years. The only drawback is that plot assumes quite a bit of knowledge from the previous films, but it stands alone pretty well too.
What would you tell your past self? Study harder? Eat more vegetables? Don’t go out with Brittney Owens because she’ll break your heart by showing up to Homecoming with someone else even though she said she would go with you and you bought a corsage and everything? Age brings wisdom. As people make mistakes, they learn gradually how to avoid those same mistakes in the future. This why it is so important for children to have constant contact with their grandparents; the experience of years can teach the young to avoid mistakes in the first place. In a sense, the elderly mirror the role of time travel in this film.
Another thing that brings wisdom is suffering. The mutants of 2023 don’t seek revenge or fight among themselves; they have endured years of genocide and seen its terrible consequences for themselves and all of humanity. Even Wolverine is softer and more docile than any previous film. Young Charles and Eric have had their share of suffering too, but respond by either withdrawing from society or directly attacking it, a perfect summery of 70s America. They cannot see how their selfish actions will lead to the demise of everyone they love. Old Charles and Eric have seen it and respond with compassion. Suffering removes the ability to rationalize falsehood and focuses attention on the truth. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “the man who has not suffered; what could he possibly know anyway?”

            As the ending of the film approaches, it becomes clear the fate of the world depends on an act of mercy, not war. The choice that all beings, mutants and humans alike, face is whether they can let go of their hate to make a better future. The answer is yes. It is possible, and Jesus is the ultimate example. Totally righteous as God, he nonetheless accepted death and resurrection so that man could have a future in the Kingdom of Heaven. While the past is solid and cannot be changed, the future is wide open. Imagine your older self looking at your past that has not yet happened. What would you change? Make your future the past you wished you could have had.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on May 28th, 2014.