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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

X-Men: First Class

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This latest installment in the Marvel comics-into-film “X-Men” franchise is one of the best of the four, so far, if not the best. It is, indeed, “first class.” Actually, the story is based on characters from the comic book series, rather than an actual comic. It is a prequel written by four people, based on a story by two others, including Bryan Singer, the entertainment virtuoso who directed “Superman Returns” (2006) and other notable films.

Usually too many writers spoil the plot, but in this case the collaboration worked. We learn how mutant Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) meets Raven (later Mystique played by Jennifer Lawrence), and how the CIA eventually recruits them, after a fashion. Xavier and Raven seek out others like themselves, who have unique superpowers and abilities, due to the exploitation of atomic energy. They gather for training to go up against other mutants who do not have the good of the world at heart.

While the story runs from about 1944 through 1962 where the “X-Men” team thwarts the Cuban Missile Crisis, rewriting history for those who enjoy fantasy speculation, the themes of self-acceptance, respect for others who are different, and empathy run throughout this film, as they do through the previous X-Men movies.

The moral or ethical tension in almost all comic book based films is dualistic: characters are good or bad, the choices are for good or evil. What I have always appreciated about the “X-Men” films is that they illustrate that morality is more than black and white, or a choice between two evils. It’s more complex. Here the characters consider consequences and while not all choices are good or even the best for the common  good, the characters struggle to do the right thing, and often do – which is why we like them.

There are bigger issues in this film, however, than the personal ones the characters deal with. Nuclear power, atomic energy, once unleashed, cannot be contained again except through the efforts of people with the political will to choose to do so. Documentaries, such as “Countdown to Zero” (2010), deals with the same issue in stark, unadorned terms.
Without spoiling of “X-Men: First Class”, the ending seems somewhat dualistic. However, it is an invitation to another prequel, and I think I’d like to see it when it comes out.


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Cyril and Methodius: Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. 
<p>After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post. </p><p>A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task. </p><p>Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then. </p><p>That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit. </p><p>Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release. </p><p>Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated. </p><p>Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church. </p><p>Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).</p> American Catholic Blog This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.

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