X-Men 3 movie review: Awesome similarities to the recent discussion of morality in G3

AuthorTopic: X-Men 3 movie review: Awesome similarities to the recent discussion of morality in G3
Shock Trooper
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This is a direct paste from the published article. The author gives explicit permission to repost, but I am not sure if this board allows such posting. If not, please delete this thread with my apologies.

As I read this article today, I thought it echoed so much the discussion of morality in G3, that I thought others would enjoy it, whether they agree with the perspective or not.

Remaking Man in Our Own Image:
C.S. Lewis' Conditioners and the World of X-Men 3: The Last Stand

By Dr. Marc T. Newman

C. S. Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man that humans, unmoored from the restraint occasioned by fidelity to a transcendent moral order, would create a world of their own choosing. Humans think that by doing so they will be free to make of themselves what they will, but Lewis disagreed, noting "For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please." The men in charge of such a program Lewis called "the Conditioners" – and they are making a spectacular appearance this weekend at your local theater in X-Men 3: The Last Stand (rated PG-13).

Memorial Day weekend has become the kickoff point for summer popcorn flicks, and in that area X-Men 3 does not disappoint. Summer films are dominated by action, and X-Men 3 has enough spandex-garbed mutant superheroes, battles to the death, explosions, gunfire, and other visual eye-candy to satisfy the adolescent male in many of us. And while X-Men 3 is the weakest in the series (blame the exit of director Bryan Singer, who left the franchise he built to direct Superman Returns), amidst the mayhem it still raises significant questions about the making of moral decisions in a culture that has abandoned God, the threat of Conditioners to remake humans in their own image, and the need to reassert a transcendent vision of humanity if we are ever to survive the technologizing of the West.

No Superhuman Authority

X-Men 3 frames the dilemma that pervades the film in an early scene. Professor Xavier, who runs the School for Gifted Children – a kind of Mutant U – is conducting a discussion about ethics in which he challenges his charges to try to determine where is the line between a responsible use of their power and tyranny over those who are weaker than they. In response, one of the students paraphrases this quotation from Albert Einstein: "I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."

Cloudy ethics pervade X-Men 3. The line between what constitutes help and what constitutes unethical control is blurry – at times even causing the audience to question the motives of Professor Xavier regarding his intrusion into the mind of Jean Grey – the world's most powerful mutant. Can good intentions override lack of consent if the goal is to help someone gain self-control? Is Magneto, portrayed in the earlier two films as the head villain, wrong to want to protect himself, and the other rebel mutants, from being medically altered to suit the needs of the government?

The ambivalence felt by the audience during the film stems from this major premise: in a world that rejects any kind of transcendent morality as binding on its decision making, how do we determine right from wrong? Twist the circumstances enough and even appalling behavior can be made to look, if not right, at least understandable. But it was Nietzsche, not Einstein, who best understood how determinations of right and wrong are to be made in a culture that has killed God: through the will to power.

Can Do versus Should Do

The problems faced in the fantasy world of X-Men 3 are merely our own problems writ large. While Professor Xavier is wrestling with the philosophical and theological question of whether the mutants should do certain things, over at Worthington Laboratories scientists are simply determining whether or not they can do what they want – which is to genetically modify mutants to neutralize their special abilities. What begins as a voluntary offer to "cure" the mutants so that they will "fit in" with the rest of the culture, quickly escalates to a forceful, mandatory kind of ethnic cleansing.

Thomas De Zengotita, in his book, Mediated, argues that through genetic engineering we are in the process of "literal self-making." He sees this as the ultimate rejection of God as we make of ourselves what we want to be, rather than what Nature (or God) intended us to be. But remember Lewis – this power actually amounts to the power of the Conditioners to mold others into the kinds of humans desired by the Conditioners. So what De Zengotita enthusiastically praises as self-liberation is instead the worst type of tyranny.

Recognizing this drift, Peter Lawler, in Aliens in America, explains that we are already well on the way to this world that X-Men 3 describes as located "not too far in the future." By welcoming a pragmatic view of philosophy – one that views "the good" as "what works" – we are moving toward a culture in which the highest goal is comfort. Since the most uncomfortable ideas are that we will all someday die, and that we will be accountable to God for our actions, these ideas need to be eliminated from the human psyche. Lawler explains "The pragmatist hopes, for love or charity, to free human beings from any residual longings they may have for the truth about God and nature. The pragmatist will help them forget about eternity – and so any form of immortality – for their own good." Lawler notes that while philosophers may fail to produce the desired results, pharmacology may not. It won't be that medical technology will exterminate death; it will simply be used to render people incapable of caring about it. Once we no longer care about death or judgment, what will stop the Conditioners among us from finishing the job and altering or eliminating those "undesirables" who make these elites uncomfortable by their very existence?

Reasserting the Transcendent Vision of Humanity

While X-Men 3 struggles with these ideas, it is so committed to its evolutionary sense of destiny that it is unable to see that any happy ending it hopes to move toward is more of a happy accident than a result of a reinvigorated commitment to transcendent truth. In actuality, the apparent morality of the X-Men is nothing more than the result of winning a contested power struggle. It is the case of the winner writing history.

After cheering at the successes of the "good mutants" over the "bad mutants" – these lines are tough to draw when the good mutants are fighting to save the technological source of their own impending destruction – we need to pause. As they walk from the theater, filmgoers should hearken back to Professor Xavier's initial ethics discussion and the student's response. What kind of ethical world can we live in if we are unwilling or unable to recognize any superhuman authority? Christians should know the answer to that question. The human story is one of constant struggle against the rule of God – it is the story of sin. Christians can also explain the way out. No amount of technology or wishful thinking will eliminate the facts of death and judgment. The only true comfort humans can ever find is through acknowledging their status as creatures, accepting the redemption provided by their Creator, and renewing their proper relationship with Him so that they might be completely fulfilled as He intended.
Posts: 201 | Registered: Thursday, February 6 2003 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 6754
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I agree on the similarity with Geneforge but I don't like the "conversion factor" of the article.

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One of these words is mispelled.
Posts: 284 | Registered: Tuesday, January 31 2006 08:00