Please note that if you have not seen “Dark Phoenix,” below I discuss some key elements of that recent movie. You have been warned …
One of the annoying aspects of being a minister is the difficulty of turning off one’s “homiletic antennae.” That is, the spirit and mind of the minister tend to identify potential theological principles while he or she engages in even the most mundane activities (e.g., preparing a meal, making our bed, talking with our children). I would emphasize that much of the time this type of dot connecting occurs subconsciously. As a case in point, one of the most frequent ways in which I experience this phenomenon is while I’m watching movies, which is an activity that consumes a lot of my time. Thus, I was not surprised that I received inspiration while viewing “Dark Phoenix,” which is the latest movie having to do with Marvel’s X-Men. (I went to see this movie even though, in recent years, Professor X, Wolverine, Jean Grey/Phoenix, et al have taken a proverbial backseat to the much more popular Avengers.)
This installment of the celebrated cadre of X-Men is, ostensibly, the final chapter. (I am reminded that the fourth movie in the “Friday the 13th” franchise was dubbed “The Final Chapter” — only to be followed by eight more films in that series.) In any case, the titular character is an “X-Woman,” who becomes the most powerful character in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. (I am confident asserting this as fact because my 12-year-old son told me so. He is the consummate Marvel nerd.)
One of the key plot elements in this movie concerns the character Jean Grey (aka “Phoenix”), who absorbs an incomprehensibly powerful source of light and energy while she is in outer space. It initially appears that this energy source kills her, but we quickly learn that she’s never been more “alive” — or more powerful. However, Phoenix increasingly becomes agitated despite having so much power (or, perhaps, because she does). Knowing Phoenix’s ambiguity about the light and power that reside within her, a crafty and smooth-talking alien slithers her way into Phoenix’s life and mind. Eventually, this deceptive creature convinces Phoenix that she is better off forsaking her gift from above — and that she (the alien) is ready to take this “burden” off Phoenix’s shoulders. However, before Phoenix can completely give away all her power, her de facto father convinces her to embrace her gift (and her destiny).
While watching this scene I was reminded of Philippians 2:6, which reads in part: “… though (Jesus) was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped …” (English Standard Version) In other words, Jesus understood that He did not need to try to take something from God in order to be fully God. This idea of oneness with God (known as the “hypostatic union” in theological parlance) is confirmed in other passages, such as Colossians 2:9, which reads:“For in (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (ESV). Finally, the Nicean Creed picks up this idea by stating that Jesus is “… very God of very God”.
Additionally, while Phoenix was temporarily consumed by that which is “dark” (i.e., contrary to the light), Jesus never was. After declaring that God’s light was inside Jesus, John 1:5 reads: “The light (of Jesus) shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (ESV). Further, 1 John 1:5 declares in part: “… God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,” (ESV). Thus, unlike Phoenix, there was never a “Dark Jesus” — other than his skin tone.
Earlier, I used the word “inspiration” in reference to my gleaning theological implications (and applications) from various sources. It is an appropriate word because, etymologically speaking, the word literally means “God-breathed.” (For example, the Apostle Paul uses this compound Greek word in 2 Timothy 3:16.)
Finally, I am aware that “Dark Phoenix” is not a Christian movie; indeed, there are many elements that are decidedly anti-Biblical. However, I believe that some of its thematic elements are drawn from theological and philosophical questions regarding (among other things) ontology and the battle between good and evil. Thus, much like C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” can elucidate certain moral principles, secular works can achieve a similar end. There are certainly worse things that modern “entertainment” can offer us.
Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at email@example.com.