WARNING: Spoilers ahead for X-Men: Apocalypse.
Earlier this month, prior to watching [X-Men: Apocalypse](tag:1194267), I decided to work through the X-Men movies. Seeing all five in the space of a couple of weeks not only sent my hype for Apocalypse skyward — and yes, it totally delivered — but also got me thinking about the reason the X-Men movies have made it this far.
Because, let's face it, the X-Men are kind of a left-field choice when it comes to average Joe on the street choosing his favourite superhero. They are not Captain America, and neither are they Batman.
But then, whereas other superheroes are generally revered or presented as Gods among men, the mutants who make up the X-Men are social outcasts, feared by and fearful of humanity. They struggle with their identity to the point that some would rather not have any abilities at all.
That sheer despondency at existing on the fringes of society, never fully accepted, always distrusted, bonds the X-Men together in a way that differentiates them from the likes of the Avengers. If Captain America, Iron Man and Thor come together to save the world, the X-Men come together to save themselves from it. And that's both bleak and pretty cool.
But perhaps the real secret to the success of the X-Men series is the unlikely friendship at its core. Because this is the 21st century and we are millennials, the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr should probably be referred to as a bromance, even if that implies a mutual affection which is often buried deep beneath layers of anger and misunderstanding.
The truth is, the relationship between these two men, both on page and screen, frequently surpasses breaking point. So what is it that binds them? How is it that, a decade after Magneto attempted to assassinate President Nixon as a signifier of his absolute hatred of humanity, he and Charles find themselves fighting a common enemy once more?
If there's one line which perhaps best illustrates Magneto's contempt for humanity, it's this from the Cuban missile climax of First Class:
"Take off your blinders, brothers and sisters. The real enemy is out there! Americans, Soviets. Humans. United in their fear of the unknown. Go ahead, Charles — Tell me I'm wrong."
They may possess wildly opposing ideologies, but there's something beyond their friendship that binds Charles and Erik: both are driven by a desire for acceptance.
For Erik, having witnessed the horrors a Nazi concentration camp, there is no compassion. The only way to achieve acceptance is to eradicate those who can't and will never understand. For Charles, the idealist from a background of privilege, acceptance is something both sides must work towards.
It's this common goal, in spite of Magneto's tendency to go full-on mutant-Hitler from time to time, that ensures the two men always find a way to resolve their animosity, at least temporarily, as is the case once again at the close of Apocalypse.
In one of the very best scenes from the movie — one that leans on two decades of shared history on-screen and many more on the page — Erik returns to the X-Mansion with Xavier to witness the mutants battle-training against Sentinels in the Danger Room.
For Charles this is a concession, an acknowledgment that the mutants at his school — both old and new — need to be prepared to fight, whether that be a war with humanity or those of their own kind. Erik, though, refuses to stay at the school, made too wary by the death of his wife and child to down weapons and stick around by his old friend's side.
As always, it's an uneasy truce between two men who, in any other circumstance, would be the very best of friends. The repetition of the Professor's iconic line from the first meeting of the pair in X-Men — when both were older and, in a weird Benjamin Button-style twist of fate, much less wise — perfectly hammers home the fact that this bromance has come full circle.
And, like all circles, there is no final destination. Some ideologies can never be married, just as some people will always be friends.