Spot the Deliberate Mistake

In which The Author revisits some of his favourite films

WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS FOLLOW

Thanks to some friends of mine (no names, no pack drill), I recently caught up with X-Men: First Class. Rhian and I somehow managed to miss it when it was in our local cinema. Mind you, given our current run of luck, it would have either been cancelled owing to ‘technical difficulties’, or started half an hour earlier than normal.
It’s a superb film, even without the subtitles through the lengthy sequences in German, French and Russian, but it left me with some unanswered questions. Rhian eventually watched a legitimate copy a couple of weeks ago. Over a pint last week we discussed some of the inconsistencies First Class threw up. We agreed that the only sensible course of action was to start again from the beginning.
So, over the past three evenings I’ve watched the three original X-Men films back to back. I have to admit that I’m more confused now than I was initially.
  • We know from the opening sequences to both X-Men and First Class that Eric was in the Nazi death camp in 1944. According to Jean Gray in X-Men, the mutations manifest themselves at puberty. Even assuming that he hit puberty young, that means Eric was born in 1933 or earlier. That puts him well into his seventies by the ‘near future’ in which the films are set. Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Eric/Magneto throughout the original trilogy, was born in 1939. That means he’s only 73 now, nearly a decade after X-Men was made. I doubt if any other actor could have brought more dignity and quiet menace to the part, but according to my reckoning he’s still too young.
  • In X-Men, Charles Xavier tells Logan/Wolverine that he met Eric/Magneto ‘when [he] was seventeen’. This is contradicted by the back story in First Class. Here, Charles and Eric meet in 1962, during the build-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. As I’ve already outlined, Eric must be approaching thirty, if not older. According to First Class, Charles had already received his higher degree from Oxford by this time. Even assuming that he was the male equivalent of Ruth Lawrence, and got accepted as a young teenager, this would still put him in his twenties. If he’d taken the more conventional route, Charles wouldn’t have got his PhD until his mid to late twenties at least. Either way, they definitely didn’t meet when Charles was seventeen.
  • In First Class, Raven/Mystique and Charles first meet as young teenagers. When he is at Oxford she passes herself off as his sister. They must be close in age, and that puts her in her mid-twenties as well. Even though Hank McCoy tells her that she ages more slowly than ordinary humans, by the time the later films are set, she must be in her sixties at least. When, in The Last Stand, she reverts to human form, she only looks to be in her twenties.
  • In X2, we see Mystique seducing a prison warder in a bar. On the TV behind them, ‘Dr Hank McCoy’ is giving a news interview. We learn from The Last Stand that Hank McCoy is Beast, the big blue furry mutant. In First Class, Hank’s failed experiment transforms him into Beast – a change which we are led to believe is permanent. I have to wonder how he managed to take human form for his TV interview.
  • In The Last Stand, Charles refers briefly to ‘a colleague’ named Moira McTaggart. In First Class, Moira McTaggart is the CIA agent who discovers the mutant conspirators, and approaches Charles for his expertise in genetics. When we see Moira at the very end of The Last Stand, she is a young woman, certainly nowhere near Charles’s age. Is it the same woman, or her daughter, with the same name? Or – possibly – Moira and Charles’s daughter?
  • In X2, Charles tells Logan that Magneto helped him to build Cerebro. In First Class, Hank McCoy is credited with building the original model, at the CIA’s covert base. From what we know, it seems more likely that Hank and Charles worked on it together.
  • Finally, and most confusingly of all: At the end of First Class, we see Charles, still as a young man, using his wheelchair. However, at the start of The Last Stand (the flashback to Jean’s childhood), we see him and Eric walking from the car to her parents’ house. In fact, the direction makes it plain that Charles is still able-bodied at this point in the film’s narrative.
Now, let me just state that I love the films. I think their blend of action, social commentary, humour, darkness, humanity and tragedy sets them way above the majority of other SF trilogies. But, given that they are intended as a continuous narrative, it’s a shame that so many inconsistencies have entered the mix with the latest offering. One of the co-writers is Bryan Singer, who co-wrote and directed the first two films. Another is Jane Goldman, the wife of the film critic and comic book enthusiast Jonathan Ross. I don’t know why the three of them didn’t sit down together and talk through the script beforehand.
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