When Charles Xavier requests a meeting with Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: Apocalypse, he’s gobsmacked: They haven’t seen each other in over 20 years, but “she hasn’t aged a day,” Xavier crows to his friend, Alex Summers. He’s not kidding: Rose Byrne’s Moira was introduced in the 1962-set X-Men: First Class, and though Apocalypse takes place decades later, in 1983, Byrne sports nary a gray hair nor a new wrinkle. Then again, neither do her scene partners James McAvoy and Lucas Till, or fellow First Class alumni Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. Which makes a viewer wonder: How old are these characters supposed to be, anyway?
The X-Men movies have always had a wonky timeline, but since the series was softly reset in First Class, it was fair to expect that Bryan Singer would at least keep that limited character continuity straight in the two sequels that followed, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Instead, he has heedlessly jumped ahead at least one decade for each new installment, meaning that the young people who play the X-Men are now wedded to characters who, against all odds, are well into middle age.
Take Magneto, who is just 14 years old when we meet him during World War II in a First Class prologue. Since that sequence takes place in 1944, we know the character was born around the year 1930. While that makes him a perfectly reasonable 32 by the time Fassbender takes over for the 1962-set bulk of First Class, it also means that Fassbender is playing 43 in Days of Future Past and a deeply insane 53 in Apocalypse. I know the 39-year-old Fassbender has got a somewhat rugged face, but this is ridiculous.
According to the First Class credits, Mystique is 10 when we initially meet her in a flashback, which means that by the time Apocalypse rolls around, our blue mutant is now 49 years old. (I guess David O. Russell isn’t the only one who can trick the 25-year-old Jennifer Lawrence into playing middle-aged women.) You can handwave this one a bit since Mystique is a shape-shifter, but the optics are strange whenever Lawrence’s Mystique is positioned as a grizzled veteran coaching young mutants like Quicksilver, since he’s played by Evan Peters, who is four years older than Lawrence in real life. At the very least, Mystique’s arrested aging renders moot one of the best jokes in First Class, when Magneto tells a seductive Mystique to come back when she’s older. In that film, Lawrence responds by transforming into Rebecca Romijn, a veteran of the original X-Men trilogy, but now it seems like getting older is the one thing Mystique will never do.
And what of the three characters in the scene I named up top? Alex Summers is at least 20 when we meet him in First Class, which means that his perma-twink portrayer Lucas Till is playing a 40-something in Apocalypse, though he still looks a youthful 25 and even boasts a high-school-aged brother, Scott (played by 19-year-old Tye Sheridan). Rose Byrne was around 30 when she shot First Class, so if you assume Moira was that age, too (and she’d seemingly have to be, since she’s an accomplished CIA agent in the film), then she’s a sprightly 51 in Apocalypse — as is McAvoy’s Xavier, born in 1932.
If that didn’t already strain credulity, Singer has another trick up his sleeve: For the next X-sequel, which he’ll be directing, he plans to skip ahead another decade to the 1990s. Should McAvoy return for that one, he’ll be playing a version of Charles Xavier that is at least 61 years old, which is older than Patrick Stewart was when he played Xavier in the very first X-Men. Some things about this franchise are immutable, but who knew that would extend to the actors’ looks? Yes, humanity will always hate and fear the X-Men, but maybe things would go a lot better if the mutants would just release their skin-care regimen.