I was surprised when McAvoy was first cast in FC. He didn’t strike me as the Professor X type. But seeing him in FC and now DOFP he’s become one of my favourite cast members in this franchise. He’s not trying to be Patrick Stewart but you accept him as a younger, more “rough around the edges” version of the man from the original trilogy. In this film McAvoy pulls off both the broken man and the man who finds his purpose again- going down the path to become the Xavier of later years. There’s a touching scene where Xavier, via reading Wolverine’s mind, communicates with his older self. The older Xavier tells him he needs “to hope again.” It’s a fascinating conceit, the older Xavier essentially helping his younger self become the man he’s going to be. And I think the film pulls it off beautifully, giving the scene real emotional pathos.
Fassbender continues to be a powerful presence as Magneto. We learn he's been locked in a concrete prison (Magneto can control metal) for killing President John F. Kennedy. The film jokes that Magneto being the assassin is the only way the trajectory of the bullet that killed Kennedy makes sense. What Magneto reveals about his role on that day in Dallas is also a nice little joke that I won’t spoil.
To break Magneto out of prison, Xavier, Hank and Wolverine need the help of Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who has the gift of super speed. There were many who hated the look of Quicksilver in this film but he turns out to be the highlight of the film. Peters has a great oddball comedic sensibility. The sequence where we view an event from Quicksilver’s point of view- as time slows downs while he speeds up- is both visually wonderful and charming. The song choice for the sequence- Jim Croce’s “Song in a bottle” is perfect. Fans know Quicksilver is Magneto’s son in the comics and there's a sly reference made by Quicksilver that Magneto is his dad. I wish that Quicksilver was in the film more. I think the filmmakers didn’t want the film to be too comedic. Or, like Shakespeare with Mercutio from Romeo & Juliet, they didn’t want Quicksilver to run away with the entire film.
I’m a little mixed on Lawrence’s performance. She’s a good actress but I don’t feel she fits the femme fatale role. However, she handles the emotional beats of the character. Her performance is consistent with the character from FC and her Mystique mostly works as the middle grown for the character between FC and the original trilogy.
As to be expected in this franchise, several characters do get shafted, particularly the characters in the future scenes. The newly introduced mutants such as Bishop (Omar Sy) and Blink (Bingbing Fan) hardly get any dialogue or development as characters. I do like Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, even though she may be a little too Ellen Pagey. Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till), who was established in FC, appears briefly but his role feels superfluous, almost as if he’s just there to let the audience know where he was and then move on.
For me, the film would’ve been stronger if the future scenes were as fleshed out as the 70s scenes. Even though the opening of the films vividly shows us what the this world is like for mutants I feel there should’ve been a more active story happening in the future, with more time dedicated to seeing how the mutants operate in this future. It’s also somewhat disappointing that the future scenes taking almost entirely in one location.
I know many feel Singer’s directorial approach to the X-Men franchise doesn’t have a place in today’s landscape of superhero films. I understand this point of view. Singer’s X-Men films- including DOFP- aren’t as “comic book on screen” as a film like The Avengers. But what I admire about Singer as a director of superhero films- both X-Men and the heavily criticized Superman Returns- is he always puts a heavy focus on the humanity behind the super powers. All four of his superhero films have real weight and emotion to them. While the climax of DOFP is a set piece the story resolves itself with Xavier trying to convince Mystique, with whom he grew up, to make the right choice. Near the ending Hank mentions the immutable theory of time. This theory states that you can never truly change the future. The timeline will always correct itself. The film sides with the opposite idea, that the future can be changed- and even the past.
Whether or not you enjoy DOFP will depend on how you feel about this franchise- and Singer’s X-Men films in particular. If you’re tired of this continuity then this film may just be a chore. If you love this franchise with all its ups and downs- and if you’re like me, grew up with the first two X-Men films- then DOFP has the potential to touch you deeply. There'll be an undeniable nostalgia factor to the film for many. DOFP is a loving tribute to the X-Men franchise but it’s also a bittersweet goodbye- and an exciting new start.