It is the year 2029, and mutants are nearly extinct (for those fans trying to figure out how this fits into the series’ timeline, don’t bother- Logan is a completely stand-alone film). No new mutants have been born in over 20 years, and most of the familiar faces are long dead. One of the few left is Logan (Hugh Jackman) who spends his nights driving a limo around El Paso, Texas and his days caring for (a by now incredibly old) Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Over the years Logan’s healing factor has slowed down significantly, and Xavier has grown senile. They try to live quietly without attracting attention to themselves, until they discover something amazing: a mutant child named Laura (Dafne Keen). But Laura is being hunted, and it’s not long before Logan is reluctantly dragged back into the role he once played: the Wolverine.
The most interesting thing about Logan is that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie at all. Rather, it’s more like a gritty, modern Western. It’s surprisingly grounded, fairly slow-paced, and shockingly downbeat and grim. Imagine No Country For Old Men, but with Wolverine in it. The film is both physically and emotionally raw, in contrast to how squeaky-clean and polished most superhero movies tend to be. And I don’t just mean in terms of tone and visual style.
What I mean the is the violence. Dear God, the violence. If you thought Deadpool was violent, than buckle your seatbelts, because Logan is even more graphic. Although it might just be because, unlike Deadpool which played its ultraviolence for laughs, Logan is dead serious and plays the violence completely straight. It finally answers the age-old question of what a (serious) R-rated superhero movie would be like. And it’s so, so good. I wrote in my review of X-Men: Apocalypse that the film didn’t really have any action sequences- it was just a bunch of people standing around on green-screens with CGI effects painted over them. Logan is the exact opposite of that: it’s just Wolverine running around stabbing people in the face, with a smattering of gun fights and car chases for good measure.
But unlike the Punisher films for example, Logan never falls into the trap of relying on its ultraviolence to carry the movie, because Logan is a genuinely great film in virtually every aspect. The acting, in particular, is fantastic. This is likely to be Jackman’s last film as Wolverine, and he brings an emotional depth and soulfulness to the character never before seen in the series, and rarely seen in superhero movies period. This is a Wolverine that alternates between bone-deep tiredness and simple, sheer rage, filled with both physical and emotional pain. If this is indeed his last time with the claws, it is certainly a fitting swan song. This may also be Patrick Stewart’s final time as Professor X, and instead of occupying the loving grandfatherly role we are accustomed to he is now a grumpy, senile old man (and yes, a psychic going senile is exactly as scary as it sounds). But it is Dafne Keen, in her first film role at the age of twelve, who nearly steals the whole freaking movie, despite the fact that she doesn't speak for about two thirds of it. I’ve seen a lot of discussion comparing her to Eleven from Stranger Things, and that would be true to an extent- if Netflix would let her use her abilities to kill people in horribly brutal fashion. Not to mention the cinematography, which is impeccable and really helps to give the movie such a strong Western vibe- it reminded me a lot of last year’s Hell or High Water visually. The only complaints I have with the film are a few bits of the plot that felt a little far-fetched or had some holes, but considering how good every other aspect of the film is this is simply a minor issue that you likely won’t even notice, and it doesn’t take away from the phenomenal emotional depths the three main characters all convey.
Logan is an anomaly. A superhero movie that looks and feels like a Western. An R-rated action flick with ridiculous ultraviolence but also incredibly compelling characters. A downright grimdark superhero movie that dares to defy Marvel’s campiness and beats down DC’s pathetic attempts at darker fare. This is how to do a dark, serious, superhero movie- a grounded style, incredible dramatic performances, and the embrace of the R rating. Logan is not only one of the (if not the single) greatest X-Men movie, it is possibly one of the greatest superhero films ever made. I cannot recommend this movie enough, unless you’re squeamish about ultraviolence.