After two disappointing and critically panned Wolverine movies, Hugh Jackman returns to conclude his X-Men spin-off trilogy on a high note with Logan, the film that, he claimed, would be his last time ever playing the role.
We meet Logan much later in the timeline: he is older, weaker, he's an alcoholic limo driver whose days are spent picking up meds to appease a sick Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) deadly seizures. His eyesight is failing, he isn't healing as fast as he used to, even his claws get stuck when they come out so this is a post-Wolverine Logan at his absolute worst on his most physically draining mission yet. Because he is more vulnerable, you feel every punch, every stab and it's genuinely heartbreaking to see such a tough, once unbreakable superhero on auto-pilot, even considering suicide as an option. This is a dark, gritty and mercifully R-rated take on the character FOX studios were reluctant to jump into for so long and yet it's apparent from the very first scene that this should have been the template for every Wolverine solo movie from the beginning.
The cartoonish Wolverine: Origins was too silly to make any sort of impact and The Wolverine just felt like a bland, irrelevant side mission whereas Logan not only moves the iconic character's story forward but shows us a deeper side to him and, for the first time, makes us care for Wolverine who was, let's be honest, mostly one-dimensional up to this point. It's also a very effective X-Men movie despite the lack of other main heroes with the exception of Professor X in that its setting feels way more post-apocalyptic, ironically, than X-Men: Apocalypse with all the mutants having been essentially eradicated and the bad guys pursuing Wolverine looking like a bunch of twisted, half-robot Mad Max villains. The plot sees Logan take little mutant girl Laura (Dafne Keen) under his wing after her mother is killed by the aforementioned baddies and they set off, along with an ageing Xavier, to a safe place called Eden where her mutant friends are meant to be waiting for her.
Logan is an often downbeat, largely contemplative road movie that works both as a moody comic-book actioner and a low-key drama. The fight scenes are the most brutal we've seen in the entire X-Men franchise and, refreshingly, there aren't any bombastic, over-the-top action sequences save for a couple of car chases and the climax yet they are so well paced and put together that you don't miss the bigger scale of the other movies. A real effort is made to focus on the characters, their relationships with each other and how these seemingly defeated victims of their past and an unkind society get back up and fight on. The emotional scenes are genuinely powerful but there are also lighter moments and the film never gets too depressing or too goofy, keeping a solid balance tonally throughout. Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are excellent, newcomer Dafne Keen does a good job but, to nitpick slightly, while Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant are good in the roles they've been given, their characters never feel entirely necessary.
With Marvel Studios' Disney output getting larger and larger in scale, it's comforting to see a more human comic-book movie with characters you can actually relate to. This is easily the most realistic Marvel superhero movie ever made and, while it's not quite The Dark Knight, it's certainly right up there with the best of the best.
A must, bub.