“Logan” benefits a great deal from a marvelous irony; it's not really a superhero film. Yes, it falls into the increasingly convoluted “X-Men” timeline, picking up a few years after the events of “Days of Future Past,” but I cannot stress how different it is from its predecessors. This should excite you if, like me, you found “Apocalypse” to be a trashy, redundant superhero snooze-fest. Though its influence from classic westerns and post-apocalyptic thrillers is clear, “Logan” takes the tired genre, and its eponymous hero, into uncharted territory (some have already cited “Children of Men” as an inspiration, but I would make the case that it takes a bit more from “Mad Max: Fury Road," and even the video game “The Last of Us”). The result is exceptional, even powerful at times, proving itself to be the best “X-Men” film to date, and one of the genre’s finest achievements.
The year is 2029; mutants are dying out, and those who are still around have chosen exile. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) - or at least what’s left of him - is one of them, but he sees little purpose in carrying on at this point in his life. When he isn’t working as a chauffeur, he’s either drinking or taking care of an ailing, senile Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Times are harder than ever for Logan, especially now that he is beginning to show his great age, coupled with the fact that the adamantium laced through his skeleton is slowly poisoning him. His now meager existence is shaken by the appearance of an 11-year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who, as Xavier mentions, is very much like Logan. A group of mercenaries out to capture Laura are hot on her tail, forcing Logan to bare his claws one last time to keep her out of harm’s way.
Up until now, saving the lives of others has always been just another day at the office for Wolverine. His regenerative powers have kept him alive for nearly 200 years, but they haven’t been able to heal the insurmountable pain he has experienced in such time. Now, that pain has finally manifested itself physically, leaving the man tired, disgruntled, and broken. Jackman displays his best work as the character here, but that is perhaps too easy to say when you consider that he has played him for 17 years. Looking an awful lot like Stephen Lang in “Don’t Breathe” while carrying himself with an anguish relative to that portrayed by Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler,” Jackman finally gets the chance to exhibit the same badassery fans have grown to love while also showcasing his impeccable dramatic chops. It’s one of the best performances in any comic book film.
Stewart, brilliant as he has always been, also gets to explore a different facet of his character. Xavier's old age becomes the subject of both heartbreak and dry humor (“I have to pee,” he tells Logan when they reach a gas station), but he still knows a thing or two about his mutant friend. Logan has grown weary of caring for and listening to the old man, but Xavier remains steadfast in his attempt to remain a fatherly voice of conscience for him, and Stewart nails this. While this is very much Jackman’s film, equal praise must be given to Keen, who owns every moment she has on screen, rivaling the awesome antics of Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance in “Kick-Ass.” She is mostly silent here, but acting with nothing but her eyes doesn’t seem like much of a challenge for her. Not since Alex Hibbert in “Moonlight” has a child actor communicated such gravitas without uttering a single word.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve only talked about the characters so far. That’s because “Logan” prioritizes them above all else, as should every other film of its kind. This gives every action sequence an urgency that is lacking in most superhero films of late. The R-rating helps too, as Wolverine’s routine slicing and dicing is, at long last, graced with the brutality it has sorely been missing in all his previous adventures. The violence here is truly organic, and full of consequence. I cannot recall an action film where the hero gets his ass handed to him repeatedly and did not simply brush off his injuries five minutes later. Every hit that Logan takes is felt, and it is felt deeply; you fear that he could meet his end at any moment, but if there ever were a way for a character as iconic as this one to go out, “Logan” would be most fitting.