As it stands, Logan is the darkest film in the X-Men franchise by a mile. Nothing we've seen in the major release comic genre even touches its grim nature. Director James Mangold has crafted an astonishingly bleak, but deeply satisfying and logical chapter in the story of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Fans are going to be discussing this one for a long time. I feel some will lament its humorless approach. Logan is the anti-Deadpool. There are zero moments of levity. This review is spoiler free apart from the general premise.
Logan takes place in the near future. Living under an alias, Wolverine has aged significantly. His ability to heal is greatly diminished. He makes a hard living driving a limo. Ferrying around wedding parties and frat boys, his nine to five has a much greater purpose. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has ended up in his care. Time and tragedy have left them together. As Wolverine and another (Stephen Merchant) works to secure a better life for their mentor, a past enemy returns with terrifying purpose.
Logan earns the hard-R rating. It is a savage and bloody film loaded with expletives. The violence is up close and personal. Heroes and villains shed a lot of blood. There's also very little science fiction or fantasy elements depicted. It's nothing like the previous X-Men films from a visual effects level. Mangold is aiming for stark realism and achieves it.
The character growth is by far the most gripping element of this film. We've seen the story of Professor X and Wolverine in many incarnations over the last seventeen years. Logan portrays these powerful mutants as beaten and broken down. Professor X is a feeble old man with multiple ailments. Gone is the stalwart leader that protected and nurtured others. Logan, the definition of invincible, is a shell of his former self. But even in his weakest moments, he is the most formidable of adversaries. Hugh Jackman straddles this line with deft aplomb. He coughs, shudders, and winces throughout, but when bad guys need to be shredded; Logan is still bar none.
The villains in this film are fantastic. Fox has done a banner job keeping them under wraps. I was quite surprised by the true antagonist. James Mangold deserves a golf clap for removing the cheese factor. All the X-Men villains have been somewhat cartoonish to varying degrees. They behaved like they do in comic books, maniacal and monologues. This is not the case here whatsoever. They are truly despicable and merciless.
I enjoyed the film tremendously, but it has several faults. The most glaring is Logan's constant benevolence. Time and time again I wondered, why on earth doesn't he just kill a specific villain? The reason is there's no movie if this guy dies in the first fifteen minutes. Mangold needed to tighten up this part of the script. Logan has been fighting for decades. He knows what a threat is. Another issue I had is the capability of the antagonist and their true purpose. They have an ace in the hole that should have been dropped on the first hand. But it makes for a bigger surprise as a later reveal. These are quibbles, but hold this film back from being great.
Your reaction to Logan will depend on how you view the comic genre. Those that enjoy the humor of the Marvel Studios films will find Logan one note. It's crushingly somber, but engaging. I can empathize with those that aren't entertained by darkness. Leave the kids at home. Arriving from 20th Century Fox, Logan is clearly intended for a mature audience.