For as many superhero movies as have supposedly revolutionized the genre -- Batman Begins proved comic book movies could be dark and gritty! The Winter Soldier was a '70s conspiracy thriller (or whatever)! Deadpool was rated R! -- it's downright astounding that we’re able to recognize them as superhero movies anymore.
The same has already been said of Logan, which revolutionizes the superhero genre once again by becoming a sort of Western road trip, I guess. The year is 2029, mutants are all but extinct, and Logan (Hugh Jackman, proving he just might be as ageless as Wolverine) is working as an, err, Uber driver? That is, when he's not tending to Professor X, who is losing his telepathic marbles (allowing Sir Patrick Stewart plenty of scenery to chew).
Logan has contented himself to mutant-kind's mysterious downfall -- "Maybe we were God's mistake," he gruffs -- until he's tasked with protecting and transporting a young girl with conspicuously similar abilities (newcomer Dafne Keen) from the evil henchmen who are hunting her.
The X-Men movies are only ever tenuously connected, even one that's a direct sequel to the one that came before it. If there's anything in the X-verse that's been constant, it's Jackman. And for his final go-round, he's allowed to unleash like he hasn't before. (You get the sense that Jackman's been waiting for this one.) The first line of the movie -- growled by Logan, naturally -- is "f**k," immediately followed by him ramming his claws through one guy's head, into another's skull, before the complete disembowelment of a third. That's all before the credits are finished rolling.
Fox (who own the film rights to Marvel's mutants) has always taken a serious approach to the X-Men, but unlike DC, they are serious about making sure their heroes look cool -- and Wolverine has never looked cooler than this. Logan undoubtedly owes much of its hard-R-ness to Deadpool's success, granting free reign for gratuitous boobs and plenty of F-words. Jackman says "f**k" in every iteration of every phrase containing the word you could think up. There is more than one beheading.
Yet, the movie is essentially the exact opposite of Deadpool. As directed by James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma and 2013's The Wolverine), Logan is heavy, haunting and staggeringly bleak. It's not gratuitously "dark and gritty" -- it earns it grimness -- and there is still fun to be had: one slo-mo sequence that feels like a nauseatingly dizzy, bloodier spin on a Quicksilver scene. There's another fight scene that, avoiding spoilers, I can only say I honestly cannot believe hasn't happened before. Fans will lose their minds.
Ultimately, there is an upside to Jackman hanging up his adamantium claws -- and Logan certainly does have a sense of finality. The 48-year-old actor has defined and been defined by this character, devoting essentially the last two decades of his life to playing Wolverine, but lest anyone forget, Jackman is an incredibly talented and versatile actor. Now, we'll get the chance to see him flex other muscles in roles outside the superhero genre. (Unless the money's right. Or Ryan Reynolds is convincing enough.)