It's taken 17 years, but Logan gives us the Wolverine we've always wanted.
Hugh Jackman reprises the titular role for what he claims is the final time. Given the film's box office success, I consider his retirement suspect, but I digress.
The film opens with Logan jarred from a drunken stupor in the back seat of a car. He stumbles out to discover a gang of young thieves attempting to strip the car. He pleas for them to stop and the thieves shoot him without a moment's hesitation. He drops to the ground, apparently dead.
A beat passes and Logan struggles to his feet. The thieves turn, surprised. Once again, Logan appeals to reason. Again, the thieves shoot him. Logan's temper snaps, he lets loose a slew of obscenities and winces in anger as he unsheathes his claws. The thieves' eyes go wide with terror as Logan snarls and charges forward, dismembering the punks in a bloody burst of violence.
This film earns its R-rating but doesn't wallow in it. The violence feels gritty but not gratuitous. This is Wolverine uncensored, ripped from the comics and thrust into the real world.
Well, almost. The time, we learn, is the near-future. The place is the southern US. Logan earns a low-profile living driving a limousine. He spends his meager earnings bribing hospital staff for the medication he administers to Charles Xavier, played once again by Patrick Stewart.
Forced into hiding, Logan and Xavier are all that remain of the X-Men. Xavier's succumbing to dementia, rendering his mind a potential weapon of mass destruction. Logan's mutant healing ability is fading and the adamantium lacing his bones is slowly poisoning him. Facing mortality and struggling to make ends meet, they are comic book heroes made human.
Well, almost. The plot kicks in when Logan discovers he has a daughter who's being hunted by a military-industrial conglomerate. As much as the film yearns to transcend the comic book genre, we get a cybernetic head bad guy, an evil Wolverine clone, and some magic healing juice that exists to facilitate the third act. These aren't deal-breakers, but they weaken the film's impact. With so much nonsense it's hard to take the serious parts, well, seriously.
Still, I enjoyed Logan, if for nothing more than Jackman and Stewart's performances. They make their characters feel familiar yet fresh and appear to relish the unidealized roles. That said, as the film unwound, I kept hoping Ian McKellen would turn up as Magneto. His scenes with Stewart were among the highlights of X-Men (2000), and he deserves an encore. Hey, maybe reconsider that retirement, Hugh?