Logan is the best super hero film I have ever seen. Starring Hugh Jackman, allegedly his last time playing the role, and directed by James Mangold, the film benefits from a complete and total sense of confidence. It's this confidence - which we might usefully contrast with the schizophrenic tonality of, say, Warner Bros' DC universe - that allows Logan to be exactly the kind of movie it wants to be. And that is a foul-mouthed, bloody super hero western mash-up infused with melancholy, bleakness and just the right amount of hope to make for a satisfyingly bittersweet swan song.
Borrowing tonal and thematic elements from the Old Man Logan comic book run, the movie is set in 2029 and immediately lets us know that this isn't the Wolverine we used to know. He is aging and his body is breaking down. He spends his days driving a limo around Texas and caring for a doddering old Charles Xavier who is stashed in a Mexican safe house. I don't know who thought of this character trait - to have Wolverine drive a limousine - but it's genius. There is a wonderful absurdity to seeing one of Marvel's most iconic heroes chauffeuring people around town and then getting into high speed desert chases in a limo.
From the start, the film overflows with a kind of tragic pathos, shot through with echoes of better days. This is no peppy day-glo action blockbuster where CGI super-heroes battle hordes of CGI bad guys in bloodless, stake-free spectacles. This is a movie where the hero is an alcoholic, has no problem leaving innocent people behind to die and carries an Adamantium bullet around just in case the pain finally gets to be too great.
I loved this film for that willingness to venture off the beaten path. It has no qualms about going to dark places. The X-Men are all gone, vanished in the fog of more expensive but less interesting film franchises. Logan earns its R-rating with bloodshed and f-bombs, and it paints a picture of a world that is a shitty place to live in. It is a hardscrabble, tragic existence. And yet, it manages to hit just the right tone so that the bleakness doesn't overwhelm. It's balanced by strong performances and the sense that, yes, even in in this world that seems post-apocalyptic but isn't, we can still take some comfort in knowing that, at least for this one last movie, Hugh Jackman is out there disemboweling Mexican gangsters. The thought makes me feel both happy and indescribably sad at the same time.