CONTAINS ****** SPOILERS
The first thing you notice about Logan, the third Wolverine movie and the ninth X-Men movie, is the big shiny 15 at the start and the BBFC's warning of "strong bloody violence, strong language". In an era where most comic-book superhero movies are fluffy 12As (even the ones that absolutely shouldn't be), it's refreshing to see one that doesn't stint on the blood and brutality, liberally tossing around F-bombs and severed heads, clearly setting it apart from the usual expectations of Captain America and Thor adventures. This is a "serious" superhero movie which does the seriousness properly: the problem with the DC movies isn't that they're taking Batman and Superman seriously, it's that they're confusing "dark" with "depressing and humourless". Man Of Steel should be fun but isn't; The Dark Knight should be fun but isn't, Deadpool is fun in its winking to the audience throughout. Logan is a proper comicbook superhero movie for grown-ups, and it manages to achieve that without the Zack Snyder techniques of washing all the colour out into a sepia smudge and smashing up cities left and right.
It's a movie FOR grown-ups because it's a movie ABOUT grown-ups: set in 2029, when John Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, for the final time), is an older recluse living and slowly dying in a rundown shack in the Mexican desert. His only fellow mutants are albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and a rambling, bitter Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), tortured by his guilt over something unspecified but unspeakable in his past. These are no longer the comfortable, likeable characters of X-Men movies past: the pills are no longer working, they're snappy, tired, aggressive and sour. They're also probably incredibly lonely: there are no mutants left now and only exist in comics. Until he encounters a young girl with mysterious superpowers whose adult guardian begs him to take them to the mythical Eden. He doesn't want to bother - Caliban and Xavier are in no fit state to make that journey and he can't abandon them - until a small army turn up intent on bringing the girl back to the laboratory complex where mad scientist Richard E Grant is trying to breed a new race of mutants....
It's a pleasingly old-fashioned film: it puts the main credits at the front (like movies used to do in olden days) and in a plain white typeface, with the kind of low-key main title music you'd expect from a 70s paranoia thriller rather than the double-forte anthems of modern superhero blockbusters, and it introduces its lead as a hard-to-like badass right from the start. I was never much of an X-Men fan anyway and Wolverine always seemed to me to be a miserable git (remember the one-line gag cameo in First Class?), but he's even less pleasant company here than usual. But what James Mangold has managed to do is find the human Logan within the superhuman Wolverine and, while that human might be bitter and angry, his journey and salvation are worth following. The film is called Logan, after all, not Wolverine Returns.
A pity, perhaps, that a movie that's been consciously designed and shot for a 1970s feel should look so terrible in the night scenes, many of which just look like unfiltered digital camcorder that kills that atmosphere they've gone to so much trouble to create. Maybe it's not as bad as the same effect in Public Enemies or Gangster Squad, where it killed the period settings as well, but there's something wrong when the night scenes look no better than the Making Of featurettes on the DVD. But that and the occasional odd casting (Caliban's superpower here appears to be making you think Ricky Gervais is standing behind you) apart, Logan's pretty impressive and probably the best of the whole X-Men run. The violence is bloody and painful and, even if it veers into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome territory in its third act, it's a solid and generally very enjoyable finale for Wolverine and the kind of comicbook superhero movie that suggests what might happen if the films, like the characters, grew up a bit.