Expectations can be devastating. Whether they're directed outward, inward, or are thrust upon you by someone else, the failure to live up to them can be one of the worst things in the world, and Logan makes it clear that it is a film with a wish to remind you of this early on in its runtime.
The latest entry in the X-Men franchise and the second of the Wolverine standalone films to be helmed serviceably by James Mangold, Logan finds itself set in a dystopian future Texas and revolving around a past-their-best-by-date Charles Xavier and Wolverine running from a cadre of corporate bads as they rush to get their charge, played with a shocking level of both emotion and feral rage by newcomer Dafne Keen, to a safe haven that may or may not be located in North Dakota. In terms of its structure and plot trajectory, Logan is fairly straightforward: get this person to that place and avoid all the bad motherfuckers who will try to kill us along the way. Its in the details surrounding this arc, though, that Logan manages to add some real shading and detail to the proceedings, filling in the blanks with a level of nuance and thought that is frankly absent a lot of superhero movies these days.
As an X-Men movie, Logan doesn't really work, but a lot of this can be chalked up to the fact that isn't necessarily trying to. Perhaps its shrewdest decision is the one Logan makes when it chooses to avoid making a movie about the world of the X-Men, and instead use the world of its X-Men and all of its trappings to tell a surprisingly human take about expectation, disappointment, responsibility, and family. And then also there are lots of people who get their faces and bodies fucked up super proper by claws. So many claws, you guys.
Speaking of claws, the newest set in the X-Men universe belongs to the hands and feet of young Laura—also known as X-23 (I don't recall whether this designation was used in the film; if it was, it was only once)—who rips, shreds, tears, and screams her way through this movie like nobody's devilish business. Dafne Keen is incredible in the role, and the character is so smartly realized it's almost a shame she isn't in a tamer movie, so as to allow for the possibility that more girls under 16 can see someone who looks like them just shredding the fuck out of a bunch of menacing, sweaty men who mean her harm. Each action sequence involving Laura is progressively intense, and the screams that just rip themselves out of her throat somehow never lose their impact. In fact, late-film developments that I won't spoil here make them even more powerful than they were before about two-thirds of the way into the movie. Keen is acrobatic, strong, and determined...and even though she's a child, she's far from a burden to Logan. In fact, even though he feels responsible for her, he clearly needs her over and over again throughout the film's run.
Finally unencumbered by a rating that doesn't fit the character and with a story that pushes him to new and interesting places, Logan finds Wolverine at his most fresh and his most daring. It should be a mark of accomplishment when it's pointed out that there's nothing left to say here, in terms of this universe. Logan functions as an incredible coda to — and perhaps meta-commentary on —the X-Men franchise as a whole, both remarking on the stories that have been told within it and reacting to them in the same breath. Logan explores its subject matter ably and with teeth, but make no mistake: while it's a great movie, it's still one with disappointment at its core.