The X-Men cinematic universe had been part of my life for...well...more than half of my life. The only film in the franchise I never saw in theaters was the first one, simply titled X-Men. I was 12 when it came out in 2000, and it was a PG-13 movie. My parents were pretty strict about waiting to see movies at the appropriate age (a policy I agree with. I was pretty upset to see young 12- and 13-year-olds in the theater for R-rated Logan. But that's another blog post).
But I saw X2 in theaters. And X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse....you get the picture.9 movies over 17 years. (Technically there have been 10, but I don't count Deadpool, because: eww.) My birthday is in late May, and these films had a habit of opening over Memorial Day weekend, so it became a "birthday week" tradition for me to go see the latest X-Men movie. These movies are over-the-top action that rely on high-tech CGI effects and crashing soundtracks and cheesy one-liners, but I love them. I love the idea of kind-hearted Professor X searching the globe for young mutants and taking them into his care and protection. I loved the ivy-walled school that looked like any other but contained shape-shifters and ice-breathers and blue-skinned geniuses. I rallied for those who decided to use their powers for good and booed for those that didn't. I contemplated the ongoing and tumultuous rivalry between Professor X and Magneto and wondered if the metal-bending supervillain would ever listen to his calm and cerebral former friend and find peace (and since the newer films fill in more of Magneto's tragic backstory, the answer is probably not).
Logan is a brutal yet fitting end to his story. I went into the theater as prepared as I could be, knowing that the stylized violence of the previous PG-13 movies was going to be viciously ramped up in this R-rated finale. There were many gruesome moments when I had to look away. And as much as I did not enjoy that part of it, I do understand the reasoning behind it. For 17 years we've cheered as metal claws sprouted from Wolverine's knuckles and he bloodlessly dispatched the bad guys. But now we finally understand the horrific "reality" of his superpower and torturous aftermath he endures. In almost every film we've seen Logan tossing and turning at night, haunted by the visions of those he's hurt or might hurt. Now we see what he has seen. It is gruesome. It is terrifying. We can understand why it has consumed him.
Amidst the gory battles and frantic chase scenes, Logan does have some sweetly quiet moments. The aging Wolverine finds himself unable to read the small print on Charles' prescriptions, and seeing him peering over tiny reading glasses is hilariously adorable. A small boy clutches a Wolverine action figure in awe while watching his hero in action. And when a kind-hearted family takes the fugitives in for a night, Charles quietly confides to his friend how he long he's dreamed of such a simple, quiet life.
I won't say much more about the plot of the movie, but will end with this: the character of Wolverine spent decades on the fringes of society, fighting to keep himself alive and away from those that wanted to harness him for evil. But once Charles Xavier found him and gave him a home and a purpose with the X-Men, Logan never went back to fighting only for himself. His sole purpose became to protect others. He taught at the school, fought battles alongside the other X-Men, and became part of something. And in Logan, we see that he continues to fight for those who need him, even after everyone who fought beside him has disappeared.
I appreciated that Logan didn't worry itself with character cameos or flashbacks to better times. The era of the X-Men had passed, and we already knew that part of the story. Yes, it is a story about people who can bend reality with their minds and stop bullets with their forearms. But it is also the story of two friends named Logan and Charles; a story of compassion, friendship, and sacrifice.