It would never have occurred to me 17 years ago as I was watching the first X-Men movie that I would one day be writing a rave review for the ninth one.

It seems that even superpowers can’t fight mortality, and as the film opens in a vaguely dystopian 2029, a middle-aged Logan (Hugh Jackman) has been reduced to driving a cheap stretch limo in order to buy the drugs the nonagenarian Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) needs to slow the progress of a degenerative brain disease.

They keep to themselves in a ramshackle compound just over the Mexican border, along with former foe Caliban (Stephen Merchant). As far as they know, there are no other mutants left on Earth. Their dismal existence is disrupted by the appearance of Laura (Dafne Keen) who, long story short, has been engineered from Logan’s DNA. She’s his daughter. And she’s being hunted. Richard E. Grant ably performs the villain duties.

James Mangold (Walk the Line; Girl, Interrupted; The Wolverine) has fashioned a thoughtful, poignant, almost Shakespearean story here; creatively risky, muscular, wickedly funny, and punctuated with explosions of slashing violence. Logan unsheathes those adamantium claws of his and proceeds to shred typical comic book movie expectations. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

Warning: This is NOT recommended for your action-figure- collecting X-Men fankids. This R-rated outing is a dark, violent and visceral experience that may be too much for the little ones. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but as superhero movies go, this one is near the top. (137 min)

It’s a matter of taste, of course, but as superhero movies go, this one is near the top. (137 min)