While fans will have to wait until March to see 20th Century Fox's Logan, press got a chance to get their claws out early with a 42-minute preview of the upcoming X-film. And if even this unfinished footage is anything to judge the rest of the movie upon, Logan isn't just the best solo Wolverine film - it might be the most exciting X-Men movie yet.
Rather than Bryan Singer's bright and peppy X-Men aesthetic, director James Mangold and series star Hugh Jackman put Logan in a far grittier context. Living in the outskirts of El Paso as an Uber driver for spoiled teenagers, Logan is a disheveled and bitter man. His senses are failing, his healing factor diminished, and even his vaunted adamantium claws getting infected and stuck in pus-filled knuckles. When someone tells him they've found an adamantium bullet in his shirt pocket, it's hard not to feel a little sick for the man - what could have made this relentless fighter retreat into thoughts of suicide?
Living with an unlikely roommate Caliban (played with scene-stealing charm by Steven Merchant), Logan is at the end of his rope trying to deal with his one lingering responsibility from his superhero days - caring for an ailing Charles Xavier. Reprised by Patrick Stewart, this Xavier isn't the poised headmaster or even the passionate young idealist of the X-Men prequel films - he's riddled with seizures, angry and screaming obscenities at his former student, calling Logan a "f-cking disappointment." It's a great way for Stewart to play against expectations, and seeing Xavier so far gone is proof that the world of Logan might be quieter and less bombastic than previous X-films, but still maintains a similar sense of oppression as the dystopias of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
But as it often does for the Wolverine, things get complicated, and then they go south when Logan gets greedy and agrees to drive a woman and her daughter to North Dakota, he arrives to find the mother dead and her daughter missing. Laura, the aforementioned daughter, will be easily recognized by eagle-eyed fans as X-23, and her arrival on Logan's doorstep immediately ramps up the tension — particularly when she knocks out Donald Pierce, head of the malevolent Reavers.
Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook, is a total rat-fink of a bad guy, sneering at the demoralized Logan, almost daring the former Wolverine to lash out. (And when we do finally see those claws pop, Pierce's provocations make the moment that much sweeter.) But even without having any lines in the preview, Dafne Keen's Laura is a great foil for Logan — while Hugh Jackman's Wolverine was all roaring and withering sarcasm, Keen is quiet and focused, making her action scenes occasionally flirt with outright horror as we see this pint-sized killer walk out the door with a Reaver's severed head.
Ultimately, Logan's early, unfinished preview footage is far from conclusive - press saw some unfinished effects, and the preview ended right at the first act break, meaning this story could still go off the rails by the end of the narrative. But judging just based on the footage that was shown, Logan might be the best-crafted X-Men film yet, with a tremendously talented cast trying some really refreshing new takes on these iconic characters.
Logan opens in theaters March 3.