★★★ ½

Before Iron Man, before The Avengers, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe became the behemoth it is today, the first X-Men film kick-started the superhero-movie revolution in 2000, introducing live-action iterations of its beloved comic-book mutants. Needless to say, the franchise took off, and it’s been a long, fun, emotional, and politically charged journey for fans ever since. But all good things must come to an end, and after appearing as Wolverine nine times, Hugh Jackman says goodbye to the character in the X-Men spin-off Logan.

Set twelve years in the future, the film introduces us to a world where mutants are no longer born and the existing ones have been mostly eradicated. The once-formidable Logan (aka Wolverine) is now limping his way through a job as a limousine Uber driver, hoping to make enough money to support both himself and an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart); the pair are hiding out in an abandoned facility in Mexico, where Xavier’s failing health sometimes causes psychically charged earthquakes when he loses control of his abilities. But Logan’s fortune takes a turn when he meets Laura (the unbelievably talented Dafne Keen), an anomalous young girl with mutant abilities similar to his own. He is soon forced to upend his life and embark on a journey with Professor X and Laura to escape nefarious enemies.

Logan is certainly not for the faint of heart—it’s the first R-rated X-Men film, which allows the audience to see the deadly and fantastically gory consequences of tussling with Wolverine (decapitations, broken bones, and sliced limbs, oh my!), as well as hear every last snippet of profanity dropped by the famously foulmouthed superhero and—shockingly and charmingly enough—Professor X. Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Girl, Interrupted) also shows a real love for Westerns here, as seen in the gritty cinematography, desert landscapes, and the story parallels between Wolverine’s journey and that of a Western antihero.

Logan is more than graphic action and swear words, however—the heart of the film are his relationships with Professor X and Laura, which not only make for poignant (and often heartbreaking) scenes, but also add extra depth to both the characters and the overall lore. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the new villains introduced in this installment of the franchise: They’re one-dimensional and uninteresting, and arguably unnecessary since Logan’s main adversary has always been his own demons (a point the movie hammers home in a less-than-subtle battle between Logan and a lab-manufactured version of himself).

Despite its flaws, Logan is the perfect way for Jackman and Stewart to bid their iconic X-Men roles adieu. While not easy to watch at times (this definitely isn’t suitable for the younger fans in the audience), it is a refreshingly different film that adds a never-seen-before realness to this comic-based universe, and sheds light on the depths that are achievable in this genre. Above all, Logan is a love letter to X-Men fans: the folks who grew up reading the comics and/or following the movies, and who have stuck with the characters and the story arcs through thick and thin.