When "Logan" director James Mangold announced earlier this month that a new version of Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine would be getting a special, one-night-only black and white release, fans went nuts. And understandably so — they were part of the reason the black and white film got released in the first place.
"During production of ‘Logan’ I took many black and white photographs and noticed how striking and dramatic our gritty settings and characters appeared in monochrome," Mangold said in a statement. "The western and noir vibes of the film seemed to shine in the format and there was not a trace of modern comic hero movie sheen. Then, while editing, Fox and I started posting some of the black and white stills online and fans also began to respond enthusiastically, many hoping that they would get a chance to see the finished film in carefully timed, high contrast black and white."
The original, in-color film may seem at first glance a masterwork of fan service, the American-Statesman’s Joe Gross wrote, but "with the film’s mix of neo-Western and quasi-samurai tropes, ‘Logan’ isn’t just the best ‘X-Men’ movie in forever; it’s one of the best comic-book-sourced movies we’ve seen in some time."
Read our review: The brutally violent ‘Logan’ gives Wolverine an excellent finale
And while the new version of "Logan" may have started off as an exercise in fan service, it works. After seeing the exclusive Alamo Drafthouse screening of "Logan Noir" Tuesday night at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, it’s clear that the black and white colorization of the original only enhances the film’s noir and Western vibes.
Starting off with a black and white "Presented in Cinema Scope" title card and a 20th Century Fox logo that’s actually from the 20th century, the monochromatic colors of the film simultaneously tie the new film to the past while announcing the present (or, near-present) in the film’s first scene.
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The in-color "Logan" was a jarring, hyperviolent blast of popping color and brooding character set in 2029, yet felt timeless because of its themes of loss and redemption. The black and white version looks gorgeous, and seemed more timeless. Rendering the blood splatter and gore black in post made me focus less on the violence of the fights and more on how each character used fighting as an extension of their character. It also made me listen more to the score, which cribs liberally from George Stevens’ "Shane." That 1953 Western plays a prominent role in "Logan," and the black and white makes it more evident.
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Throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking of the marketing campaign for the film. The first trailer used Johnny Cash’s "Hurt," the music video for which was recorded right before Cash’s death. The ending of the film used Cash’s "When the Man Comes Around." Both songs came from his "American Recordings" series, which all featured black and white album art and songs that dealt with death and loss.
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I kept thinking of old Westerns, like "Shane," "Unforgiven," "3:10 to Yuma" (which Mangold remade in 2007) and "The Searchers." The black and white both enhanced my nostalgia for older films and made me appreciate the original "Logan" in a new light, and made the stakes more emotional.
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By the end, when Dafne Keen’s Laura recites her eulogy for Logan, taken from "Shane," it somehow feels more final: The binary harshness of the black and white makes Logan’s death, Professor X’s dementia, Laura’s plight and the deaths of the Munson family feel more permanent. The black and white added to the film in a way that the color couldn’t.
All of that, and more, was elaborated on in the livestream that followed the screening.
"We wanted it to feel over, meaning we wanted a sense of a real curtain coming down at the end," Mangold said in the livestreamed Q+A after the screening. "I didn’t want people speculating that we left a hole open for more money-making. The curtains came down and we told a story."]]