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.
More: Alamo Drafthouse offers gift certificate to settle Austin texting suit
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.
Related: ‘THIS IS CRAZY’: Austin man sues date for texting during movie
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.
More: Read the poetry of the Man in Black in Johnny Cash’s ‘Forever Words’
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.
Related: How comic book movies are making comic books worse
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.”
And as for that ending, where Logan’s cross turns into an “X”? That’s the moment where Hugh Jackman said he finally cried about the film after playing Wolverine for 17 years.
“The highlight for me was that ending. When I read it it seemed very poetic on the page,” Jackman said. “But when I saw it, I was sitting next to Patrick Stewart when we both saw it for the first time, and we both just wept.”
He’s not alone; many of the tweets posted last night about the event commented on the film’s ability to elicit tears from many of the people who saw it, myself included.
“Stephen Colbert came up to me and told me he saw it three times, and he said, ‘I cried every single time at that final image,” Jackman said.
Other new bits of info from the livestream included:
- X23 (Laura) could come back: “I’ve certainly talked to [the studio] about it. I even talked to them about it before we made the movie,” Mangold said. “I thought she was just such a great character, but with what Dafne did, I think that certainly that’s possible.”
- Mangold thinks some of today’s comic book movies are too violent because they are trying to please adults and kids at the same time: “We started off making this movie because we knew what we didn’t want, which was another one of those assembly line movies. We wanted to make something more human. We wanted to do a film that happened to feature superheroes, and not a ‘superhero movie’...the ‘R’ rating ensured we weren’t making a movie for 6-year-olds. We weren’t worried about making action figures or making sure kids were paying attention...and that allowed us to avoid marketing a movie that is too violent for a PG-13, in my opinion.”
- Mangold doesn’t prefer the black and white version over the color version: “It’s like picking between my children. To say I prefer the black and white version is to do a disservice to the colorists and the [directors of photography] that worked on the original.”
- Dafne Keen was a consummate professional on set, but is still a kid: “She’s astonishing,” Jackman said of his co-star. “She’s so very normal and extraordinary at the same time, incredibly intense, loved the set, super cool, very relaxed...But there was this moment at the MTV awards last week where she got a little star-struck. I said,’You OK?’ and she whispers, ‘I really want a photo with Emma Watson, can you get me a photo with Emma Watson?’ And all of a sudden she turned into an 11-year-old, it was very sweet.”
If you missed last night's screening, both versions of “Logan” are now available for digital download on iTunes, and a Blu-Ray and DVD release featuring both versions will be available May 23.