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Logan Noir is a sweet, silly attempt to drag out Hugh Jackman’s goodbye

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It’s alright, Hugh deserves it

logan noir Photo: James Mangold / 20th Century Fox

The one-night-only theatrical release of a new black-and-white cut of Logan was announced just three weeks in advance, with director James Mangold boasting a “sumptuous” experience for hardcore fans, and theaters announcing a black-and-white dress code for attendees. Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse went so far as to post a disclaimer saying that moviegoers were “required” to wear black and white and the dress code would be “strictly enforced.”

The self-serious dress code was later rescinded, but the posturing around Logan Noir continued unabated. There would be a Q&A session live-streamed from Brooklyn to all of the other participating theaters, featuring Mangold, producer Hutch Parker, and of course, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. A week before the event, a press release went out sporting the heading “HIS TIME HAS COME.”

There’s no real reason for Logan to get a black-and-white version other than Hugh Jackman, who Marvel fans are being asked to say goodbye to after 17 years — a wild amount of time in superhero franchise world. The monochrome Logan Noir, with an aesthetic that really has nothing to do with genre, is just a gimmick that lets Mangold and Marvel engage and indulge a fan base already willing to feel nostalgic for Jackman’s career-defining role, and for the superhero movie genre’s most consistently beloved character.

There’s really no reason to call this project Logan Noir, considering Logan, stylistically, thematically, and structurally, has nothing to do with film noir. It’s a dark movie, but the story is not cynical or nihilistic. It’s actually achingly romantic, two hours of brutal self-sacrifice in service of innocence. Film noir has dozens of definitions, and often it’s uselessly associated with femme fatales, drunken detectives, and moody cinematography, but if there’s one essential ingredient it’s ambivalence. That isn’t a word anyone would use to describe Logan, a gritty road trip story intercut with an odd-couple Western and some old-fashioned Sophoclean tragedy of fate. This movie wants the freakin’ sky! It’s no film noir.

But it hardly matters, because “ambivalence” is also the absolute last word you could use to describe the one-night event of Logan Noir, which (at Alamo Drafthouse, at least) was packed to the gills with adult fans in homemade Wolverine claws and children in head-to-toe Marvel-branded Target apparel. They were stoked, in part because the night’s host, MTV’s Josh Horowitz, kept insisting they were part of an “elite, exclusive club” — only a couple thousand people in the whole country would ever get to see Logan Noir on a big screen. Later, during the Q&A, Mangold and Jackman whipped the room back into a frenzy by insisting repeatedly that Logan Noir only happened because fans asked for it on Twitter.

Mangold tweeted black-and-white portraits of the cast on set back in fall 2016, and each one received a wild response from fans asking to see more, he explained in the Q&A. So they decided to make Logan Noir, originally only as a DVD / Blu-ray bonus feature. Mangold said the idea for a theatrical release came later, after he saw the new version, and reasoned that “things are changing out there, and lots of film lovers want something that connects to the past, to what sometimes feels like a more creative or less risk-averse era.”

“It looked pretty good and I thought, well, maybe people will actually come see this,” Mangold added, which was met with a boy-ish scream of “it looked fucking great!” from the back of the theater.

When Logan was originally released in theaters this March, my colleague Kwame Opam wrote about what Hugh Jackman’s departure meant not just for X-Men but for superhero movies as a genre: “Superhero movies aren’t going anywhere, but they need to evolve to hold the interest of critics and audiences. That means leaving more and more of the past behind. Hugh Jackman’s departure is an opportunity to celebrate how important the character has become to popular culture.”

With that in mind, it’s not really important that Logan has nothing to do with film noir. More likely, Mangold and 20th Century Fox knew that most modern moviegoers associate black-and-white films with nostalgia, and that it would be possible to put together an event with a heightened feeling of momentousness and reverence by reprinting the film in that style. Their instincts were right. People wanted another night to feel big feelings about Hugh Jackman’s last Wolverine movie — this ritual of shared, showy mourning and acceptance is the only fun part of watching a beloved story come to an end.

logan noir

It helped that Hugh Jackman — who has one of the world’s top four most pleasant Twitter accounts and has never been anything but publicly adored — was winningly and unendingly “grateful, so grateful.” He even took the time to indulge a dumb question about how another Wolverine movie could possibly still happen: “I think people want a musical. Maybe something with a circus-y vibe.”

The Q&A, of course, turned into 30 minutes of Jackman nostalgia. Horowitz wrapped it up by semi-gleefully pointing out that he would likely be the last person to interview Hugh Jackman in promotion of an X-Men movie, which seemed to set Jackman back on his heels for a second. He didn’t seem to know how to leave the room, and paused awkwardly enough to trigger a peel of laughter in the room. Then he perked up, calling for someone to turn the house lights on so he could take a selfie with the audience.