• Adam Johnson

A Note on Logan Noir

I wanted to include this segment in my Logan piece, but because it was already longer than my usual review and because I could not fit this organically anywhere, I am making a separate space for it.

As Logan's home media release drew near, director James Mangold announced on Twitter that he and his team were working on a black-and-white cut of the film. There was no particular reason for it; it was just a treat in the same vein of the Mad Max: Fury Road-- Black and Chrome Edition release. Except for the fact Logan was never intended to be black and white (or a noir, for that matter). When I bought it on Blu-Ray, I made sure to get the copy that included Logan Noir, if only to say I saw it.

Here's my response to a friend who asked if I thought it was any better than the theatrical cut (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD):

Prepare for a long answer:

That's a hard one to answer. On the one hand, some shots early on really benefited from the Black & White, and the X-24 fight at the farm highlighted the duality between him and Logan. In the scenes that were influenced by noir, I felt it worked. The shot composition also takes the front seat when viewing it in Black & White, since there's no longer the stimulus of color. Also, the impact of the violence is slightly diminished.

On the other hand, it's obvious the Noir cut was never the intended cut. When Xavier calls Calliban an albino, it's a little distracting since there's not that noticeable of a difference in whiteness between anyone. And while the film has elements of noir, it's more of a western at heart, and that wasn't as fully embraced when in Black & White. The score is there, the general feel is there, but there's still a disconnect when the film goes full western in the 3rd Act and it looks like it wants to be noir.

And you're missing the gorgeous colors the film has. I'd say it's worth watching to study the shots and for experiencing the novelty...but it's still a gimmick that feels like a gimmick the director happened to like.

Some color films work in Black & White, I think, without losing anything, without anything feeling missing. I love Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and its colors, but watching it in Black & White didn't detract from the experience. And great westerns have come from the B&W and Color eras (Liberty Valance v. The Shootist). So have great noirs (Double Indemnity v. Chinatown). I think overall Logan works best as a film in color.

(Regarding that bit about Indiana Jones: For those of you who don't follow me closely, I watched The Last Crusade to get inspiration for an acting role I was doing at the time, and as an experiment inspired by Steven Soderbergh's silent B&W version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I decided to turn the color off on my TV to watch it. It's a neat experience, to be sure.)

Those are my general thoughts on it. I enjoyed the novelty, but by the end, I wanted to turn the color back on because I felt like the color was an integral part of the film's identity. Noirs have a more cool, lethargic pace, full of skepticism, duality, and femme fatales. And while Logan had the duality with the surprise X-24 villain and the film is more deliberately paced than other films in the franchise, not much demanded a Noir-style color regrading. While Charles is damaged and Logan is more violent than is legal, there is still a clear good and bad. I'm not saying that clear moral sides makes something a western, and I wish I studied westerns more before writing this up, but it certainly does not make a noir.

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