A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 97 – Logan’s Run (1977)

Logan’s Run – June 5th, 2010

For some reason, after last night, I really wanted to watch this. It’s another from the 1970s, but where The Warriors had its vague future setting stripped out in the theatrical release, this is straight up dystopic science fiction. But they’re both chase movies with feathered hair. I don’t know. It just seemed like a good idea. They’re both based on books, but I haven’t read last night’s. I have read this one but it’s been a few years and I only read it once. I should go back and read it again because watching this now, I realize I’m not entirely certain what about the story’s been changed. I know things were, major things, but what I remember most is the differences in the world itself. The age at which people die is much younger (21 in the book, as opposed to 30 in the movie) and the world is more expansive. I distinctly recall references to people getting bored after doing all there is to do, including climbing Everest. It’s a strange book, and eventually involves going into space I think and there are sequels, but they get progressively weirder, involving alternate realities and space angels or something. Anyhow, the book sets the society up in a much deeper fashion. It makes it clear just how stagnant it is, and how decadent (in the original sense of the word – it has the same root as decay after all). And it sets up Logan and Francis, our hero and our villain, in an interesting way. I’d give away too much if I explained the specifics, but Francis is given a very different role to play near the end.

Anyhow, regardless of what was changed and omitted in order to make the book – which is rich in worldbuilding and backstory – into a movie which has to tell the story without the benefit of pages and pages upon which to set itself, it tells everything fairly well. Much like so many other sci-fi book adaptations, this one had to take a world that is removed from our own, one that has extensive information set forth in several chapters, and somehow communicate it on screen without getting plodding or boring. That, I think, is part of where the Star Wars prequels failed. Since the scrolling text had worked okay in the originals, Lucas put even more into the prequels, but he depended too much on it. In this movie you need to know that people die at 30, forced to try for “renewal” in a sort of arena called Carousel. You need to know that the people are sorted into age groups. You need to know that children are raised by machines. You need to know that sometimes people don’t accept the rules and must be terminated. You need to know all of this. You need to know that the ones who do the terminating are Sandmen and that they live their lives somewhat removed from everyone else. You need to know Sandmen are ruthless and thoroughly believe in the system of their society. You need to know just what the world the main character comes from is like. And given how fast it all happens? The movie does a decent job of setting up Logan, a Sandman, as a runner.

It’s early in the movie when Logan’s whole world is turned upside down and he learns that the forces governing the city and the lives of those in it are not what he’s always believed. Not only does he learn that Carousel and Renewal are all just for show, and that no one ever Renews, but four potential years of his life are stripped away from his lifeclock with no guarantee that they’ll be returned, all so he can track down how 1,056 people have managed to run successfully and find the mysterious Sanctuary they seem to have gone to. He begins as a selfish cad, aware only of his job and his pleasures. And less than half an hour in he’s met up with Jessica, a young woman who’s involved in the underground movement to help runners run and joined the ranks of those he used to look down on and chase. It’s a great mindfuck on him.

And then there’s Francis, who, without the benefit of being told that everything he believes is a lie, thinks Logan really has flipped out and turned runner (which, of course, he has by the middle of the movie but hadn’t when Francis started after him). His world’s gone mad too, with his partner and best friend going off to do exactly what they’ve been trained to stop. I love that the villain in this has motivation like that. He’s not so much mindless evil as brainwashed and feeling betrayed. Where when Logan found out the truth about Carousel he ran, Francis sees any questioning of how things work as a danger to life as they know it. They’re very different personality types. It’s established at the beginning that Logan thinks about things more than Francis, while Francis is more than content to simply accept life in the city as it is. And why shouldn’t he? He has everything he wants. And Logan ruins it. Logan and Jessica. It’s all their fault. It seems a bit short-sighted of the city’s master computer when you think about it. Why not let Logan’s partner in on it? Why not tell him Logan’s going to infiltrate the runners to find out about Sanctuary and destroy it and them? Francis would have been all over it. But that’s not how it goes. So Francis has some seriously interesting motivation.

What I like in this movie isn’t so much the costumes and lack of bras and retro-future vibe it’s got going on like so many other 1960s and 1970s science fiction movies. I mean, that’s fun to watch and all, but what makes the movie for me is that it does a more than halfway decent job presenting the problems of the controlled society that Logan, Francis and Jessica live in and the questions it would raise when the people in it learned the truth. When Logan and Jessica make it outside and learn that Sanctuary was all a lie, just like Carousel and Renewal, that it’s not as simple as finding a safe place hidden away from the city, when Francis follows and learns the same thing, it’s messy. When he gets to the ruins where Logan and Jessica have met up with the Old Man, who was raised outside the city and knows nothing about it and teaches them about growing old and the outside, it’s far too much for him. It would be easy to hate Francis for chasing them and for stubbornly clinging to the way of the city and the rules that control his life, but really, he’s a victim of it too. Logan and Jessica, who already want to be free, have a hard time accepting that Sanctuary isn’t what they thought. But they are free. Francis didn’t want freedom. He wanted his life to remain the same and knowing what he knew by the end made that impossible. It’s a horrible sort of situation.

The end of the movie’s always felt a little anti-climactic to me. Sure, there’s the city computer imploding because Logan’s pulled the old Nomad trick on it, trapping it in a loop of its own failed logic. And there are all sorts of explosions after that and the city breaks open and people all rush out to meet the Old Man whom Logan and Jessica met in the ruins of Washington D.C. but it just feels like the movie’s built up to more. I’m not sure what more, but I wanted something a little different. Maybe it’s that Francis, the villain for most of the movie, is gone by then. Maybe it’s that the city’s destruction doesn’t come across very well. I don’t know. I think I’d have been happier if somehow they’d managed to destroy the city and free everyone without the interrogation and how much it slows everything down because up until then, it’s a fantastic – if a bit dated – movie that deals with some great dystopian concepts.

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June 5, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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