Logan’s Run


Logan’s Run. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer 1976.

Before watching the movie:

My professor recommended this film to me as a similar story to draw from while writing for National Novel Writing Month. From the trailer I saw, it looks more like a totalitarian dystopia than a “the world is a lie” disillusionment, but I’ll give it a try.

The founding conceit reminds me of an episode of Star Trek, only with less protesting and more running and shooting. People’s hands have some glowing device in them.

Incidentally, Farrah Fawcett’s appearance makes a Google Image search for this movie difficult to find meaningful results.

After watching the movie:

Logan 5 lives in a domed, sealed city where the maximum age is 30. On the citizens’ 30th birthdays, they are required to participate in a ceremony known as Carrousel, in which they are ritualistically disintegrated in the hope of being “Renewed.” Those who do not go to Carrousel and try to flee are known as “Runners,” and are terminated by Sandmen like Logan. When debriefing from one termination, the computer orders Logan to find “Sanctuary,” the place that unaccounted Runners try to go. In order to gain the sympathy of Runners, the computer changes Logan’s LifeClock to show him as four years older, 30. Accompanied by a lovely female Runner, Logan makes his way out of the city, pursued by his former partner.

This movie immediately starts with an inconsistency that bothered me. In a world where the established belief is that Carrousel is the key to rebirth and dying any other way is a permanent death, it irritates me the way the Sandmen taunt a Runner, toying with him until ultimately killing him. I accept for the sake of dystopia that getting caught running is a death sentence, but one would expect it to be a more somber affair.

Mostly, the film is visually interesting without being too distracting. The designers made a very rich, fully-developed world that is both typically 70s futuristic and yet unique. The effects are adequate for the time as well, except for the guns the Sandmen carry, which, when fired, look like they were intended to be laser pistols, only there is no beam. There is a spray of fire from the sides of the barrel, and some spot five feet away from where they were aiming explodes. I’ve seen better gunfire in low-budget TV shows of the era.

Structurally, the last third of the film feels like a completely different movie. After leaving the City, Logan and Jessica discover the goofiest, friendliest menacing robot ever and what happened to the successful runners. It feels incredibly random, though is actually decently tied to the plot. Then it slows down for several minutes as the pair cross land, explore ruins, and fawn over the Old Man. After an eternity of quotes from “Practical Cats,” the thought of everyone else in the City strikes them like an afterthought, and things are tidied up back there pretty quickly.

There are only two or three scenes that are all about the visuals, and only one of them is not tied well to the plot. I consider this a successful ratio for a trippy 70s film. The only reading that I can come up with that comes close to making sense is that Logan and Jessica ran through an orgy-rave, but that still explains very little. This is a prime example of the shift that happened in the MPAA rating system. Sexual concepts and nudity are very prominent in this movie, but it got a PG.

This is a visually striking, thought-provoking film that I’m glad I watched. It ultimately felt familiar to the concept I’m working with in my novel, but in a thematic way I’m not sure will translate very strongly.

Watch this movie: at 110% speed starting when you see ice caves.

Don’t watch this movie: five feet to either side of a Runner.

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