Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Logan's Run (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

Logan's Run (1975)

Of all the movies I'll be reviewing this week, Logan's Run appeared most frequently on the various "Top Sci-Fi" lists I perused looking for ideas. This movie's following confuses me slightly since it not only lacks the depth present in a lot of films in this genre, but it also fails to achieve the level of immersion which is basically the goal of any good sci-fi. That said, Logan's Run definitely has some of the highest production values of the movies from this era (Star Wars of course being a notable exception), so maybe people just like it because it's pretty. I'm being slightly unfair since part of the problem is that the movie just didn't live up to my expectations (curse you, Internet!) and it does have some truly great moments and some pretty okay things to say about ideology. 

There's a reason I'm reviewing this today: Logan's Run is basically the logical outcome of the world in Soylent Green (yesterday's review). "Sometime in the 23rd century the survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside." Logan's Run is the solution to the problems in Soylent Green, but of course it's not a perfect world, since as the premise continues, "Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of carrousel [sic]." Members of the population who resist are deemed "runners", and as a "sandman" it is Logan's job to "terminate" them. Hooray for euphemisms!

Logan meets Jessica (these people all have numbers after their names which supposedly indicate how many times they've been reborn but I don't really care) who sparks his interest (if you know what I mean) and gets him to begin thinking of runners as more than just something he has to terminate. Which is good because this crazy computer thing basically turns him into a runner in order to force him on a mission to discover "Sanctuary", the place runners supposedly escape to. There are also some pretty unclear hints in this scene that maybe nobody is actually reborn in Carrousel, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering one of the first shots is of newborn babies in a nursery. (Oh, and remember those numbers that indicate how many times you've been reborn? Yeah, neither do I.) Anyway, Logan and Jessica become runners and go on an adventure to find Sanctuary while anything that was cool or interesting about the domed city and unique world of Logan's Run slowly evaporates.

Logan's Run introductory title card.

If I haven't made it obvious yet, Logan's Run is basically divided into two halves (much like The Omega Man) with the first half being enjoyable and intriguing setup for a second half that just never really shows up. We learn that runners are supposedly escaping to Sanctuary and that there are 1056 unaccounted for runners, but then in the second half we learn there never really was a Sanctuary. The escaped runners were apparently caught by Box and frozen like food for future consumption (I told you this is the sequel to Soylent Green) which would be a cool twist if Box had any background or lasted in the movie longer than his literally 5 minutes of screen time. According to Wikipedia, the film only uses the basic premise of its source material (a book of the same name) and it feels like the writer skimmed the book, thought he saw a cool idea, and threw together a screenplay as fast as he could. It's not that the movie's bad—the beginning is quite good—it's just that the first and second half of the movie feel completely separate, and the second half ditches most of what was fun about the first.

The good news (for me at least) is that at this point we've solidly entertained the domain of sci-fi camp. There are so many awesomely bad scenes in this movie (of course they're with one exception limited to the first half of the movie). Let's take a minute and revel in the wonderful campiness. First there's the fact that everybody wears a color which corresponds to their age (yellow, green, or red) making the city look pretty darn silly. Then there's the spectacle of Carrousel, with flying people in funny costumes who explode. Next our hero has a fight scene in a facial restructuring facility which leads him to run away into a sex shop that feels like some sort of awful, orgiastic nightmare land. This all eventually leads to the aforementioned unexplained fight with Box. Finally, at the end of the movie Logan reports the findings of his attempt to locate Sanctuary in a trippy montage called multiple surrogate interrogation or something. It's all pretty great (almost good enough to overshadow the lamer parts of the movie) so I made a mini gallery over on Tumblr for you. You're welcome.

Also, I'm not sure if this qualifies as camp, but I thought the modeling work was pretty great so here's a behind the scenes picture of the city for your enjoyment.

Iconic scene is iconic

Part of my frustration with Logan's Run derives from the fact that there's some cool stuff going on with regard to ideology but the film seems oblivious to what it's doing and I had to make all the connections myself. Because of this the connections are a little tenuous, but bear with me. This is a sci-fi trope that has resurfaced in various forms over the years, but reminds me most prominently of the mediocre sci-fi adventure Equilibrium. Here's how it works: the hero begins indoctrinated into one ideology, but slowly learns that what he's been taught as the truth is either misleading or simply false. The hero then joins the resistance in order to overthrow the ruling ideology. This is such a pervasive plot structure (even Speed Racer follows this to some extent) most likely because it provides us with a fantasy of overthrowing our own oppressors.

So Logan begins our adventure as a sandman (basically a policeman) whose job it is to basically prevent resistance to the whole "you have to die at 30" thing. But then he's forced to become a runner and decides to entertain the idea, which he does long enough to discover that outside the dome you can live to be much older. Ideology disproved. The problem is that none of this is really elaborated upon, and Logan's motivation when he's running with Jessica is pretty unclear, but let's move on. So Logan joins the runners and tries to find Sanctuary, a place to escape from the ideology of the dome. This is where Logan's Run takes the familiar plot to the next level: Sanctuary doesn't exist. The ideology of the resistance is just as ideological as the ideology of the dome. Even more interestingly, when Logan reports his findings the mystery computer machine refuses to accept them and explodes. This illustrates the point that the dominant ideology relies on the ideology of resistance in order to function. Then the dome explodes and everybody is freed! Except God knows what they're going to do now since they've been relying on "servo-mechanisms" for just about everything for the past however many years. But the credits roll and happy music plays. The End!



2 comments:

  1. I'll try to get hold of the book, which sounds better. From what you've described, it seems that that Michael Bay movie 'The Island' took some cues from this.

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    1. Yeah I haven't seen it, but it basically feels like the director Michael Bay'd the novel. "Hey, this would look cool!" sort of thing. The novel is supposed to be much better from what I've heard.

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