On the one hand, Logan’s Run is a pretty straightforward ’70s dystopian SF film – a futuristic society (likely controlled by computers) created in the wake of some form of ecological collapse that is malevolent and oppressive. We’re in the territory of Saturn 3, or Silent Running. However, this builds off of the premise of “What if the people saying ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’ turned 30?” – which isn’t exactly the best premise to build a movie off of.
The core premise of the film, at least in part, is so well known as to almost be as absorbed into the cultural consciousness as “Soylent Green is People” – the series is set in a future dome city where everyone undergoes the process of “Rebirth” at the age of 31, where their bodies are destroyed and in theory, their souls are reborn into new bodies – except they aren’t – they’re just killed. Logan (Michael York) – is a Sandman, someone sent to kill people who refuse to go through the rebirth process and who try to flee the city. The central computer who runs the city assigns him to infiltrate the resistance movement that is trying to funnel people out of the city to an unknown “Sanctuary” – and in so doing reveals to Logan the truth that Rebirth is a lie. So, Logan joins up with Jessica (Jenny Agutter), and tries to flee the city for real.
So, the core issue of Logan’s Run is that tonally its themes can be described as “Radically Centrist”. The system is corrupt, is lying to you, and needs to be torn down. Also, the youths are a bunch of anarchic hedonists who are up to no good. So, trust older people! This is fine in the context of this story, but it doesn’t make it not kind of weird in the historical context where this came out. Not weird in the sense of out of the ordinary, but weird in the sense of my not being sure how well they’re reading the room.
Also, the movie tries to find a fair number of opportunities to sex it up. This film was rated PG for its original theatrical release, and I’m legitimately surprised this didn’t start the ball rolling for the start of the PG-13 rating for nudity – though to be honest the movie would get an R now. There’s a sequence with Logan & Jessica fleeing through an orgy where the sequence has been extremely carefully choreographed to make sure that nobody’s penis is in the shot, though there are plenty of female nudity and male butts – and Agutter has a bunch of topless scenes in the movie. I didn’t have a problem with this in particular – but something to keep in mind depending on the audience you’re watching the movie with.
Where I think the movie stumbles is the big twist – not that the world outside of the dome is fully habitable — that part is fine. The part that makes the film stumble is the twist that there is no Sanctuary because everyone who tries to escape is killed and frozen by an insane robot they have to get past on their way out of the city – one who is easily overcome by Logan & Jessica. I’m not a big “Plot Hole!” guy, but that part of the story didn’t land. It felt like there should have been more than just the one old guy out in what was basically the Capital Wasteland.
I did enjoy Logan’s Run, but in a very “I’m glad I got around to watching it” sense. It’s important in terms of the evolution of science fiction cinema, and the ways that SF movies discuss relevant themes in science fiction – ones that go from literary SF to cinematic SF. It’s not something that grabbed me visually like Blade Runner did, or from a character sense like the Star Trek movies have.
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