Tuesday, April 16, 2013

film favorite: logan's run

I remember going with my family to see Logan's Run in a movie theater (a fairly rare occurrence) when I was a kid. I loved it. I formed a huge and immediate crush on Michael York, who looked smashing as the 23rd century "Sandman" — a sort of futuristic cop whose job was to terminate "Runners." When I saw the DVD at our local library I thought it might not only be fun to see it again, but to see how my nine year-old daughter might respond to it — would she like it as much as I did?

The future is a mall full of color
Francis and Logan have a difference of opinion regarding Runners

Director Michael Anderson (All the Fine Young Cannibals, Orca) based the science-fiction film on a futuristic novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. In the 23rd century City everyone lives a carefree, even hedonistic lifestyle. Pleasure is the main pursuit. There's just one catch — once one reaches the age of 30 they must be "renewed" in a ritual called Carrousel (a public spectacle, much like a Roman amphitheater mixed with a Pink Floyd light show.) Some City inhabitants believe that the ritual helps them become born again. But there are skeptics, and they choose to run and try to escape Carrousel, the computer-controlled city, and what they believe to be their true fate, a fiery death. There are rumors of a place called Sanctuary, and potential Runners identify themselves by wearing the ancient symbol the Ankh. Logan (Michael York) meets one of these skeptics, Jessica (Jenny Agutter), and is intrigued, but it is not until the central computer sends him on an undercover mission to locate Sanctuary and terminate some missing Runners that he starts to realize that the world outside the City may be bigger than he ever imagined. Logan's best friend and fellow Sandman Francis (Richard Jordan) thinks Logan is a traitor and goes after him and Jessica, determined to terminate the runner and bring his friend back to the City.

Carrousel looks like a lot of fun — until someone bursts into flames
At Carrousel, Last Day inhabitants show off their flashing Lifeclocks
The special effects may look crude to modern eyes, considering today's CGI, but the holograms and matte paintings were state-of-the art in 1976, and they seem to suit the story. The DVD we borrowed from the library looked glorious and sharp on our high-definition large-scale television, with bright, vibrant and sharp colors. The City inhabitants are color-coordinated in yellows, greens and reds — colors that correspond to their current age and the time left on their "Lifeclocks."

As we watched Logan's Run my daughter pointed out its similarities to In Time, a movie we both like a lot. But as the movie progressed she forgot all about Justin Timberlake and got caught up in Logan and Jessica and their flight from the City and Francis. When Logan and Jessica finally make it outside the domed City (it's only a model!) their adventures are just beginning. They encounter an outsider, an old man (Peter Ustinov) and some unfamiliar creatures (cats). They have never seen anyone over the age of 30 before, and the old man hasn't seen another human being in a long time.
Jessica, "Those cracks — in your face — do they hurt? May I touch them?"

Old Man, "Oh my."
The 23rd century cats prove their superior nature in that only they and one old man could survive whatever catastrophe created this post-apocalyptic society. Ustinov is around to provide some (sometimes over-the-top) comic relief as he quotes T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and eats up all of the available scenery.
Old Man, "You mean to say that those people know ahead of time when they're gonna die?"
Logan, "That's right."
Old Man, "Oh, that's silly. What's the reason for that?"
Logan "That's the way things are. The way things have always been."
Old Man, "It takes all the fun out of dying."
Logan and Jessica, pre-run
Logan shops with Jessica for a new face before going on the run
The Old Possum stuff was a bit much, but the whole sequence with Ustinov was good-natured fun. The kid immediately noticed that Logan and Jessica are set up to be the next Adam and Eve. Michael York has never looked better or sexier, and Jenny Agutter isn't too shabby, either. Logan's Run also has some other wonderful visuals. The suburban mall-looking city (the film actually was shot in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex). The Lifesavers-colored polyester toga costumes. The silver shiny surfaces, from architecture to jewelry.

The look of the future in Logan's Run is playful. A future where everyone's hair is blow-dried and no one wears underwear. It would be remiss if I forgot to mention the star cameo from Farrah Fawcett, who looks beautiful, quite spacey, and is quickly gone from the story. There are some not-so-hidden messages in the film as well, touching on the '70s free love lifestyle, the potential oppression of organized religion, and overpopulation. But mostly Logan's Run, a pre-Star Wars, pre-CGI science fiction film is a whole lot of fun.

Note: There have been efforts for years to remake Logan's Run — the latest star attached was Ryan Gosling, but he just recently bowed out. Does Hollywood really need to try and remake everything?
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