Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: Logan's Run (1976)

I watched Logan's Run one other time, circa 1999, but a bottle of something with an angry animal printed on the label was consumed then and stood between me and any firm memories of the movie.  Except for Carousel.  And, if I'm being honest, Jenny Agutter.

In the future, we'll all live in airports

In a headier age where a limited budget meant something, Sci-Fi had to rely on ideas as much or more than effects (something people seemed downright pissed about with Interstellar) and just blowing crap up or having yet another alien that looked like a Bug from Starship Troopers.

Sometimes those ideas were pretty great, even when you had to participate in some willing suspension of disbelief to buy that those dudes in rubber masks were apes.  Other times, the ideas were dumb garbage, but I won't point fingers.  Logan's Run falls somewhere in the middle for me.  If it's a cautionary tale, it seems it's dated to the same era where saying "never trust anyone over 30" was something people might do, but so was wearing rainbow suspenders with your "Keep on Truckin'" t-shirt.

To catch you up - Logan's Run (1976) is a post apocalyptic/ futuristic story about a world in which people (and by that, I mean really suspiciously and conspicuously white people) are living in a domed city that takes care of all their needs including a living "chat roulette" that would please any 15 year old boy, and all they have to do is fornicate and wear iffy clothing and try not to escape their idyllic, mall-like surroundings or they'll be hunted and killed by someone called a "Sandman".  As this basically just sounds like a Texas suburb, why would anyone want to escape?  Well, on their 30th birthday, everyone is expected to voluntarily enter something called "Carousel" and is lifted up for the chance to "renew" and continue living, but the dingus is really just a giant, vacuum powered bug zapper.

I don't think I'm spoiling too much by stating that (shocker) no one is ever actually "renewed".  This seems to go right past the folks who show up to watch the spectacle, who just really dig watching the olds go up in sparks.  Not critical thinkers, these kids in the domed city.

The world relies on a lack of wisdom and experience, and is run by a central computer brain that everyone agrees is pretty great.  Our Sandman protagonist, Logan, in pursuing a lead, is told to leave the city and find "Sanctuary", the place outside the city where it's believed many people have escaped to.  He employs Jenny Agutter - someone who also wants to "run", and adventure and lessons ensue.

Sure.  Sign me up.

The movie is filmed in the Dallas area, about five years before I lived there myself.  And I don't really remember it all that well, but I know I've been to the Water Gardens, and I think I saw Mr. Peppermint do a puppet show at the big open area called "Arcade" in the movie.  It was a different time.

If the movie has a theme with which they wish to bonk you over the head, it's that mayhaps you not just listen to the preprogrammed voice of your sheltered world telling you how it is - there's a world outside.  It may not be the world of comfort, but it is the world of possibility.  And, of course, we can be slaves to our pleasures when we forget our principles and leave them behind for weird old Peter Ustinov and his cats.

I guess I basically enjoyed the movie.  It's got some standard pacing from the era, and some charmingly cheesy effects that would look just awful next to Star Wars, just a year or so later.  I didn't have quibbles with either the plot or ideas presented, if I thought they could have been a bit more subversive (I mean, imagine this in Paul Verhoeven's hands ten years later...).    But it did feature Jenny Agutter.  And that gets it some bonus points.

I am all you will remember about this movie in 5 years.

Late in the movie I was surprised to hear quotations from TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.  For many of us who remember the 80's and 90's, it's the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber's crowd pleaser, Cats. And, now I have to believe  he got the germ of the idea for the musical while watching this movie.

Also, this whole sequence, for which I tip my hat.  That is some grade-A sci-fi wackiness.

well, maybe the crazy ice robot.  You'll remember that, too.

Late edit:  I think I should have mentioned the end of the movie, so - spoilers.

The end of the movie - in which some bad data corrupts the city's computer which, in turn, makes the city blow up for some reason (back-ups and redundant systems, people) forces the naive young people out into a world they've never before seen.  It's a world with a sky and weather and in which they can't just press a button and get food and booze.  It's like pushing a kid from a Texas suburb out of the house rather than let him live with his parents forever.

This is pitched as a "happy ending", but - in an abstract, kumbaya sort of sense.  But you also know this means things are going to end pretty poorly.  People can have peace when they have abundance and their greatest issue is who they get to have sex with tonight.  But none of them has ever planted a seed to watch it grow or hunted a living animal or had non-treated water or built a fire or hung sheet rock.  And you kind of have to think that Logan, seen smiling at the end of the movie, has just killed off humanity.  Maybe they were living in a daydream, but now they're going to have to figure things out real fast, or it's going to be the Donner Party out there.  At least Wall-E had the foresight to show us what happens in pictographs.

But I can hope Jenny Agutter wound up just fine.

still more qualified than most of Congress.


RHPT said...

Hollywood needs to remake this movie.

The League said...

You know, Robert Osbourne on TCM sort of trolled the movie, Hollywood, etc... after the movie about how they keep saying they're about to remake this movie, and never do. I actually think you could remake it, but you need to do a lot of work to fill in some gaps and you need Jenny Agutter.