Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Logan's Run

Of all the sci-fi films I watched with my Dad growing up, I remember he had a particular fondness for Logan's Run. That is not uncommon as many consider it a classic of the genre. Although it was loosely based on a book written in the 60's, it departs dramatically from it, and from what I've read, it appears this is a rare case where the film is better than the novel that inspired it. Some of the most powerful story elements were created just for the film.

The influence of the 60's pop culture is certainly there. Here was a society run by machines where sex and drugs were always available and no one was allowed to live past the age of 30. That last inconvenient detail was enforced by promoting a belief in reincarnation and executing people publicly in circus ring ceremonies called carousel while the crowd cries "Renew! Renew!". It had been designed as a means of population control, a problem which had contributed to the earth's demise. The whole concept both fascinated and gave me the creeps as a kid, which was kind of the point I guess.

In any society that depends on faith, there will be unbelievers. Such people would try to escape carousel and were therefore called runners. They were policed by Sandmen who would basically hunt them down and kill them (or put them to "sleep", thus the name). A crystal of sorts was embedded into a person's hand at birth which would start blinking on your 30th birthday. Logan was a Sandman whose crystal, due to a malfunction, starts blinking 4 years ahead of schedule, so he decides to be the first Sandman to run. His Sandman buddies now have to chase him. He meets up with a woman named Jessica who helps him connect up with a group of underground rebels seeking a place called Sanctuary, and the adventure takes off from there as they make discoveries about their world and ultimately go back to free the inhabitants of the dome city. The way the entire story is told is somehow quite compelling.

This is one of those films that is fun to re-watch because of its visuals. The costumes and sets are very well designed and effectively transport you to another time and place. In fact, you'll probably see here a very good example of how people in the 60's envisioned the future, which because of the artistic openness at the time is quite wild. For those who remember, you will notice some similarities with the original World of Tomorrow at Disneyland which was built around that time. Many people also comment favorably on the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, a fixture in movie land who also wrote the theme songs for Star Trek: TNG and Voyager, and the score for the original Alien (among numerous other works). I have to agree there. The score is very unique, a mixture of synthesized digital sounds and sweeping orchestrated themes.

I have to mention one of my favorite characters, the silvery robot named Box (shown right), who only appears briefly and is voiced by the rich tones of Roscoe Lee Browne - "Fish, plankton, and seagreens, and protein from the sea!". You can view that (somewhat edited) sequence here. And for anyone interested, there's an early cameo by Farrah Fawcett (she wasn't a Major then ;).

Probably its weakest part is the "truck" ending where everything blows up and everyone escapes. No mention of how the population is supposed to survive on their own after being weaned for generations. It all seemed so rushed that perhaps the editors were pressured to keep the running length reasonable. If that's true, they should have cut out much of the encounter with the silly old man and spent more time on the conclusion. But that's just my opinion. The truth is that the ending is somewhat incidental since the real story is the journey that the two main characters make as they try to reach Sanctuary.

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