Lately I have been thinking a lot about the 1976 film Logan’s Run.
Probably because I’m rapidly approaching sixty years of age, double the lifespan of the average citizen that inhabits Logan’s world.
Specifically I’m thinking a lot about how it might be retooled and updated for today’s viewing audience. I know that there were plans being passed around awhile back and I’m sure the rights to it are held by some studio (Warner Brothers I think) and they are sitting on them until either they expire or a decent adaption of the story/screenplay comes along.
Anyway, I’m not really concerned about pitching anything to anyone – I’m doing this as merely a creative exercise, testing my powers of imagination while I wait for my editor to get back to me with revisions for my second Lincoln Bright novel.
I want to see if I can mold something fresh out of the dated version that starred Michael York and Jenny Agutter.
As a caveat I’ll say that all of these thoughts are my own and I haven’t looked at, read or discovered any other takes on the subject. I also think this will be a multi-part thought process, hence…
The problem (one of several actually) with the ’76 version of Logan’s Run is that it’s got no real bite–not by today’s standards anyway. The story culled from the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson was completely Hollywood-ized – watered down to a safe and limp tale, first and foremost, about “fighting for one’s freedom against an oppressive governing system” but that also has the underpinnings of “only love between heteros is the pure saving grace that ensures our survival as a species”. It’s only by destroying the protagonist’s womb-like environment can they be truly liberated from their short, carefully controlled, awful lives and rediscover the miraculous purposeful emotional bond that should exist between a man and a woman.
One of the other glaring issues is the non-existence of diversity in casting. An updated version of the story/film has to address that, before fixing the host of problems with the SFX and setting.
SIDE NOTE: It’s really amazing once you start to count up how many films – especially Science Fiction and Action films – repeat this theme of either an individual or a group fighting for freedom and overthrowing a larger, obvious evil governing body. There is an epidemic of them, and we are conditioned to root for the ones fighting for their freedom, because that is the heart of the American tale of how this country was formed. We were founded by a war for our freedom, so naturally, that’s the story we tell ourselves and our descendants over and over and over again.
Anywhoo, the gist of the ’76 adaptation is that roughly a thousand years in the future a War devastated the planet and human kind was forced to retreat inside a gigantic domed city in order to survive. It’s never stated where the City is located, but given the journey our protagonists take, its later revealed to be somewhere on the East Coast of the United States.
The City is run and maintained by a faceless, nameless Control System that provides for the wants and needs of the citizens. These citizens are presented as nothing more than oblivious, content cattle, living trouble-free completely cared for lives.
And while the original film was a colorful, plasticine PG vision of the future, I don’t think the reboot necessarily needs to follow the tendency for things to be Grim & Gritty® in order for them to be taken seriously or “Adult” enough.
I’m not an Art Director, but I fairly certain you can mimic the style of the original while at the same time updating it to a more sophisticated representation of what a futuristic Domed Utopia would look like… without resorting to cheesy plastic models.
Setting all that aside, let’s get into the meat of it. Here is the first big question that neither the book or the film really answers: Why?
Why are humans still alive? Why does this society exist? Why does the Control System support them?
First, because we humans can’t tell stories that don’t bolster the notion of our continued existence. Every apocalyptic tale puts humans front and center, because of course humans will survive. Logan’s World exists because it has to – can’t be a story if there are no humans. Humanity’s tenacious survival only partially answers the Why.
The simple answer is because the hero has to have something to fight against. Logan begins as a supporter of the system, and what’s worse, an armed policeman whose purpose is to eliminate citizens that rebel or refuse to adhere to the rules of the system.
I guess from the film’s standpoint it was a subtle ‘lesson’ for all of us watching it, a warning that liberal, godless societies are corrupt and deviant in nature. If your government provides for you, it can’t be benevolent. It’s a mask for the dirty, evil entity of Socialist Communism. This was made during the height of the Cold War, remember… So, the strict societal controls in place that exist in the world of Logan’s Run will be the consequence if we should ever give up Democracy. At least that’s one interpretation. The film doesn’t provide an answer beyond what happens if that system is overthrown – Logan and Jessica win, then roll credits. The struggle and fight is what is important, not the aftermath.
This is the BIG WHY that should be answered in a remake. Why maintain the human race after the apocalypse? Why provide them with an embarrassment of riches, why shield them from want and need and the need to work for anything? Why or how can this domed City exist, if its citizens are naught but simply consumers? It’s implied in the film that their are “jobs” but, if everything is provided (food, clothing, entertainment, sex) why work? What is the purpose of the citizens of the City? Why was human society preserved after the War that supposedly destroyed the planet?
Two answers we can’t use have already been posited by two other works of Science Fiction – Soylent Green and The Matrix. In Soylent Green the answer is to turn citizens into food that sustains the system and in The Matrix, its to turn humans into batteries, an energy source that maintains the system.
I’d posit that this future of Logan’s Run is one that takes place much further in the future than just a thousand years. Let’s also do away with the whole apocalypse by Nuclear War or any kind of war altogether. Destruction by global nuclear war isn’t as grave as a threat as it once was. (I mean it is, but we’re not obsessed with it like we once were.)
Instead, I’d use a real threat that’s a big concern to me personally here in the current quasi-dystopia we are all living in right now: the Climate.
In my reboot, Earth’s surface was devastated by last ditch, desperate Climate Engineering that had to be implemented due to irreversible Climate Change created by the near-sighted greed of human industry.
This domed City isn’t a mere thousand years old, either.
It’s 10,000 years old, and it spans a gigantic portion of the Eurasian Continent.
The entirety of this massive structure – the Dome itself, the heating, cooling, water filtration, food processing, trash disposal EVERYTHING a city 100 times the size of New York needs to run efficiently – is upheld and sustained by self-replicating machines controlled by a sentient AI that answers to a small council of the global elite. Maybe. That global elite thing may need some extra thought… I’ll come back to it.
That still doesn’t answer the Big Why, really — it’s more of a How It All Works.
The real Why of how this society can continue to exist is to remove any doubt as to the purpose of Carousel.
In order to maintain order, citizens in Logan’s world are imprinted with a lifeclock in the palm of one hand and the lifespan of every citizen is limited to 30 years.
Its never stated outright why in the film, but in my reboot, its because every citizen knows they are going to live forever. That’s why they have a number designation at the end of their names.
Logan 5 is and always will be Logan 5. His number is much longer than that, but is shortened when spoken aloud, much like how someone named Michael can be called Mike.
Once a citizen reaches the age of 30, their lifeclock blinks signalling Last Day and their final 24 hours of life. At the end of that time, they are to report to Carousel.
Carousel is the culmination of a person’s life in The City. in the film, it is spoken of as a chance at Renewal, a rebirth. A reincarnation. But it isn’t a certainty.
In the my reboot everyone Renews. EVERYONE. It is a kind of immortality. Live life, forever young, rinse and repeat.
That’s the BIG WHY and that’s the BIG LIE. That’s why there are Runners. because they know they Carousel isn’t renewal. It’s execution.
I was thirteen when Logan’s Run hit the theaters way back in 1976. Dying at the age of thirty seemed fine – it was so far off that it wasn’t scary to me.
Now, nearing 60, almost a full thirty years beyond that termination date, it does seem scary, to an extent. To think I’ve lived twice as long is strange and unsettling. Because even at 60, life seems incredibly short.
The next part of the Why of Logan’s Run that needs to be addressed is who Logan is. What a DSO (Deep Sleep Operative) or Sandmen is.
In the novel, every citizen has to report to Deep Sleep when their lifeclock turns black at the end of Last Day. In the book that age is 21, and the population submits to voluntary euthanasia. In the film that age has been bumped up to 30, and they submit to the conceit of Carousel.
Either way, reporting to Deep Sleep or participation in Carousel, both are enforced by the DSO.
Logan’s world is a police state and that too is a very real issue of concern in the real world, right now. So is the concern over gun rights, especially here in the USA.
In the book and in the film, the only people who are allowed to carry firearms are Sandmen.
The first thing I’d make sure that the audience was aware of in my reboot of Logan’s Run is The Gun.
In the novel, The Gun has a number of different ammo types, including the deadly Homer, a heat seeking projectile. The Gun is also equipped with a personal identification tech, tailored to each Sandman, so that anyone not authorized to use it, causes the weapon to self-destruct in foreign hands.
The Gun in the film is a simply designed pistol that flares dramatically when fired and has a single type of ammunition–a poorly executed version of the Homer. The special effects and threat of the weapon is portrayed weakly and is hardly frightening at all.
So, in my take on the reboot, I’d open on and focus on The Gun.
The threat of it. The sheer terror of it.
Because, in the City firearms are outlawed. To go even further and to put another real world spin on it, in this vision of the Logan’s Run world, the governing body did indeed come for peoples guns and now, no citizen can arm themselves. It’s a gun’s rights activist nightmare.
No one in the City is allowed to have a gun. No one that is, except Sandmen.
Sandmen should be a very obvious danger to the citizens of the City. They are Feared.
Early on in the ’76 film, during the Carousel sequence, both Logan 5 and Francis 7 are alerted to a Runner in Arcade, the City Center and they leave the ceremony to hunt him.
What’s shown to us is how these two Sandmen delight in the chase and the torment of the hunt. They toy with the Runner, taunt him, smile and laugh manically, with an almost cartoon villain type of glee. Runners, in their eyes, are societal deviants and therefore deserve not only to be terminated, but also terrorized.
There have been psychological studies and books written done on the type of personality that gravitates toward police work. Part of that profile is a willingness to exert power over another. While the impulse to join law enforcement might derive itself from a wish to do good, it does attract a fair number of individuals who are authoritative in nature and who see themselves as the last line of defense in the maintaining of Order – even if that defense expresses itself through excessive force, torture and even murder.
Police brutality is a cause for concern in the United States, and while this exercise is an indirect condemnation of that, the violent final solution the Sandmen represent should be integral in the retooling of any version of Logan’s Run.
It can’t be avoided, really. Moviegoers expect a certain level of violence and brutality in there action-adventure films , to be honest.
Modern audiences have been treated in recent years to a slasher/horror franchise entitled The Purge. The premise of that franchise is that humankind has violent tendencies and the way to curb them, is to allow for a single night out of the year where crime and lawlessness are allowed–a practice that hopes to keep society from tearing itself apart. I think. I mean, I haven’t watched those films (or the TV series) because the ‘murder-for-murder’s sake’ of that brand isn’t in my wheeelhouse.
There’s an element of ultra-violence in Logan’s Run as well, it just isn’t represented well in the film. It’s light on violence throughout really, it being the 70’s, the effects being what they were and the MPAA rules on what could or could not be shown at the time, all added to hamstring the final product. I mean, the final fight between Logan and Francis really is chuckle inducing. Especially given the fact that the Sandmen were supposed to be experts in hand-to-hand combat, a martial arts technique labelled Omnite in the novel.
In order to compete in today’s cinema, I’m pretty sure the Sandman’s martial-gunplay style would have to be comparable to the gun-fu we all marvel at in the John Wick franchise.
The World that Logan inhabits is a twisted one. A fabricated illusion to lull citizens into a false sense of comfort and complacency based on the lie that they are all forever young and will reincarnate over and over.
Now we have to answer the question: if the society has lasted for as long as it has – Why Run?
In the film, Logan 5 is interrogated by the System AI after turning in a mysterious object he picked up off an executed Runner.
The System notifies him that 1056 Runners are unaccounted for, information that is news to Logan and probably to any Sandman. This is the first crack in the Utopian Order he has known all his life. To correct this anomaly and to expose the Network aiding other Runner’s, he is tasked to find the location of Sanctuary, a mythical safe haven that Runners are attempting to reach – and to force his cooperation, his remaining four years are stripped from his lifeclock. Logan 5 must become a Runner in order to get his lost years back.
It can be argued that Logan has been questioning the fabric of his existence right from the start — the film opens with him visiting a Nursery to look in on his “progeny” Logan 6, but its so ambiguous in its presentation its obviously only in the film to soften his character, to make him appear likable in our eyes, even though for the next fifteen minutes he is an obtuse misogynistic dickhead. He isn’t really a likable character, but he is painted with broad heroic strokes because we need someone to root for.
In the remake, Logan 5 needs to be a hard, merciless and villainous character.
He murders citizens after all, with a Gun.
Francis 7 in the ’76 film, on the other hand, is your prototypical dudebro, a man’s man, a diehard true believer in the System. He revels in it, and thoroughly enjoys his status as a predator among sheep. He embraces his role as a Sandman and keeps tugging at Logan to join him in accepting things as they are, to maintain the status quo.
He’s also kind of in love with Logan – and that I think is the real inroad to the heart of what it would take to retool the property for the modern age. It’s not only a dissection of society, the tendency for society to gravitate toward authoritative regimes, but it’s also a serious re-evaluation of the story’s secondary theme. It’s no longer the hetero Logan + Jessica pairing that serves as the romantic under current of the original.
In this one, its Francis’s struggle is to reconcile his love/lust/need for Logan vs. his duty to the State. It’s implied in the original film that Francis has unspoken/unrequited feelings for Logan – why pursue him with such intensity? Why does he keep letting him escape? I mean heck, they have a foursome together – but you really couldn’t show guy on guy in movies theaters in ’76.
In my reboot of the film, Logan is in love with Francis too. They are a couple right from the start and here’s another twist which I’ll explore in part 2 – Jessica’s a Sandman and she’s the one that’s hunting Logan and Francis as they attempt to find Sanctuary.
To Be Continued…