Logan’s Run…is dated, forgettable fun. Adapted from the Novel by William F Nolan and George Clayton it is a short, formulaic and often predictable film, but a reasonably enjoyable none nonetheless. Some interesting background ideas, well written dialogue and the skill of its crew, balance, but far from cancel out its flaws.
Just one of a mid-70’s Cycle of Dystopian Sci-Fi films (Westworld, Rollerball, and Soylent Green being other examples), Logan’s Run deals with an interesting central concept, but never really makes itself standout from its associate’s.
In The Year 2274, the human race survives sealed in an unnamed city (strangely reminiscent of an American Shopping Mall), ignorant of the outside world, unknowing of a decades previous disaster that lay waste to the lands outside, and for such an isolated community, sporting surprisingly diverse accents.
In this sealed paradise (of sorts), the remnants of humanity eak out a content, if routine existence…but there’s a catch, all must die when they reach the age of 30 (for reasons never made entirely clear). Whether through a ‘renewal’ ceremony or at the (apparently quite inaccurate) hands of the security force of ‘Sandmen’, it’s a fate largely accepted by all residents.
But a small minority don’t, known (rather unoriginally) as ‘runners’, said persons periodically flee their duties looking for the mysterious ‘Sanctuary’ said to lay beyond the city’s boundaries, pursued at every step by the Sandmen.
One such Sandman-Logan 5 (Robert York), a man able to ‘have any woman he wants’ finds himself drawn reluctantly into the Runners cause, and it forced on a dangerous journey to find ‘Sanctuary’… accompanied by the conveniently up for it random love interest Jessica 2 (Jenny Agutter- yes, her from An American Werewolf in London). The journey is not only dangerous, surprising events await the reluctant heroes as the film progresses…
Viewed from a present day perspective it isn’t quite as ground-breaking (The Man on the run in a dystopian future plot contributes to everything from The Running Man to The Hunger Games), and its plot holes may be more obvious (hang on…if no-one has escaped how did they hear about the ‘sanctuary’?), but in the 70’s it was quite a bold move basing a film’s plot around such a future.
Whilst its central plot may well be a little predictable, the opening ark does lend itself to some interesting ideas, both visually and narrative driven. The renewal ceremony or ‘carousel’ is a visually interesting event which kicks in soon into the film, a strange mixture of light show, and trapeze act, it certainly shows the film’s age but immediately and strongly sets the tone of the film which follows. Other ideas- glowing crystals embedded in each resident’s hand to show their ages, and the faint message about the evils of technology come across as more conventional, but they work well in the film nonetheless.
The film is strongly directed (at least visually) and edited, with a few standout shots, and a tightly paced narrative. The sporadic action scenes may be missing the shaky cam (not a bad thing) and finesse of modern action films, but they are entertaining and well-staged nonetheless. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is fitting as usual, although it doesn’t rank amongst his best work.
In contrast to many examples of the genre, the ‘dystopian future’ portrayed isn’t overtly dark or grim, at first glance everything appears surprisingly normal- the people look and speak pretty much the same as their modern day associates, and the city depicted (apart from the central plot device) comes across as a minor paradise. Whilst such a setting makes for an interesting break from the usually forbidding locations featured in the genre, and certainly makes the film easier to relate to, it does make the runners decision to flee seem a little odd-How exactly is probable death in a supposed outside wasteland supposed to be better?.
Odd decisions figure strongly in the script- important plot points and questions find themselves skipped over, Characters frequently ask questions, without receiving without receiving answers (i.e. ‘Why Is it Wrong to Run?’ ‘What do you suppose become of them?’), and for such a short film there is a surprisingly large amount of plot holes. On the other hand, the dialogue is sharply written, there are few characters to remember, and the film is well paced throughout.
The 70s realism driven undertones feature in the film- sporadic bursts of violence, conformist camerawork, and a lack of silly humour, largely to positive effect, it makes the film easier to follow, and its setting easier to accept. Admittedly the overtly serious tone of the film may sit unsteadily for some viewers used to more playful or visually interesting sci-fi films, and it certainly seems out of touch with the annoyingly predictable climax.
Other flaws surface as the film progresses, although most will affect audiences to varying effect. The relatively thankless roles of women in the narrative (Right lady-your job is to run down corridors with me) and the dated fashions on display (Even after an apocalyptic disaster it seems doubtful humanity would resort to spandex as a way of clothing itself…) may be causes of annoyance or hilarity in some viewers. In 1977 the film scooped an Academy Award for its visual effects sequences (quite sparse in the film), it’s not hard to see why- in 1977 they probably were quite impressive: well directed and edited, they still work well in the context of the film, although the obvious Model Work, and often poor back projection show the films age quite clearly.
Such flaws don’t always prove fatal to sci-fi films- The First Star Wars film was a massive success, despite its often shoddy effects, and variable performances. Unfortunately Logan’s Run’s contains both, and its strengths don’t always prove a massive improvement.
The leads aren’t out of this world characters, or jaded anti-heroes, they are portrayed throughout as normal people making the most of a strange situation; it makes it very easy to follow the film, having such relatable protagonists, but gives the actors very little to work with. The leads share a clear chemistry, but neither is particularly memorable in their roles, the small supporting cast succeeds a little more, even if few characters are given much of a purpose in the film.
Although the first ark of the storyline certainly has its flaws, it is at least a great deal less clichéd than the story which follows. After escaping the duo lead the film through an extended, and overstuffed chase sequence- gunfights, floods and feral pick pockets all feature, it’s quite exciting stuff…but gets a little repetitive, more predictable events unfold, and the film gradually morphs into a love story. Individually these events could be interesting, but put together the film becomes confused, and frankly a little boring.
A memorable appearance by the great Peter Ustinov adds a badly needed twist to the film, before the narrative surrenders to an exciting, if oddly out of place ending. Both are fun to watch but come too late to solve major issues.
In conclusion Logan’s Run is a moderately entertaining film, let down by its age, and confused execution. Its strong direction, interesting visual and narrative ideas, and good pace can’t disguise the predictable nature of the plot, or make up for the absence of any truly memorable moments. Some Viewers may find it easier to accept its age and clichéd nature, indeed some may find both elements an attraction, but for everyone else this is a forgettable, though not unwatchable way to spend two hours.
5/10 Paul Ashwell