Saturday, March 29, 2014

Running with Logan

We watched a DVD of the 1976 movie Logan's Run a few nights ago. I doubt that I'd ever watched the film from beginning to end before, only the earliest scenes rang a memory bell for me; husband felt much the same. Half an hour in I was all for ditching the DVD and watching some, probably equally bad, programme on TV. After pouring drinks we decided to soldier on, most things feel better with a drink in hand!

38 years ago science fiction wasn't what it is today, in film anyway; in novel format it has always been good. H.G.Wells knew how to do it well as long ago as the 19th century. Technical restraints, a certain naivety of vision in the '70s led to campiness personified, coming across in 21st century as simply comical. I was never a Star Trek fan for that very reason. I hopped on the sci-fi movie bandwagon at Stargate (the original film); a little campiness did persist there, but I decided the theme was capable of overcoming it.

Since watching Logan's Run I've wondered why the movie, based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, hasn't fallen prey to the re-makers consortium. They love to do-over movies that really don't need doing over, whereas this one could really use some 21st century technology and insight.

Nutshell synopsis of Logan's Run, the film. Set in a USA of the far future (we discover), is a domed city where a version of utopia reins, apparently lorded over by a female-voiced computer. Inhabitants live what was once known as "the life of Riley" : no work, no worries, all pleasure - and pleasures of all kinds. The only snag: inhabitants' lives are strictly timed and come to an enforced end after 30 years, an end heavily disguised as "renewal", naively accepted by most inmates. A few, more enlightened, inhabitants, when nearing their 30th year, would try to escape their fate by becoming "runners". They attempted escape hoping to find a legendary place outside known as "Sanctuary", only to be pursued and killed by specially trained and armed police known as "sandmen".

Logan is a sandman who eventually becomes a runner, running with a female companion who has cottoned on to the "renewal" facade. Lots of "exciting" problems and revelations occur as they run, including a discovery of what actually happens to their colleagues after "renewal" (TV dinner anyone?) Eventually the pair emerge into a world they didn't know had existed outside the dome. They meet an eccentric old man (old being an unknown concept to them). He lives with numerous triple-named cats in the ruins of none other than the Senate floor, Washington DC. This is a revelation akin to that superb scene in Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston finds remains of the Statue of Liberty half buried on a beach. In Logan's Run, though, nobody declares "You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!" Nobody in this scenario understands, including the old man.

From what I've read online the film used only part of the novel's exact theme, which probably accounts for the fact that so much was left unexplained in the 1976 movie. I understand that there was a later TV series which expanded on the film somewhat, but the series wasn't well-received. Coincidentally, too, we watched a DVD of The Island this week and one or two scenes in that could have been lifted straight from Logan's Run, especially the last scene of all.

A good film version of the novel's complete theme might go down well now, especially with some subtle and not so subtle messages highlighted. Over-population leading to desecration of environment ought to be front and centre. Rather than culling the population at age 21 (book) or age 30 (film), a reduction of population growth at source, as is the case in China now, seems to me to be a more humane and sensible approach. Who'd want to live in a world where nobody gets to live out the lessons they'd learned in youth?

Back to a possible re-make. I discovered that ideas for such a do-over have been in the air for at least a decade, but have stumbled at various points for a variety of reasons. It appears now that the re-make is once again in the works, this time with screenplay to be written by video game developer Ken Levine. That, to my mind, doesn't bode well - but I'd better not pre-judge.

What would be a better plan than a straight re-make, I think, would be to encapsulate a distilled and vastly improved version of the 1976 film within a brief outline of how the domed city came about (if the idea of a domed city is to be retained - it's not in the novel), explaining who is, or was originally, in charge of it all. Then later in the film exploring more of the world outside the dome, or outside the immediate environment of the old film; in other words including a prequel and wide-ranging sequel to the content of original movie.

Michael York and Jenny Agutter played the leads in the 1976 film, with the lovely Peter Ustinov as the old man. Performances were more than a tad wooden from the leads, quite unconvincing - and how come the British accents in what turned out to be the environs of Washington DC?
Peter Ustinov could do no wrong, he brought a blast of fresh air into the stale proceedings!

The only name I've seen attached to any re-make, in the leading role, is Ryan Gosling, that from a couple of years ago, but he backed out. Who'd be appropriate as male lead from the current crop of young male actors? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? He could be a bit too old by the time they get around to it though. Shia LaBeouf perhaps? There are lots of young females appropriate to co-star, names escape me. For the Ustinov part? Lots of choice: Sam Elliott, David Strathairn, Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Jeff Bridges....and more.


mike said...

I never saw the movie...I think it was considered a bit hokey when it first premiered.

Your description has nuances of an old British TV series from the late 1960s that made its way to the USA. It fascinated me and captivated a wide audience of was quite different for that era's typical TV programming. It was made into a miniseries in 2009.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Hokey is a good description of it. :-) Maybe sticking nearer to the novel's original storyline would solve that, if the planned re-make actually happens. I doubt a re-make would be hokey, but I fear it could be just another film filled with smash-bang-violent nastiness many of today's younger generation seem to love.

The Prisoner - a classic cult-ish series that I never did get to see - it originated during a time in my life when I had no access to TV, then later on, when it was repeated or re-made, I must simply have missed it for some reason. I have seen clips from the original though, and had read or heard about it from friends. It might be worth seeking out DVDs or tapes ...I shall investigate.

LB said...

Great review, Twilight.:) I don't remember ever seeing the movie, though Michael York immediately came to mind as soon as I saw the title of your post, so I must've seen parts. Based on your description, *parts* of it ("renewal") kind of remind me of *parts* of Cloud Atlas.

Like you, I'd enjoy a remake - with Jeff Bridges in the role previously played by Peter Ustinov.

I'm also with you on over-population. There was a time during the 1970's(?) when we talked about it being a problem and ways to deal with it proactively. Don't know what everyone is thinking.

LB (again) said...

P.S. When I googled "Logan's Run", I noticed a couple of references to "Capricorn 15" and "Capricorn 22", and eventually read how, in this future world, zodiac signs, rather than calendar months, were used to measure time. The story was written in the late 1960's after all!

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes there were parts of the film that reminded me of other, later, films too. Ideas seeded in young would-be-writers' minds after seeing Logan's Run back in the '70s, years later could have left their traces in screenplays of the 21st century, I guess. Sci-fi, especially tends to be like that more than other genres I think.

Jeff Bridges has the right kind of twinkle in his eye for sure!
And he's in the filmed version of The Giver too, again establishing and updating his previous sci-fi credentials.

Over-population never gets a look in in the USA - here we're more manic about the evils of abortion and contraception. I suppose Powers That Be prefer to do their bit in keeping world population down via the far more profitable to them WAR WAR WAR....(don't get me started!)

LB(again)...I had a sentence in my post originally mentioning Capricorn6 - or some number - but as I didn't have full detail of how it fitted in I deleted it....must read the darn book! I'll try to find a cheapo used version to fill in the gaps.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Here's a link to the site where I found the info on Logan's Run:

And here's an excerpt:

"Capricorn 15s, born 2244. Instead of using months of the calandar, the city uses Zodiac signs. "Logan's Run" is set in the year 2274. The people participating in Carrousel are born on the 15th day of Capricorn."

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for the link - hmm -
15 Capricorn - the Ides of Capricorn, LOL, as fatal as The Ides of March were for J.Caesar. ;-)

ex-Chomp said...

Well I do remeber well that old film which did not belong to the series: Oh, what magnificent future!, that was so spread in the Sixties and part of the Seventies, found a sudden eclipse only to restart again in the Eighties.

Well, we had seen what astounding future they prepared us! With all this techno madness this world has no means to solve one little problem, indeed...

So it is of no surprise they did not a remake, the underlying message of that old movie would sound a bit too actual, indeed...

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ You know, I don't think the true message of the story would have come through back in the 1970s, or '80s. It might now, if a remake were done properly - but even now, we tend to think - 'that won't happen to us - not in our lifetimes'. It's only when there is imminent danger that we start thinking clearly, and acting, and then.....too late.

As you say, all the techno madness and we cannot solve one problem - as in my next post!

ex-Chomp said...

Oh yes, Twilight: You are right... Even now, something bigger, something greater, something fundamental... can only happen to others!

I would agree that a remake may be a good idea, but who may do it: That is a true problem in out times!

I mean, too poor thought in our days, too much importance given to the show and to the blockbuster madness, while we mey need some true thinking indeed.

Anyway, things will change, that mankind likes it or not.

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ I agree. Whoever produces a re-make will be looking mainly for profit, not for a message; and whoever goes to see a re-make will be looking for spectacle with all deeper thought processes disengaged.

Nature will sort us out, eventually though.

Roy_J said...

I've always had a lot of problems with the film adaptation of Logan's Run. It's messy. Not that messiness stops a movie from being good(I'm probably of the minority that thinks Prometheus is a classic, albeit a flawed and messy one). But the acting isn't quite up to par and the ideas and themes are just kind of there in the background, popping it's head up here and there but never in any significant way.

The remake has been in the works for a long time. Though I will say, I'm not particularly worried about Ken Levine writing the screenplay. I've played two of his games, Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite. Not only does he create fully realized dystopias but he also tackles themes in ways that movies and tv shows can only dream of.

It's the director and actors I'll be worried about.

Twilight said...

RoyJ ~ Hi there! Many thanks for your input. I'm glad to have info on Ken Levine from someone who has experience of his video games. Maybe I was being unfair.

I agree that "Logan's Run" only fluttered nervously around any kind of message, I hope if the remake does appear they'll underline a few things!

Director? Yes, wrong one could make or break a re-do, even moreso than actors - there are lots of good ones around these days, known and unknown.

Roy_J said...

You might have been a little unfair, but nobody can really blame you. It's hard to be positive about this remake, not only because it's been in development hell for years, but because when it gets to the point they give quite possibly the most important job to someone who's not even a part of the film industry, you'll kind of assume it's just destined for failure.

Regardless though, I suggest you read up more about Ken Levine. He's done some stellar work. His games have tackled themes and ideas ranging from Objectivism to American exceptionalism, to metaphysics and quantum mechanics, and plenty others. He's a guy who seems interested in just about everything.

Twilight said...

RoyJ ~ I've taken your advice and read Wiki's pages on Levine and on Bioshock, where I read that:

In regard to artistic influences, Levine cited the books Nineteen Eighty-Four and Logan's Run, representing societies that have "really interesting ideas screwed up by the fact that we're people

The fact that he was inspired/influenced by LR (the book) gives me hope, and reminds me that I really must get my hands on the novel myself.

Let's hope current remake plans don't hit any more snags. :-)

Anonymous said...

I remember Logan's Run well. I was a young teen at the time that it came out and I was completely smitten with the futuristic romance of it all. It was also exciting to see Farrah Fawcett in a bit role. She was being launched to minor stardom at that time. I carried these fond memories for about a decade until, as an adult, I got a chance to see the movie again in video format. My fun fantasies were completely shattered when I realised how bad the screenplay actually was. I agree that it could be a better film if made today. The prequel idea is a good one.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Thanks for your comment. I'm still hoping to see some more news of a re-make, or prequel :-) We're in need of some decent sci-fi!