We live in a world inundated with books and movies focusing on dystopias: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fifth Wave, The Maze Runner, etc. It’s easy to believe that the economic crises and international political upheavals starting in the late 1990s created a market for stories about corrupt governments and damaged societies, but the genre has much deeper roots. Logan’s Run, based on the 1967 novel of the same name, debuted in theaters on June 23, 1976, and given there’s hardly a dystopian novel or film without my name written all over it, I’m shocked I hadn’t seen it until now.
Logan’s Run follows twenty-six-year-old Logan-6, a Sandman whose purpose in his society is to track down and terminate runners, those individuals who attempt to escape rather than reporting for Carrousel (a form of ghoulishly entertaining euthanasia), when the life clock implanted in their left hand turns black. All the residents of the geodesic city are under the age of thirty, and no one has ever met a middle aged or elderly individual. When Logan finds an ankh on the body of a runner he and his co-worker, Sandman Francis, take down, the city’s computer leader takes the four remaining years from Logan’s life clock and sends him on a quest to find Sanctuary, a place runners believe exists outside the city, where they can live on past thirty.
Despite some of the dated sci-fi costumes (Oddly, I didn’t find the setting too dated, since it was mostly based on a Dallas mall and surrounding landscape.), I found Logan’s Run fascinating. I often have a hard time sitting still for full movies anymore, but I had no problem staying focused on the film for the majority of its run time. (I got a little bored with the final minutes of the last act.) Because the story focuses on interpersonal relationships and the perpetual fear of aging rather than over-the-top special effects, I feel it ages better than some of the more hardcore sci-fi epics of the era. Michael York’s Logan frequently irked me, but I also couldn’t fault him for being afraid of facing an early death; however, I truly fell in love with Jenny Agutter’s portrayal of Jessica, the young woman whose faith in Sanctuary leads her to follow Logan into the wilderness to find a chance at a full life. (If her interaction with Mary-2 in Cathedral doesn’t tug at your heartstrings a little as Jessica emotes how much she wants to care for her own child, I don’t know what to say.) From the first moment she appears on the screen, Jessica has agency in a way not often seen in older sci-fi stories (even if she wears a flimsy, little toga dress; it’s not like most of the men wear a whole lot more), and Logan actually respects it even though he gets a little pushier than I’d like.
Logan’s Run wasn’t just pure entertainment, though. The film touches on themes such as criticism of the pleasure-focused youth culture, allocation of resources, population growth, and how to deal with an aging population that are just as present now as they were in the 1960s and ’70s. I especially found the idea that youth would automatically create a hedonistic society if they had someone or something else to manage the nitty gritty aspects eerily prescient of criticisms of the Millennials.
If you enjoy dystopian stories and haven’t seen Logan’s Run, track it down and check it out. (Unfortunately, it’s not available streaming through most of the mainstream services; I had to get it on disc through Netflix.) If you’re a long-time fan, celebrate the forty-year anniversary with a re-watch party! It takes the idea of a broken world and shows there’s room for hope in even the bleakest of situations. Logan’s journey is upbeat and positive, and his growth speaks volumes for our world, both in 1976 and now.
(I have not read the books, so please do not message me to tell me that he suffers greatly in the sequels!)