Pop Culture Homework Assignment #16: Logan's Run

The Pop Culture Homework Project has brought to light an interesting conundrum: Is there an invisible expiration date on properties that were popular either at the time they were released, or developed a cult following later? Where's the magical line between good, bad, and so-bad-it's-good? The benchmark for this question appears to be The Goonies. Like most people who really enjoyed that movie, I saw it as a kid, and was enraptured by the adventure, the Rube Goldbergian booby traps, and the youthful snark. Sometimes, though, I'll run across someone who dislikes the movie, and my first question to them is always the same: "How old were you when you first saw it?" And without fail, the naysayers saw it when they were already in their late teens or beyond, and saw it in the modern age (that is to say, they saw it at least ten years after its release in 1985).

It feels like whatever personality trait that was endemic to the target audience of the time has somewhat evaporated, and it becomes a kind of you-just-had-to-be-there experience. I ask all this because I just saw the 1976 sci-fi classic, Logan's Run, and am completely befuddled by its reputation. I knew going in that it was about a futuristic society in which nobody is allowed to live past the age of 30, that it starred Michael York, and that it was about someone trying to escape the fate signaled by the flashing red crystal embedded in their palm. That's about it.

Now I can fill in the gaps. Sort of. York plays Logan, a "sandman" who's in charge of exterminating any citizen who attempts to weasel out of their scheduled death. For a society portrayed as a utopia, there's a lot of these runners. He enjoys his job, but things become complicated when his bosses decide he's to go undercover as a runner to infiltrate Sanctuary, a hidden conclave of people who are unaccounted for. Logan befriends reluctant prostitute Jessica, correctly suspecting that she knows something, and the two of them begin the search for Sanctuary, learning uncomfortable truths about their society in the process.

So. Why is this thing so well-regarded? I love Michael York, but even he can't escape the hamfest of acting this movie contains. Everyone's at an eleven all the time. I can accept that special effects in the 1970s are going to look goofy, but it'd have been nice to have even a speck of subtlety in any of the performances (Farrah Fawcett-Majors being the most cringeworthy - I know she was likely cast to be eye candy, but yikes).

The plot is a mess, too. The citizens of this society don't do anything but walk around in large atria, giggling to each other. The sandmen ruthlessly track runners, but see no need to clamp down on the Cubs, the one "dangerous" element of society ("dangerous" is in sarcastic quotes, because the Cubs are about as intimidating as a Hello Kitty plush doll). Two of Jessica's friends plot to murder Logan, but their characters disappear midway through the movie, never to be seen again. And the ending suggests some sort of radical shift in how society functions, but gives no clue as to how that will come about or what it might be.

I do have to admit that even with all this complaining, Logan's Run was a lot of fun to watch; especially since I was watching it with friends, and we MST3K'ed our way through the whole thing. It just brought up so many questions. Was this laughably cheesy even at the time, or did people really enjoy it as pure sci-fi? Why has it endured all these years? And if ever there was a property ripe for reboot, this would be it. How come there hasn't been a modern remake? Oh, well. I guess we'll put all those questions in the same pile as "So what the fuck was that ice cave robot scene, and what was it meant to accomplish?"

Logan's Run: C


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