All That Ages Ain’t Gold: Logan’s Run
I’m not gonna beat around the bush: I don’t get Logan’s Run. Yes, there’s a lot that I love in this film, particularly how delightfully 70s it feels: the block-color flowing costumes, the astrological grouping systems, the cult-like death rituals. It’s all quite quaint, considering everything. So it’s a bit sad, and confusing to me, how Logan chooses to dismantle his society, presumably one of the last functioning civilizations in the country, if not the world, just to drag everybody out into the woods to rough it. Is he really that upset that Carrousel won’t lead to renewal? Sure, it sucks that everyone has to die at 30… but don’t sacrifices have to be made to support an otherwise perfectly functioning society? Yes, there are suggestions that society at large is beginning to crack: Children escaping to forgotten wards of the city, afraid to become adults; The continual flees for Sanctuary, prevalent enough that these Runners need an entire fleet within the government to stop and contain them; The existence of what is ostensibly a cult dedicated to Sanctuary. Yes, things aren’t perfect, per se.
But how are all these people are going to survive otherwise? We’re expected to believe in the final scene that we’ve won, that Logan’s won, their society exploding all around them But where are all these people supposed to go? Hike back out to the Capitol Building and talk to cats and grow old? We’re talking about people who don’t even know what the sun is. They’re not going to make it to old. And yet somehow, we’re expected to embrace this ending, telling ourselves that this is the way things should be, that continuing on with their way of life is tainted and wrong.
When you start looking past the surface, there’s an underlying fear in Logan’s Run that we give over our free will in exchange for the idyllic, or even simply for the ability to survive, to sustain as a species. We create these advanced biospheres and computer systems to take care of us for us, like superpowered babysitters, but then ultimately decide we don’t like the rules they’ve set for us (read: the rules we set for ourselves) while our parents are out for the night (read: while we’ve devasted the planet and life as we knew it). In this vein, the film adopts a sort of Puritanism. Logan seems bored of the ‘circuit,’ his society’s sort of IRL Tinder. Later, we while on the run from the other Runners, we get a glimpse of the “Love Shop,” a sort of sex club, where Logan and Jessica try and fend off the overly eager attendees as if they themselves were aiding in the arrest. In this way, Logan’s Run quietly suggests that society will inevitably shrug their duties to themselves and the planet by succumbing to hedonistic tendencies, living fast and dying young, and these Runners need something “more.”
Logan’s own transition from loyal Sandman to rebel Runner is subtle, almost invisible. When we eventually meet Box, a talking Halloween-costume robot, we learn that none of the other Runners have made it past the immediate exterior of the city. Logan recognizes this, but still continues on the trek, taking his clothes off willy-nilly with Jessica 6 as they go searching for something else. Soon, they discover that their life clocks have stopped working, and that they are not in any danger of dying, yet. The city was never in danger of being destroyed or overthrown by Sanctuary… So what does that mean for Logan, for everyone?
Seemingly the only reason why people seem to want to escape is to avoid growing old, without knowing what growing old even means. By the time they make it to downtown DC Logan is clearly ready to escape their society and return to the world, but it’s unclear if he will know how to. The old man we encounter is a scavenger, barely functioning. When Logan and Jessica meet him, they are fascinated. Jessica comments, “Look at his face and his hair. Is that what it is to grow old?” Furthermore, the duo seems to have no knowledge of American history, of where they are, of who Lincoln is. Nevertheless, they are quite excited to rally the troops, gather the masses, return to their “true” home, they don’t seem to know anything about their collective past. And clearly, whoever has managed to stick around on the outside isn’t doing so hot either. Without their robot keepers, I find it unlikely they’ll be able to take care of themselves
But Logan still continues to fight and end the place he and his loved ones live. Upon returning, he’s able, basically by telling the truth, to destroy his AI master, prompting the destruction of the entire colony. How do we take the information that the robot is unable to accept there is no Sanctuary? The city was never in danger of being destroyed or overthrown by Sanctuary, and yet we still need Sanctuary, an enemy to overthrow. It’s almost as if we’re our own enemy, huh? Although this mass destruction, followed by the entirety of their community smiling down on our “wise sage,” is supposed to imply some bright future for mankind, I find it difficult to find hope, knowing that they have just abandoned the answer to humanity’s annihilation.
Logan’s Run seems to suggest that if humans know there is an alternative, know that there is something else “out there”, another option, eventually we will find ourselves running towards it, even if, or maybe especially if, it is the only available. Even if it threatens to bring about their destruction. We like to think we won’t make the same mistakes again, but without knowing those mistakes, without knowing what led us to our current reality, we can’t help but make those same mistakes again. Given the chance, people will yearn for something more, however idyllic their circumstances. Without knowing our history, this threatens to ruin us again and again.