Saturday, November 21, 2015

Logan's Run (1976)

written September 5, 1976

Logan's Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) Logan is a movie I'd like to have been a part of. There are so many steps where someone should have taken Saul David, Michael Anderson, or David Zelag Goodman by the hand with a warm glass of milk and a cookie and explain to them that what they wanted to do wouldn't work, and that the slip-shod way they were planning to realize it wasn't going to help it, either.

Mind you, there are some things I like. The 
Jerry Goldsmith score (what, I'm going to desert Goldsmith now? Herrmann's dead and Barry's comatose!)* Jenny Agutter is in it, and provides some moments of acting that actually seem natural in this spectacle of the unnatural (unnatural matte shots, etc.) (Why, in God's name has it taken Jenny Agutter five years since her last movie to appear in another one? The insight and wisdom displayed in her performances in The Railway Children, and in (Nicholas) Roeg's Walkabout should have made her much more in demand, since she is undoubtedly the best young actress since Pamela Franklin--and have you seen what's she's been in lately?)** Peter Ustinov comes in and says his lines like he just thought them up, and makes Michael York et al. look like The Reader's Theater.

I was in love with Jenny Agutter and this is an angle from which you should never see Michael York.
The film brightens up a bit once York and Agutter reach outside, not only because we, the audience, are on familiar ground, but also because we're out of those God-awful sets.
Washington D.C. has returned to swamp-land at the time of Logan's Run.
A friend of mine who's read the book says that book and movie have only the title in common. It's too bad that this should be such a turkey. I remember Bruce Dern's plaintive cry in Silent Running--"What happened to the flowers?" Walking out (of Logan's Run), echoed in my mind "What happened to the $8 million?" Sleazy matte shots. Cruddy model shots. And from the company that put 2001 together.***It has been said that we are about to be engulfed by a resurgence of sci-fi movies, their popularity expanding in the fifties, and then dwindling out to be revived when someone came out with a new special effect technique. Now, unfortunately, it looks like Logan predicts a resurgence of '50's technique. What happened to Magicam that was supposed to be so revolutionary? Is everything being used on the Star Trek film?****
The city-scape of Logan's Run looks like it could have been built in somebody's rec-room
But, lest it be mistaken that I am concerned only with special effects, let me say that "Special effects are worthless unless the ideas presented are special, as well!"***** Or else we get things like "Space: 1999" which looks gorgeous, but its scripts have the consistency (and intelligence) of tapioca pudding.******  (I'm writing this in a camper-pickup truck bouncing over Wyoming's dirt roads). We must have intelligent writing! (and I'm not helping!)
Logan (and Jessica) running
Ah, youth. Pretty bad and squirrelly writing here (and I was complaining about intelligent writing—heh), even for the back of a pick-up truck, but my sentiments about Logan's Run haven't changed one jot. The sets are cheesy (although setting the city in a mall was, in retrospect, a particularly good idea--we'll probably all live in hermetically-sealed malls in the future), the effects ARE bad—the city-scape miniatures wouldn't pass Gerry Anderson "Thunderbirds" muster and the matte shots have edges that disappear—and the original story is fairly trashed. Director Michael Anderson's idea of composition is to make an impressive proscenium arch set and put the actors in the middle of it. Not exactly inspired work here.
Reflective of the tawdry set-design of Logan's Run
(and, yes, that's Farrah Fawcett walking in the foreground)
Clearly, he didn't think about improving the screenplay much. The dumbest decision by the movie-makers is to make the central theme of the book, the lottery for "renewal"—that is, the chance for those turning 30, (21 in the book) to be given a few more years of life or "renewed"—a spectator sport. You'd think that after watching weekly events that destroy every participant taking part that one of these young people would come to the conclusion that NOBODY ever got renewed. I don't care how self-absorbed or de-sensitized or drugged-out they are, someone would notice. If they were looking for a war-draft metaphor, it doesn't get past a glancing consideration before it falls apart.
"Renewal" is staged like a sporting event, but nobody's keeping score.
They're working on a remake now, which might be the perfect thing for a youth-dominated movie market of kids barely out of their teens. In the meantime, the film had an unofficial distillation of themes in Michael Bay's The Island.
Some more of the bad set-design...and WHAT are these people wearing?
The latest: I wrote that last bit in 2008—and they are (in 2015) STILL talking about a re-make of Logan's Run—this time with Ryan Reynolds starring (too old, actually) and Simon ("X-Men" series) Kinberg writing and possibly directing (He's a big fan of this movie, so I don't hold out much hope for it). The next time I run this piece it will be probably still be un-made, despite recent press hyping the relatively short novel into a Hunger Games/Divergent/Maze Runner-type movie series. 

And by the way, how's that Fahrenheit 451 remake going?
* I've written about Goldsmith here. Composer Bernard Herrmann had recently died (his last released score--for DePalma's Obsession would be released a scant two weeks later. And John Barry was not comatose--I was being facetious--but he had relaxed his movie composing style to a slow dirge pace orchestrated for a massive number of strings.

** I wrote this when I was 21. All I can say in my defense is I had the "hots" for Jenny Agutter, so I was partial. I think it was because she didn't mind doing nude scenes. And there wasn't five years between movies--I just hadn't seen any of the ones she'd made in that time.  Agutter continues to act occasionally--to show how time passes, she actually played the mother in a remake of The Railway Children, and had a role in the excellent "Mi-5" series (aka "Spooks"). She can currently be seen as a nun on the BBC series "Call the Mid-wife" and she's also one of the shadowy S.H.I.E.L.D. heads in the Marvel Film Universe. 

Pamela Franklin (who I also found attractive) had just appeared in The Legend of Hell House (hence the remark).  I still think both actresses are very talented, now given the objectivity of years (hell, decades), and I see myself whenever I read some inexplicably passionate comment in IMDB that says that (say) "Selena Gomez/Jennifer Lopez/Jena Malone/Rachel Bilson/Nicola Peltz/Emma Watson/NameSomebodyHere is teh best actress ever and should win an Oscar!!!" Mm-hmm.

*** The distribut
or has nothing to do with it, kiddo. It's the producer and the director and the design team. 
On the road-trip where we saw this movie, we stopped by the
Ft. Worth Water Gardens where this was filmed. We didn't visit the Mall
where a lot of the interiors were shot.
**** The plight of the science-fiction film would be resolved (or made worse, depending on your view) the next year with the release of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The success of these films kick-started the on-again/off-again Star Trek film and its resultant film series. And Magicam is not the hardware or the app, it was a VFX company that was attached to the first still-untitled Star Trek movie that would become Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
***** This was originally bolded in big block letters. The sentiment is still good (if obvious everywhere except Hollywood), but, really, there's no need to shout!
Jenny Agutter O.B.E. today—from Captain America: Winter Soldier
****** In my dotage, I have acquired a taste for tapioca pudding.

No comments:

Post a Comment