Logan’s Run is a slice of sci-fi that works its magic by reflecting current societal anxieties. Those anxieties were current back in 1976 when it was released, which makes it a strange horse to back as the next modern YA series. “It’s something that potentially is their Hunger Games kind of franchise,” said producer Simon Kinberg, explaining Warner Bros. intentions for the reboot, “that is about a younger audience for a younger audience with a big idea. And Logan’s Run, as you know, is the granddaddy of Maze Runner and Hunger Games and so many of these books and movies now. So yeah, they’re seeing it as a potentially really big franchise.”
The Hunger Games and Logan’s Run are connected through one shared idea: young adults placed in post-apocalyptic peril. That’s all. As Hollywood claws for more YA franchises, Logan’s Run is an odd choice to carry on the mantle. In the aforementioned examples, teenagers are regularly treated like human garbage. The Hunger Games’ tributes are tossed into kill-or-be-killed scenarios. The Maze Runner’s kids become ostracised from society where survival is available at the end of a monster-studded gauntlet. Their lives doesn’t matter. All that matters is the survival of humanity against the circumstances of a ruined world. In Logan’s, the dystopian climate is a product of mankind’s self-made dilemma: overpopulation. A concern more parallel with social worry of the ‘60s and ‘70s. As a result, it presents a curious worldview — it isn’t overly charmed or repulsed by its youngsters. The story walks a line between the two. It takes place in a sealed dome city in 2274, when Earth’s resources are maintained by offing people when they reach 30. Until that point, a life of pleasure is encouraged as a way of making those three decades tolerable. “Sandmen” police the city to make sure no-one tries to escape when Last Day comes. It’s not a young adult novel.
Logan’s Run presents “The perfect world of total pleasure.” It’s a hall pass for hedonism. Sleep around without conscience, drink and drug yourself into a stupor, and have a gluttonous gorge every day for the rest of your life. Nothing has any consequence because life is for living, yo. Youthful excess is exempt from critique, because the entire premise revolves around people being “renewed” once they hit a certain age. In short, they willingly submit themselves to Carousel, a fancy name for death, under the false promise of rebirth.
What makes it a complex beast is that its main theme — being young is awesome! — counters its central thesis — being young will effectively kill you! Author of the source novel William Nolan wrote the book as a response to an entitled demographic, hopped up on ideals that simply aren’t sustainable. “The book was an implicit criticism of a lifestyle that destroys you,” he explained in an interview, “a lifestyle where maturity is rejected. You can’t live a hedonistic lifestyle and survive — you either die young or it catches up with you.” Never having to work a day in their lives because they’re too busy snorting coke from each other’s orifices is all well and good, but if there’s no available road to redemption then what’s the point? The yin of youth needs the yang of old.
And that’s the premiere conflict of Logan’s Run; there is an escape route from the trappings of Carousel. Nolan went on to write several sequels, and was at one point toying with the idea of writing a prequel trilogy. But that was back in 2005 when Bryan Singer was attached to direct the remake. The problem is that they’re just not that great. Not in comparison to Suzanne Collins’ Katniss trio. Having material to mine doesn’t mean that it should be adapted into a contemporary YA trilogy.
So here’s the rub: Either being young is like, nirvana, or being young sucks. And as Kinberg outlines, whichever route they take, it’s gonna be geared towards a younger audience. So what rebellious activities might these teens get up to, then? Six-way VR orgies? With the actual orgy hinted at in veiled dialogue? The original holds a PG rating, yet it wasn’t marketed at the same audiences who turn out for YA adaptations. Reinterpreting the movie for a new generation is a chance to make it better than the first one by amping up its mature nature.
The 1976 film still stands because its concept is fucking mental — but it’s far from perfect. If Warner is in pursuit of the same dollars now freed up after The Hunger Games’ closure, it’d do well to model Logan’s Run after another successful reboot. It’s on Warner’s own roster. Mad Max: Fury Road; a return to a successful franchise that doesn’t skimp on the opportunities afforded by its premise.
The indulgence at the core of Logan’s Run is a fantastic foundation for creating some of the maddest sequences this side of Society. That ‘80s gem is an R-rated mindfuck — and wouldn’t be as effective had Brian Yuzna pandered to a teen market. Logan’s would make for a terrific R-rated franchise, highlighting its core message through sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Is it really better to burn out than to fade away? I don’t know. But it deserves answering in the most explicit way possible.