You need to watch the best dystopian sci-fi movie on HBO Max before it leaves tomorrow
“There is no renewal!”
The 1970s were a golden age of science fiction. After the free-wheeling, freethinking 1960s, the world took a more cynical view of the future and broke open the relatively untouched genre of dystopia. You may think the epitome of 1970s sci-fi is Star Wars: A New Hope, but that was only a response to earlier sci-fi works like Westworld, Rollerball, and Soylent Green.
But there’s one dystopian movie with an even clearer line to Star Wars, and you should check it out before it leaves HBO Max.
1976’s Logan’s Run stars Michael York as Logan, a law enforcement officer in an idyllic 23rd century community. While it seems like the perfect utopia, there’s one catch. Upon their 30th birthday, every citizen has to report for a strange ritual known as “Carousel” where their bodies are destroyed, after which they supposedly achieve “renewal” in a new body.
Logan is a Sandman, meaning his job is to catch and eliminate anyone who tries to escape their fate and live beyond their time. However, when he meets a strange woman and gets a mysterious assignment from his superiors, he begins to question the truth and morality of the “renewal” ritual.
The beginnings of Star Wars are all over this film, from the flowing robes and laser blasts to the ice caves where a humanoid robot named Box freezes humans for future revival. Box looks like a silver C-3PO mixed with R2-D2, but sounds like iconic character actor Roscoe Lee Browne. Much like Star Wars, there’s a small rebellion that an unassuming character stumbles upon, and suddenly he becomes their savior.
When you cue up Logan’s Run on HBO Max, it begins with a short discussion of the costuming as part of Turner Classic Movies’ programming on fashion in film. The costume design is undeniably 1970s, but in the best way; there are a lot of muumuus, caftans, and togas.
The special effects are also very 1970s, but in a less than stellar way. At the time they were cutting edge and even won a Special Achievement Academy Award, but today it’s hard to see the miniatures used for the exterior shots and not think of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 opening sequence.
But if you can look past its dated elements, Logan’s Run remains an essential part of sci-fi history. It marks a transition between special effects being gimmicks and being a crucial part of the story, the start of the dystopian neo-noir genre that would later be refined in movies like Blade Runner, and even the start of the strange “sci-fi British accent.” Though stars Michael York and Jenny Agutter are both British, they speak an almost mid-Atlantic accent, while other actors like Farrah Fawcett keep an American accent. If you’re wondering why Princess Leia has a slight British lilt in A New Hope, well, that’s just how people sound in sci-fi movies.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, Logan’s Run never spawned sequels or remakes beyond a short-lived TV show, although a revisit has been trapped in development hell since the ‘90s. Knowledge of Logan’s Run has faded accordingly, but its legacy hasn’t. It’s a cultural tentpole, and a highlight of an already brilliant period in sci-fi movie history.
Logan’s Run is streaming on HBO Max until July 31st.