A SHOCKING SURPRISE
LOGAN’S RUN is the perfect analogy of life in the spiritual wasteland of the 21st century. We may not be living physically in an underground city like Logan and his friends, but the last few generations, and especially this generation— we have been and are living in the spiritual equivalent.
Key aspects of the film line up perfectly with our own situation. For instance, Logan and his fellow citizens live in a completely self-contained, domed underground city, which is controlled by a super-computer. This computer isn’t given a name in the film (like HAL in 2001), so whenever I mention it in these Analogies, I’ll refer to it as The System. This is highly appropriate anyway, because most of us are aware that there seems to be some kind of System controlling the world— even if we can’t put our finger on exactly what it is (and who is controlling it.) It’s my hope that I’ll be able to show you the System that’s controlling your world— and how to escape it.
Logan is not aware that he is living in an underground city. He was born in an incubator, raised without parents, and indoctrinated by the System to believe that the City is the whole world— that there’s nothing outside the City, and that he and each of his fellow citizens will live a life of comfort, security, and pleasure until age 30, when he will be required to submit to a public ritual called Carrousel.
As you might recall, Carrousel is a major feature of the plot. In fact, the film begins with this explanation:
“Sometime in the 23rd Century, the survivors of war, over-population and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carrousel.”
Since Carrousel features so largely in the film, it needs a bit of explanation. Every baby born into the System has a crystal implanted into the palm of its hand. The crystal is clear at birth, then gradually turns green, blue, and finally red— and when the person turns 30, it begins to flash red, and then it’s time for Carrousel. In Carrousel, every candidate with a flashing red crystal is “renewed” in a public ritual, which supposedly transports them to the next and ultimate stage of existence— life among the immortals.
But there are citizens who will not willingly submit to Carrousel when their crystal starts to flash red. For some reason, they fear Carrousel. Instead of submitting, they run. They run away into the labyrinth of underground tunnels surrounding the city, hoping to find a way out— to escape the System — hoping to find a legendary place of refuge called Sanctuary.
The citizens who run from Carrousel are called runners— and these runners are hunted down and killed by a special cadre of System enforcers called Sandmen. That’s what Logan 5 is— a Sandman.
Early in the film, Logan chases, corners, and kills a runner. This runner is wearing an amulet— an ankh—which Logan removes from the body and which he intends to turn over to the administration the next day. Later that day he meets Jessica, who’s also wearing an ankh. But he doesn’t make the connection until a day later when he goes before the System computer to report.
The computer interrogates Logan and gives him instructions. I will repeat their dialogue here word for word, because it’s vital that you understand Logan’s assigned role.
“Logan 5, do you identify this object?” (The symbol ankh appears on-screen) .
Logan answers “Negative— question: what is it?”
The word ankh appears onscreen and the voice says, “That is the name of the object: ankh”
Then the word Sanctuary appears, and the voice asks, “Do you identify this word: Sanctuary?”
“Sanctuary is a pre-catastrophe code word used for a place of unity.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The object ankh has been identified with the code word Sanctuary. The object and the word both relate to runners who have not been accounted for.”
Logan appears puzzled. “Question—“
The System voice interrupts: “HOLD!”
After a pause, the voice proceeds: “Unaccounted runners: 1056.”
After other pause the computer adds, “You may state your question.”
“One thousand and fifty six unaccounted for?” He is obviously taken by surprise.
“The number is correct.”
“That’s impossible ! QUESTION: Maybe they weren’t all runners. Maybe most of them reached life renewal on Carrousel!”. Logan is puzzled, then answers his own question: : “QUESTION: “You mean, no one has ever been renewed?”
The System does not respond.
“But…. everybody believes that some…”
“The question has been answered, Logan 5.”
“You mean, no one has ever been renewed?”
“The question has been answered.”
The System voice changes from giving answers to giving orders: “You are authorized to penetrate city seal and search outside the dome”
Once again, Logan is surprised: “Question: What seal? What do you mean outside? There’s nothing outside.”
The System ignores him: “You will find Sanctuary, and destroy.”
“Question: what if I need help from another Sandman?”
“Negative: you will begin assignment by becoming a runner seeking Sanctuary. ”
“Question: I’m only Red 6 now— how can I pretend that I’m approaching Last Day?”
On-screen, the words appear: “PROCEDURE: RETROGRAM.”
When the mysterious procedure is over, Logan’s life clock is flashing red.
He looks at his hand in surprise: “My Life-clock— QUESTION: my life-clock…”
Now the words appear: “PROCEDURE: RETROGRAM COMPLETE”
He is shocked and amazed. “But…. am I still Red 6? But I have four more years! I will get them back, won’t I?
“You will take the object anhk with you for identification.”
“Question: do I get my 4 years back?”
There is no answer from the System. Obviously, his question has been answered.
Here we see the main conflict very early in the film. Logan has been told all his life that although his life as a citizen will end at age 30, and then he will enter Carrousel for renewal— now he discovers that he’s been manipulated by a lie— no one has ever been renewed— and in fact the System which has lied to him expects him to destroy the only other hope open to him— Sanctuary.