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Run, Runner!

"Sometime in the 23rd century... the survivors of war, overpopulation 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."
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A 1976 Science Fiction film, directed by Michael Anderson and based on the novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. The cast includes Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov.

The film depicts a future society in which everyone is young and healthy, no-one needs to work, and people look forward to the chance for "renewal" (presumably some sort of rebirth or reincarnation) by undergoing the rite of "Carrousel" at the age of 30, a privilege given to those who have obeyed the rules faithfully. However, there is a darker secret to this apparent utopia: no one has ever survived Carrousel. Resource management and Population Control are simply maintained by mandating the death of everyone who reaches the age of 30.

Logan 5 (York) is a 26-year-old Sandman whose job it is to hunt down and kill "Runners" — those who reach 30 but don't report for Carrousel. When he learns that the Runners are trying to reach a place called Sanctuary outside the domed city, he is assigned to find this place and destroy it. In order to do this, he will masquerade as a Runner. His life-clock is adjusted accordingly — with no assurance that he'll get his 4 lost years back — and he finds himself pursued by his fellow Sandmen as he searches for the truth behind Sanctuary.

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While the movie was successful for its time, and is often mentioned in the same breath as other classic, dystopian, late-60's to pre-Star Wars sci-fi films like Planet of the Apes (1968), Soylent Green, and Silent Running, it bears very little resemblance to its source material. A short-lived TV adaptation followed a year later.

Multiple attempts to remake the film (and to adapt it more closely to the novel) from notable directors like Bryan Singer and Nicolas Winding Refn, have all been unsuccessful. Recently, Warner Bros. hired BioShock lead designer Ken Levine to write the script for yet another try at a remake.


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Trope, Troper!:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The guns seem to shoot pellets that explode.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the film, the life-clocks count to 30, while in the novels, the life-clocks expire at age 21. Considering the need for MGM (in 1976) to adapt a very dystopian and sexually-themed (revolving around characters barely of legal age) sci-fi novel into a PG-rated sci-fi thriller, this was obviously a necessary change.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: People who chase down runners are called Sandmen, because in the book they're killed in a "sleep room." The film changes this to the more visually impressive Carrousel, but the name is kept.
  • Aesoptinium: It's never specified how the city and Carrousel actually function, apart from the Hand Wave about "automated servo-mechanisms which provide everything", but then again, that's not necessary for the story to work.
  • After the End: The world outside the domed City is all ruins, including an overgrown Washington, D.C. that turns out to be unpolluted and inhabitable. Whatever disaster occurred that the dome city and population controls were designed to protect the people against is now moot.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: It's a miracle the city has lasted as long as it has, though there are clues that it is falling into disrepair.
    • Let's start with the fact that the only solution to the disappearance of Runners (the discussion of which inadvertently reveals to Logan 5 that Renewal and Carrousel are lies) is for Logan, who has four more years left alive, to pose as a Runner in the system by removing those four years from the record, though there is no actual guarantee that Logan will ever get those four years back.
    • Furthermore, the computer doesn't even bother to inform anyone else about this plan, so if Logan gets killed, then erasing those four years was all for nothing, not to mention having one of your best Sandmen on the force murdered in cold blood by his own partners.
    • And finally, when Logan is brought back before the Master Computer, it refuses to accept the possibility that Sanctuary might not be real, despite Logan's surrogates providing overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the resulting Logic Bomb, if you would even call it that, makes the entire computer explode.
  • Ancient Keeper: Box the robot, in his lair outside the City.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: How Carrousel is portrayed to those who will have to go through it.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The public areas of the dome city. Logan's private quarters are decorated in dark tones, rather than white and light colors but still maintain the clean uncluttered appearance of the Ascetic Aesthetic.
  • Assimilation Backfire: The computer was trying to drain Logan's memories to find the hidden lair of the resistance groups. Instead, not only was there no "resistance", but Logan's experiences outside the dome actually overloaded the system because the computer couldn't accept information that contradicted what it thought was fact.
  • Brainless Beauty: Holly 13 can't remember events that happened just minutes ago even if said events were something as traumatic as seeing your doctor get sliced up by surgical lasers.
  • Bread and Circuses: The Carrousel and all the automated luxuries distract people from the crumbling society run by the computer programs.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: "Renewal" is an utter fiction, Carrousel is just a murderous show. Sanctuary is equally fictitious; the cyborg Box is just killing and freezing the Runners.
  • Children Are a Waste: This seems to be the prevailing mindset. Most people live carefree lives and don't bother with child rearing. Their "Utopia" has no family units, children are put in state homes by their "seed mother" and raised en masse. Francis notes most men don't bother to hang out at the nursery to meet their children, and Logan (who is doing just that) makes the point that he's not so deviant he's interested in meeting the mother. Is it any wonder a bunch of wild children went all Mad Max and took over an apartment tower? People recognize that kids are important to society as a whole, they just don't see any need to be personally involved in rearing them. In the book the movie was based on, people are killed upon reaching the age of 21, so the kid was going to be orphaned young anyway; the factory method makes a lot of sense. The movie raised it to 30, probably to avoid Dawson Casting or having wild orgies filled with kids 13 or younger.
  • City in a Bottle: The domed city itself, which has been closed off from the outside world for centuries, and its inhabitants have known no other life.
  • Collapsing Lair:
    • Logan shoots a support beam in the ceiling of Box's cave, and the whole cavern comes crashing down.
    • At the end, Logan drops a Logic Bomb on the central computer, which somehow causes the entire domed city complex to explode and collapse.
  • Color-Coded Castes: The Sandmen all wear black and blue uniforms. Also the life crystals change colour. Within the City, those who aren't Sandmen wear clothes the same colour as their lifeclocks. The babies in Nursery are wrapped in white, a few children can be glimpsed wearing yellow (the Cubs in Cathedral also sport tattered yellow garments), older teen-agers are wearing green, and twenty-somethings all wear red. The 30-year-olds' outfits at the "Renewal" are red below and white above, presumably because it's assumed they'll be reborn as infants and wear white again.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Three times; first with Marvel Comics, not long after the film, second was Malibu Comics back in 1990, and in 2010 with Bluewater Productions' Logan's Run: Last Day, which takes aspects from the original Marvel run.
  • Composite Character: Inverted; Francis 7 from the novel has part of his characterization and storyline split off to form the character of the Old Man, making Francis more overtly the antagonist than the somewhat ambiguous status of the original character.
  • Computer Voice: The Master Computer speaks with one of these.
  • Cradling Your Kill: When forced to reexamine the quasi-religion of Renewal, Francis 7 attacks Logan 5 in desperation. Logan 5 finally wins the upper hand and in the heat of battle, bashes Francis repeatedly with a flag pole. Realizing he has inflicted fatal injuries on his lifelong best friend, Logan 5 holds Francis 7 as he dies.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The City looks like a wonderful, hedonistic utopia; until you find out what goes on behind the scenes.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Gender-flipped; the old man dwelling in the ruins of the U.S. Capitol is surrounded by a number of cats.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Subverted. It's certainly got the aesthetic on first glance, but the city's literally crumbling apart at the edges due to no one living long enough to maintain it.
  • Death's Hourglass: The life crystals. When your time is up, they start blinking, and when they're fully out, then you either turn yourself in for death or let the Sandmen hunt you down.
  • Defector from Paradise: The film has a domed city that acts as a playpen for teenagers. However, its age cap is set at 30 years, while the winnowing process is called Carrousel, and is touted as a "renewal" program. Logan 5 and Jessica 6 attempt to escape, and discover how badly their idyllic city has Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Domed Hometown: The City is a textbook example, closed off from the outside world along with its entire population of sheltered inhabitants.
  • Doomed Hometown: Washington D.C. fell into ruin at some point, but it has recovered to a habitable state.
  • Earth All Along: Logan and Jessica make it to the surface only to find the ruins of Washington, D.C.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: Renewal. Everybody believes that some who sacrifice themselves in Carrousel at age 30 are granted "Renewal", presumably reincarnation. (One draft of the movie's script implies that Logan is named "Logan 5" because he's the 5th renewal of the original Logan, though in the movie itself there is a Logan 6 without Logan 5 having died, so that's probably not true anymore.) But the sordid truth is, it's a made-up quasi-religion to keep the population under control, and to encourage everyone to voluntarily kill themselves while still in the prime of life.
  • Fanservice: Logan and Jessica, as soon as they reach Box's cave.
    "Let's take our clothes off quick before they freeze on us."
  • First Time in the Sun: Logan and Jessica, when they escape into the Outside, don't have a clue what that big bright warm thing in the distance is. Logan even reaches out to try to touch it.
  • Free-Love Future: Logan and Jessica meet when he picks her off "the Circuit", a sort of electronic hook-up system. As it turns out Jessica isn't really in the mood, she's upset over losing a friend to Carrousel. She and Logan spend the night talking and bonding instead of having sex.
  • Ghost City: Washington, D.C.; The only living residents are an old man and a bunch of house cats.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Considering that growing up brings death at the age of thirty, it certainly sucks.
  • Hologram: In the scene where Logan is interrogated about Sanctuary, the main computer creates holograms of his head that express his thoughts.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The city's central computer implemented its own destruction. Had it not instructed Logan to go undercover as a runner to find and destroy Sanctuary, life would have continued following the established status quo.
  • Humans Are White: All of the citizens of the city are conspicuously white. That could be the result of the city's Designer Babies. Then again, the Killer Robot they fight was originally supposed to evoke a "tribal" African and was portrayed by a black actor. You'll just have to draw your own conclusions from that.
    • Note that a single female Green with dark skin and an Afro does walk by in the background, mere seconds before "The End" crops up on screen. Then again, given the availability of easy facial and body reconstruction, there's no way to know if she's genuinely black, yet another white girl who had her melanin cranked up for style's sake, or if "Caucasian" is just the "in" look for everybody else that particular season.
  • Human Resources: Ancient Keeper robot Box seemed to make it clear that the "fish, plankton, and protein from the sea" that he was supposed to store for the cities had stopped, while Runners had started showing up in time to be frozen. We may have a Soylent Green moment here. In the shooting script for the movie, there were 1056 people frozen in the chambers that Box tended. This is exactly the same as the number of unaccounted runners shown by the computer earlier.
  • Insane Troll Logic: It's basically Box's operating system.
    "Fish, plankton, sea greens ... protein from the sea!"
  • Irony: The Runners flee from the Kill It with Fire ritual of Carrousel, though if they manage to elude the Sandmen, they only become the frozen victims of Box in his cave.
  • Kick the Dog: When Logan and Francis are going after a runner early in the film, they have several chances where they easily could have killed him right away, but they sadistically treat killing him like a game of hunting an animal, deliberately missing him so they can have fun at the Runners expense.
  • Kill It with Fire: The entire spectacle of Carrousel, where those reaching the age of thirty enter in the hope of Renewal, spiralling higher and higher into the air before vanishing in a rush of flame. Only that Renewal never actually occurs, so everyone who enters Carrousel dies, hence the Runners who try to flee.
  • Kill It with Ice: Box's treatment of the Runners who got as far as his cave, believing them to be potential foodstuffs on account of the Insane Troll Logic that they were "protein from the sea".
  • Knight Templar: Francis 7's mad pursuit of Logan and Jessica, far in excess of his duties as a Sandman, was fueled by his unwavering belief in Renewal. He goes crazy when he sees that his life clock has presumably turned clear white outside the City, which contradicts everything he believes in.
  • Large Ham: Logan's speech to the populace on returning to the city certainly qualifies. As he flails around, screaming "You can live! LIVE!", Michael York appears to be on the verge of breaking into song.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: The film avoids elaborating on who built the city and main computer or how exactly the City came to be—the intro only mentions briefly that the world went through war, overpopulation and pollution, and the film otherwise uses visual storytelling to show that something went wrong with the world outside that prompted the City's creation and all that entails.
  • Lens Flare: An intense one appears when Logan and Jessica are forced to walk through a narrow corridor into a spotlight.
  • Lighter and Softer/Tamer and Chaster: While the film is not without its darker content, it's massively toned-down compared to the original novel, which featured all sorts of depravity that would never be permitted to be filmed either now or in the 1970s.
  • Living Relic: The Old Man who inhabits the ruins of Washington, D.C.
  • The Load: Jessica 6, in particular, is right at home in the City but has little to no skills in a survival situation. Then again, this trope goes for all of the City's perpetually sheltered inhabitants.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The City's central computer. When it goes, the whole city goes with it. Admittedly, Logan did shoot out a support beam from the ceiling, but at worst that should have caused the building to collapse, not caused the collapse of the entire dome network.
  • Logic Bomb: For the Master Computer at the end.
    "There ... is ... no ... Sanctuary!"
  • Madness Mantra: It's pretty clear that Box has the robotic equivalent of senility.
    Fish! And plankton! And sea-greens! And protein from the sea!
  • Membership Token: The ankh necklaces are used by the Runners to identify each other.
  • Mind Screw: At least for the Master Computer, when it receives the Logic Bomb described above.
  • Mistaken for Gay: When Jessica is summoned to Logan's apartment, but then changes her mind about wanting sex, Logan's reaction is to apologize and say "Oh! You prefer women."
  • New Eden: What the city seems to be, or is portrayed as, except it's a Crapsaccharine World.
  • No Blood Ties: The characters don't know their parents and most don't care. Logan and Jessica therefore show astonishment upon learning that the Old Man did.
  • Only Fatal to Adults: At least, those over thirty years old.
  • Population Control: The population in the seemingly utopian future world is maintained by executing everyone who reaches the age of thirty.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Among other changes, the age of death was raised from 21 to 30 both to simplify casting and, more importantly, so the free-love future wouldn't get the entire production shut down. Also, the producers realized that it didn't make sense for Richard Jordan (Francis) to somehow transform into Peter Ustinov (The Old Man/Ballard in the novels) so the character of Ballard (originally a disguised Francis) was changed to the separate character of Ustinov's Old Man.
  • The Promised Land: Runners believe Sanctuary to be this. In an interesting variation, from the point of view of the audience, it's a Cynical Flavor B; but the characters still see it as an Idealistic version when they finally reach it. Which tells you just how much of a Crapsaccharine World they live in.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: Outside the domed city, Logan 5 and Jessica 6 wander into a landscape shaped like Washington, D.C., but heavily overgrown with ferns, ivy and kudzu. Only the Capitol dome pokes above the greenery. There, Logan and Jessica encounter a dotty old man living in the Senate chamber, which is rife with moss and lichens.
  • Released to Elsewhere: Carrousel is portrayed as a chance at "Renewal", only Renewal never actually takes place, so the participants universally die.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In one perspective, Logan resisting the City's computer symbolizes an atheist resisting religious conversion to start accepting that an afterlife doesn't exist.
  • Shout-Out: The Old Man frequently quotes passages from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
  • Tattered Flag: Seen where the Old Man lives, in what used to be the U.S. Senate chamber.
  • Teenage Wasteland: More in the book than in the movie, but in both cases, the world clearly belongs to the young.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: The main computer. After it learns that Sanctuary doesn't exist, it freaks out and destroys the city, forcing the inhabitants to flee.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: What caused the end is never mentioned, in contrast to the novel, where overpopulation is stated as the cause for the dystopian society.
  • Utopia: The City portrays itself as this, except it's really a Crapsaccharine World.
  • Vapor Wear: Several people, especially Jessica 6. The female costumes were utterly impractical as clothing. Actresses had to have their costumes sewn shut around their bodies so that they wouldn't have any visible zippers or buttons.
  • Veganopia: Played with Human Resources above, as though the characters are horrified to discover that people used to raise animals for food, they may actually eat humans instead of the "fish, plankton, and sea greens of the sea. Fresh as harvest day."
  • We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: Carrousel, where any resident who reaches the age of thirty must participate in the hope of Renewal, or otherwise die via Kill It with Fire. The problem is, Renewal is a lie, so everyone who enters Carrousel dies.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened Logan 5's infant son, little Logan 6?
  • You Are Number 6: Characters are named "Name X", as in Logan 5, Jessica 6...
  • Zeerust: It couldn't look more 1970s if it were set in a disco.

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