The book Logan’s Run does something every writer should envy: it covers multitudes of ground in a very short space. In less than 150 pages it takes us from a hedonistic metropolis to outskirts roamed by “Cubs,” a New Drug-using gang of youth that don’t play by anybody’s rules, to Molly, a buckling, underwater ruin of a city, to a prison somewhere like the Arctic Circle, to caves inside Mt. Rushmore, to the village of the Devilstick-riding wild ones, to a dystopian nursery, to the jungle-consumed ruins of Washington DC, to a rocket and beyond. It does this all so well, moving so quickly from one danger and landscape to the next that even a movie—a format traditionally embraced for its ability to convey more material in less time—cannot hope to compete with it.
That said, certain changes were only to be expected when the story jumped from book to film. How successful were those changes? You be the judge…
Time and Setting
In the book, the year is 2116. In the movie, 2274. I really don’t know why the number makes that much of a difference.
In the book, the whole world is open to travel: in fact, such adventures seem to be a rite of certain age groups.
In the movie, vague external causes (“war, overpopulation, and pollution”) force survivors to live in a single domed city whose Arcade and pinnacle looks uncannily like a shopping mall.
Why the change? I can’t be certain, but I can think of two reasons: containing the world’s population to a single, enclosed city both condenses the story (neatly cutting out several adventure portions mentioned in the intro) and emphasizes a divide between “civilized” life inside and the renegade outside: runners, Sanctuary, and the unknown world.
In the book, life ends at 21 years. In the film, 30. This is a change I can understand: 30 is more relatable to a wider audience.
Deep Sleep vs. Carousel
In the book, people who reach Lastday (i.e., turn 21) must turn themselves in for Deep Sleep: death by gas. In the film, individuals on Lastday participate in a fiery spectacle called Carousel in which everyone holds hands as in dance and then spontaneously combusts.
In Carousel, those going to their deaths are told that this Coliseum-style ritual will allow them to “renew” and experience life again.
In both mediums, “runners,” or those who try to evade death on Lastday, are hunted down by “Sandmen” and vaporized with special DS guns. In the book the guns have six different settings, the most fearful of which is the heat-seeking “homer” that unravels a person. In the movie, DS guns fire lurid green light, which still gets the job done, but mostly just annoys epileptics.
Logan’s Decision to Track Down Sanctuary
In the book, Logan is twenty years old to begin with and begins his Lastday early on. Pocketing a key from a runner who died murmuring “Sanctuary,” he decides to see where the key goes. Maybe, if he discovers Sanctuary before his crystal goes black (or before other Sandmen can catch him), he can expose the hideout that runners go to and die a hero to the DS.
Because we can’t see Logan’s internal thought process in film, scriptwriters came up with another way to get Logan to seek out Sanctuary. First, the object that Logan picks up from the dead runner is not a key but an ankh. As part of his debriefing, Logan drops the acquired ankh on a scanning bed. This prompts a laughably one-sided conversation with a computer, who tells Logan that the ankh is associated with Sanctuary and then commands him to track it down, zapping the years left in his palm crystal (“lifeclock” in the movie) to zero as additional motivation.
In the book, Logan meets future runner companion Jessica (dead runner Doyle’s sister) as he’s following the underground railroad: at a gathering the key he picked up led him to. In the movie, Logan meets Jessica as he is surfing through “The Circuit” looking for a booty call. True story! And the seduction is masterful: “Let’s have sex.” –Actual line (see 2:37)
Francis’s role is actually pretty similar from book to film: he is a senior Sandman, and someone whom Logan first works with and trusts and then fears and must run from. The main difference is that in the movie, Francis dies, and in the book he turns out to be the underground alias used by Ballard, an actual living old guy (forty-TWO! Can you believe it?) who helps guide the deserving to Sanctuary.
Sanctuary: Space Colony vs. Fictional Place
In the book (spoiler alert!) the story ends with Logan and Jessica boarding a rocket bound for a colony on Mars, where people can live as long as age will allow. In the movie, whilst within the jungle-ridden ruins of Washington D.C. Logan decides that Sanctuary does not exist, despite the computer’s earlier insistence that over a thousand runners had “disappeared” and were never accounted for. Rather than going to Sanctuary, Logan and Jessica return to their domed city with a random elder they found boppin’ round the Capitol tending multitudes of cats.
Things that were not in the book at all, and which the scriptwriters pretty much just flung in there for giggles, or else because they had already diverged so far from the original that they might as well have added in the odd oh, I don’t know, senile old guy and dozens of cats
- Old guy.
These are only a handful of the many changes made from book to film, but they were the ones that most resonated with me.