The Hunger Games movie franchise is about to make another billion quatloos this weekend, so it’s probably not surprising that the people making the Logan’s Run remake want it to be another Hunger Games. But patterning Logan after Hunger, in any way, is an immensely silly idea.
Put simply, Logan’s Run is a book (and movie) about the evils of youth culture. It’s all about what happens when we put the youth ahead of everybody else, and that informs its basic concept: A false utopia where you’re put to death when you reach the age of 21 (or 30, in the 1976 movie.) Hunger Games, meanwhile, is about the older generation using young people as disposable pawns, and what happens when the lives of kids are seen as essentially worthless by the people in charge. The messages of the two franchises are, in fact, opposite.
So it’s odd when writer/producer Simon Kinberg, discussing Logan’s Run, tells Collider:
It’s something that potentially is their Hunger Games kind of franchise 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 andHunger Games and so many of these books and movies now. So yeah, they’re seeing it as a potentially really big franchise.
Because in fact, Logan’s Run is about young people, but it’s conceptually not that sympathetic to young people. It’s not about older people oppressing or using the young, which is the lifeblood of popular YA series like Hunger Games or Maze Runner. The fear at the heart of Logan’s Run is not that the youth will be oppressed, but that they will turn into oppressors. If you try and turn that into a property actually aimed at teenagers, the best you can say is, “Don’t let your peers try and prevent you from growing up, which is a terrifying but necessary process.” It doesn’t have quite the same urgency as “our society sees young bodies as celebrity cannon fodder,” which was a pretty revolutionary and pointed statement in the tail end of the Bush era.
To be fair, the 1967 book version of Logan’s Run is much more explicitly about the fear of youth culture than the original movie is—though both versions hinge on the “growing older = death” idea. William Nolan’s book begins with a set of terrifying statistics, in which the percentage of people under 21 reaches 75 percent in the 1970s, and then over 80 percent in the 1980s, until finally everybody is under 21 by the year 2000.
Logan’s Run is based on two phenomena that were huge in the 1960s and 1970s, but no longer hold as much sway. There’s the fear of massive overpopulation and Malthusian disaster, which informed Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! (and its film version, Soylent Green.) And there’s the hippie movement and youth culture, coupled with the fact that the Baby Boomers were all young—so it appeared that the median age of the population was going to get younger and younger forever. (And look how that turned out.)
Several years ago, io9’s founding editor Annalee Newitz interviewed Nolan himself, and he talked about the genesis of Logan’s Run:
I wrote Logan’s Run during the Watts riots, when youth were rioting. The book was an implicit criticism of a lifestyle that destroys you and society, 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.
As Nolan points out in that interview, the 1976 movie definitely soft-pedals the idea of being scared of the excesses of youth culture, and the danger of a world where “youth rules.” But the notion of young people destroying each other rather than allowing themselves to grow up (or older) is at the heart of the concept.
So no, you can’t turn Logan’s Run into another Hunger Games. It may not even be possible to update it, given how closely its themes are tied to the 1960s and 1970s. If you were going to try and revive it, probably your only play would be to focus on the hedonism aspect—which is all that anybody remembers from the 1976 film in any case. Make it a story about a world where you can party as hard as you want, and have as much anonymous sex as you want—but there’s a time limit. But that’s going to look less like Hunger Games, and more like Brave New World—another property that’s been notoriously hard to adapt for the big screen.