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January 2012

The story structure of “Logan’s Run”

I decided to break down the structure of “Logan’s Run” to help with understanding some of the cinematography decisions.  The third act is rather convoluted, and one could make the argument that it’s all actually one sequence.  However, this is what I took away from it:

 

First Act

Sequence 1:  We are introduced to the city and to “Carrousel,” where people who have reached the age of thirty burn up while trying to reach a crystal which will give them ‘renewal’.  Logan Five is a “Sandman,” who hunts down ‘runners’ fleeing from Carrousel.  He is partnered with his friend, Francis Seven.  They hunt down a runner, enjoying the whole process, and playfully taunting him before they kill him. (Dramatic question answered: “Will they kill the runner?”)

Sequence 2:  Logan relaxes at home, and brings up a sex-finder service where his partner magically appears.  After an awkward rejection of a man that pops up, Jessica Six appears.  She acts strangely, asking why it’s wrong to run, rejecting his advances, and displaying an odd ankh piece of jewelry.  Logan is intrigued with her.  Later, he goes to the Sandman HQ, and is given an unprecedented mission:  find “Sanctuary,” which is a place outside the city where runners have supposedly escaped to.  The computer also tells him to follow the ankh.   In order to pass as a runner,  Logan’s life-clock is set to terminal, despite the fact that he has several years left.  (This raises the main dramatic question of the second act:  ”Will Logan find Sanctuary?”)

 

Second Act

Sequence 3:  Logan, wanting his time back, does exactly what the computer asks of him, and asks Jessica (the “ankh”) to help him run.   Logan is alerted to a runner in an area called “the cathedral” and heads there with Jessica Six.  They encounter “cubs,” young misfits, who threaten them.  After scaring them off, they find the runner, and Logan sends her on her way in order to try to earn the trust of Jessica.  Unknown to Logan, Francis sees this.  Logan then heads with Jessica to “New You,” (a plastic surgery shop), to get a face change which will presumably aid him in running.  However, the doctor receives an order to kill Logan, and attacks him with his laser surgery device.  Logan kills the doctor, and then is confronted by Francis.  After a quick scuffle, Logan flees.  (Dramatic question answered: “Can Logan convince Jessica to help him run?”)

Sequence 4:  Francis chases Logan and Jessica through a sex club and finally down to the industrial underbelly of the city. They are stopped by a group of other runners, who consider killing Logan, but are ultimately convinced not to by the doctor’s assistant, who has followed them from the scuffle in “New You.”  (Dramatic question answered: “Can Logan and Jessica escape Francis and make it to the safety of the other runners?”).

Sequence 5:  Just as they find safety among the other runners, Francis and other Sandmen catch up with him, and a firefight breaks out.  Francis tells Logan that “we all go crazy sometimes,” and that if he gives up, all will be forgiven.  Logan rejects the offer, and flees the firefight with Jessica.  The chase resumes through the waterworks of the city.  Logan and Jessica finally ascend a lift to an ice cave, where they encounter Box, a robot who tries to kill them.  They escape and finally ascend to the outside, where they see the sun for the first time.  (Dramatic question answered: “Can Logan and Jessica get out of the city?)

Sequence 6:  Logan and Jessica struggle through the unfamiliar outdoors, and notice that their life-clocks have been deactivated and are now clear.  They arrive in a dilapidated Washington D.C. and encounter an old man inside the U.S. Capitol building.  They find out about the possibility of aging beyond thirty.  Francis catches up with them and takes Jessica hostage, forcing Logan to kill Francis.  They finally realize that there is no Sanctuary.  (Answering the dramatic question of the both the fifth sequence and the second act, “Will Logan and Jessica find Sanctuary?”)

 

Third Act

Sequence 7:  Logan and Jessica resolve to return to the city and reveal the truth (“You don’t have to die!”) to everyone else.  Logan and Jessica also decide to get pesudo-married, a totally foreign concept to their emotionally limited culture, but something that now seems natural to them.  They arrive in the city and attempt to disrupt Carrousel by preaching the truth, but are apprehended by Sandmen.  (answering the dramatic question: “Can Logan and Jessica convince the city dwellers of the truth by engaging them directly?”)

Sequence 8:  Logan is interrogated by the machine that runs the city, but destroys it when he tells it that there is no Sanctuary.  The city implodes, and the horde of fleeing residents stumbles upon the old man and finally begin to understand the truth about aging and about Carrousel.  (Dramatic question of both the third act and final sequence answered:  ”Can Logan and Jessica enlighten the city dwellers?”).

 

 

Welcome to Cinevenger

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There is an unfortunate trend today in popular discourse on the internet related to cinematography:  an undue amount of attention is placed on the technology of filmmaking, while almost none is placed on storytelling.  I can find thousands of forum and blog posts related to such banal debates as “Red vs. Alexa,” or “AF100 vs. F3,” or “CF lenses vs ZF,” yet I can’t find a single post titled “why the visuals of Hugo resonate with me emotionally.”  Look at any well-shot scene in a film, and there is a dense amount of meaning and emotion being created by the placement of the camera, the collection of angles which evolves over the course of the scene, the direction of light, the foreground, the background, the movement of lack of movement of the camera, what we see and don’t see, lightness and darkness, and all of these millions of variables which the filmmakers control… sometimes consciously, and sometimes by the unconscious photography of the story by channeling emotion from the page or from the magnitude of the performance that is happening in front of the lens.  This is what matters.  Not the frequency of line sampling in the latest CMOS chip.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t talk about technology, but it seems that the frequency of discourse is completely out of proportion.  What little is written in popular discourse about visual storytelling is often full of generalities and lacks precise language that ties meaning and emotion to very specific decisions made by the filmmakers and rendered on screen.  My goal is to look at films, specifically very recent ones or older obscure ones, to analyze the visual storytelling techniques they employ.  Many older films, specifically classics like the films of Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, etc, have had libraries written about them, but it seems like nobody is discussing the cinematography of contemporary films in a meaningful way.  This is what I set out to do here.  Welcome to Cinevenger.

© 2012 Benjamin Kantor. All rights reserved.