Thursday, January 28, 2010

Logan's Run and the Blu-Ray effect

Logan's Run is a SciFi movie released in 1976 starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter. I was 9 going on 10 when it came out. I remember it well. I was a big-time Trek fan, so my folks usually sent me off to see most of the new SciFi movies. I can't tell you I was totally thrilled by the movie, as it had some obvious narrative potholes which even a 10 year old could figure out. Still, the movie developed a big following and got turned into a rather dreadful TV series which did not last long. That one died like the Planet of Apes series did.

Last night, Logan's Run arrived at my mailbox on Blu-Ray. It was sent to me my Netflix of course. I stashed it my queue only because I wanted to see how well the re-master would turn out. It turns out that they did a very nice job with the conversion. My biggest gripe about the disk is that they did not do a full DTS-HD Master Audio sound track for the movie. This makes a huge difference for anyone with even modest audio hardware.

Strangely enough, it turns out that I liked the movie better than I thought I would at this age. Issues of mortality and renewal are not that well appreciated by a 9 year old. The movie still has those dreadful narrative potholes I mentioned before. They are definitely still evident.

In short, the movie gets off to a flying start introducing you to their rendition of the 23rd century. It is a Utopia with fly in the ointment. Mankind lives only for pleasure in this society, but you only get to live 30 years. In your 30th year, you must go on Carousel which is a thrilling zero gravity ride that ends when your body explodes, as everyone in the audience cheers for you to Renew. That is, reincarnate in a new body.

It is obvious how the economics of this Utopia work. By maintaining an exclusively young population, you avoid all the medical costs associated with aging, costs that I myself and just becoming familiar with at 43 (after two knee surgeries). Geriatric care is a massive drain our on collectively resources. If you could avoid that, you would make an abundance of resources available for other purposes. I myself would not have needed any surgeries if I had died 13 years ago on Carousel.

It is a little interesting for a former 9 year old kid to watch this same movie at the age of 43 and realize that he would now be 13 years older than anyone in this civilization. It boggles the mind to think that you would be the most experienced, the most veteran, the most elder member of such a society if you showed up on their doorstep. It is hard to believe that it has been 34 years already.

The dreaded narrative potholes begin when Logan 5 receives special mission order 033-03 from the mainframe computer. He is ordered to penetrate the city seals, seek and destroy Sanctuary, and account for the 1056 unaccounted for runners who seemed to have escaped the system. Logan's life-clock is "retrogrammed" to indicate that he is approaching Last Day, when he should have 4 years left. Logan 5 makes a series of unwarranted saltations, big illogical leaping inferences, based on zero information from the computer. Now he is only 26 years old, so you can expect him to be a bit unreasonable. Still, those jumps are quite unwarranted, and they are critical to the entire course of action he chooses for the rest of this movie.

Still, I did find myself enjoying this movie more than I did when I was a kid. However, I have to give the major credit to Blu-Ray & HDTV. As per usual, Blu-Ray is so much more immersive and cinematic that it makes even weaker movies seem stronger. Dave's law says that Blu-Ray adds 10 points to the score of any movie, regardless of how weak or how strong. If you have a movie that scores 80/100 in the theater, it will be 90/100 at home on Blu-Ray. This is the Blu-Ray effect.

One little illustration for you: Just a week or two ago, my brother & my cousin Nick came over for a showing Inglorious Basterds. The first words out Nick's mouth were the following "It looks so much better than it did in the theater! When are the theaters going to get HD?" I had to chuckle on that one. They need 4K (at least) for the kind of screens sizes they employ, and they are working hard on it.

About 40 minutes into the movie, my brother declared that he was enjoying the film a hell of a lot more than he did in the theater. He saw it in Denmark, during the summer, when his band was on tour in Europe. The Danish used Danish captions, which made it tough for him to follow the French & German parts. He also mentioned that he thought it looked and sounded a lot better at home.

So the moral of the story is as follows: Check out a few movies you remember as marginal, just as soon as they become available on Blu-Ray. You might be impressed to see how much better they are.