From the first moments viewing the bubble wrap constructed domes in what looked like a dried wasteland, I had a feeling I would dislike this movie despite having chosen it myself, though I can’t recall why. When the camera panned under the bubble wrap into a utopian retirement community in Miami I was equally unimpressed.
From the first scene with babies being raised in vitro behind reinforced glass and an all powerful computer supervising the supervisors, it looked like this was a cross between A Brave New World and 2001: A Space Odyssey: a dystopian pleasure world where human relationships have been trivialized and an omnipotent machine controls all.
This movie came out in 1976, eight years after Kubrick’s.
The uniforms, which were Peter-panesque ballerina costumes in leaf green and magenta, and the cultlike behavior around an apparent Soylent green style human life cycle also threw me off. The movie epitomizes sloppy science fiction and the universe bears little resemblance to our own, but the exposition forces you to piece together exactly what is happening for yourself, though nothing is too complex. It was not until the words “renew on carousel” were uttered that I comprehended that these people had been deluded that they wouldn’t die once the state mandated that they must face an ordeal.
That was what was needed to understand the blind acceptance of fate that was required for people not to “run” from carousel, their ordeal, which was in reality their pre-ordained death date. Just like religion, they believed that their life might go on.
The choice of the term “sandman” was also telling, someone bringing you dreams, helping you sleep, rather than ending your existence. It was denial, just as were the colonies of rebellious lost boys in “Cathedral” that also evoked Peter Pan, not willing to face what society really was.
The world itself, the theme of total disconnection from nature, and the capital in ruins also seemed to comment on the possibility of destruction of our own society. Here I self-censor a January 6th joke.
The novel attitudes towards the old for the people in this story with the “cracks” on their faces in a way celebrated age and difference in a way that is rarely seen in films or frankly anywhere in modern society, as age is seen as frailty and weakness, and not as a symbol of the miracle of our species to persist.
The trivialization of murder and deaths were excessive, and connection between sanctuary and the ice robot was disconnected and confusing.
Yet the themes of duty versus love as they debate risking their lives for this “society,” and the difficulty in changing the minds of a society deluded by a perpetual dream state. Only by challenging the apex, the controller of all, can the illusion be broken.
This movie was far from the well polished Hollywood sci-fi classic I expected, nor was it a rich cult film filled with unique elements and an intense fight for survival. It was a rather introspective and thought provoking piece about the direction our society is heading with the blind acceptance of authority, trust in omniscient machines, and group think.
At no time in since the Iraq war have such themes been so relevant as we lose our capacity to question reality and the nature of institutions and power. In such times, critical thought is automatically labelled as a subversive conspiracy. The natural debate within the scientific community itself is distrusted, as political elites subvert truth to their own ends.
The film was visually interesting, fast moving, and thought provoking, but suffice it to say this film itself was not really a masterpiece. Still, anyone looking for a classic dystopian film that seems to cram many more fascinating elements than you’d expect into two hours could do worse.
Rating: Many cats.
*Spoilers ahead for a movie older than CDs
From the opening shot it is clear that this movie, based on a 1967 novel of the same name, is bringing all that 1970s filmmaking had to offer. From distant shots of the new cities that look like v0.3 of Rollercoaster Tycoon, to the fact that I didn’t see a single person of color until literally seconds before the final credits (and that could have been a 5-year old Justin Pierre Trudeau in blackface for all I know). This movie’s view of the the future is strange and pretty bleak, to be fair it was made in 1976 so it makes sense.
The story follows Logan 5 (Michael York), a strapping young, for some reason British, man. He is a “sandman” (no unfortunately you won’t be hearing Enter Sandman, even though it would have been perfect for this movie, because it didn’t come out for another 15 years). A sandman is basically like a cop, but like way lamer, because they’re always young (did I mention you only get to live till 30 in this movie, but more on that later) frat boy, asshats. They are what 1970 thought was suave and edgy, but kind of just look like extras rejected for the casting of Baywatch. They are tasked with murdering “runners”, which I guess is what most cops do in real life. After they kill one of these runners another floating Segway cop hovers over them and they turn into meat juice, which is one of the better special effects from the movie.
These sandmen also have crazy privileges. They can beam women into their rooms, maybe men too but that is hard to say, though Logan does ask one of the girls he brings to his room if she is a lesbian in a nonchalant way they may suggest it is whatever in their new society. They also seem to be the only people allowed to carry guns in this society (yeah I know, clearly the whispering liberals got their way in this society). These sanddudes clearly get to do essentially whatever they please, from the women, to drugs in smoke grenade form, even to traveling to restricted areas. All as long as they kill whomever the super computer, that seems to be the new god emperor in 2274) tells them to.
Logan’s troubles begin because he is a bad cop, why is he a bad cop you ask?, because he asks questions. A woman shows up through his groovy free love teleporter (wearing an ankh, that’s important for later), she doesn’t want to go to bed with him so he basically blows her off when his best bud, and dickhead cop extraordinaire, Francis 7 comes with 2 girls (wowie!). After, they get super zooted on bath bombs or something.
After this Logan goes to turn in the evidence that he found off of a suspect who also had an ankh, the computer god tells him that he must go undercover to destroy the route to “Sanctuary” that the item represents. To do this the computer drains his lifeforce crystal implanted in his hand. (Did I mention that you only get to live until you’re thirty in this movie? Yeah and once you’re 30 you can take a chance to be reborn in a ceremony they call “Carrousel”, where basically you pretend you’re in Eyes Wide Shut and then get turn into fireworks). He asks the computer if he will get his lifeforce back when he completes his mission. He gets no answer, but like any good cop, meaning dumb and obedient, he agrees. To fulfill his mission, he once again invites the woman he saw before, Jessica 6, played by Jenny Agutter. She eventually agrees to go with him and the two head off to bother some delinquent teens.
The pair travels to Cathedral Station where younger people ostracized from society are. One young man, Billy (Gary Morgan), has done a good deal of organizing his fellow youth in the area to help protect against violent thugs like our wannabe hero cop. Of course, the Logan storms in and starts shooting up the place, though perhaps showing that he might have the dull brain of a pig, but also potentially a soft heart that won’t allow him to murder everyone without any cause, he lets them go. He also lets a runner go right after, though this may be more mission than heart related, however in another win for the cops Logan’s old buddy Francis shows up again and guns the woman down in cold blood, unfortunately for our protagonist, he sees Logan’s cowardice display of not shooting a defenseless 30 year-old woman, and he’ll never forgive him for that (its complicated cops have a weird code where you have to hate and try to kill as many poor, powerless people as you can or something).
Our young couple has many adventures through the movie meeting murderous plastic surgeons, a snow robot (played by the only actor of color I know of in the movie with lines so of course they had to put him in a shiny suit), and even a crazy old homeless man with like 1000 cats who lives in various monuments and old government buildings, including the dilapidated Senate chambers (that truly would be sanctuary) in Washington D.C. When they finally reach their destination, Logan and Francis have a awkward and ultimately brutal fight, that results in Logan brutally murdering his old friend. After that, they persuade their new cat-obsessed friend to come back to the city with them to show the others what a harry old man looks like.
Cat dude (Peter Ustinov) waits outside, while his two new young companions go back to civilization. Of course they are captured immediately by some sandfellas and taken for interrogation by the computer. Logan breaks its mind with his newly clear crystal and when it scans him empty-ass brain the whole city collapses, probably killing many innocents. The rest of the citizens then run out probably to die of exposure soon after.
It’s a pretty wild movie with decent special effects for the time and some interesting camera work at times. It’s pretty corny, as 70s movies are want to be, and the acting is pretty much what you’d expect. Like any good Sci Fi movie it basically explains none of its internal lore and leaves that up to your imagination. Its a classic and I would love to say the book was better, but I won’t sit here and pretend I read fiction like a 12 year-old.
Rating: A city full of Christmas-colored see-through robes/turning old people into fireworks displays