Soylent Green (1973)
Reviewed on 2011 August 11
This is a cult movie from the ’70s, and I’d seen the ending before, but last night was the first time I watched it all the way through. I also remember the catch phrase being a favorite screamed by the ’bots on MST3K.
After a montage taking us from the “good ol’ days” to slices of greenie torture porn, we’re in 2022 New York, population of 40,000,000. It’s basically a hell on earth, with a few ludicrously wealthy plutocrats and the rest of the people either sleeping on stairs or just dying in the streets. With that many people, each life matters little, and humans are known as their job. Sol (Edward G. Robinson) is a “book”, a human encyclopedia and case researcher for Thorn (Charlton Heston), a cop. In many ways Sol is fortunate compared to the other citizens of NY. It pains him to remember how life used to be, but Thorn is genuinely fond of him, sharing the stuff he sacks from his “investigations” with the old man. Most women and children are given no quarter and sleep in the same stairways, alleys and empty churches as the men; the attractive women get to be “furniture” and rented to hyperwealthy tenants of fine apartments.
With the number of people in the world, food is an extreme problem. Much of what people eat is made from something called soylent, described as a blend of soy and lentils. When one of the head honchos of the people responsible for soylent is murdered, Thorn investigates, learning more and more about how badly things have really deteriorated as he progresses.
Cheery little film, isn’t it? I have to admit that the creators of this did a great job of turning New York into New Sheol. I felt claustrophobic just watching this thing, and it was unusual to see Heston as such a shady hero. In a way, it is somewhat prescient. Next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the ingredients on the stuff and notice how soy or soy derivatives are in almost everything. And despite my snarking earlier, I do think the population is exploding. It didn’t pull me in like a lot of films do, for whatever reason; I nodded off at one point and had to backtrack to see a key piece of Sol’s dialogue. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie at all, just kind of dated and not my thing.
Two chocolate morsels. Strong message, shaky delivery.