Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soylent Green (1973)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.
91/100 on the Sci-Fi List.

Knowing the ending to this movie from popular knowledge and specifically a scene in Drop Dead Gorgeous, I wasn't sure if Soylent Green would be as interesting a film than if I'd gone in cold. Turns out, it's sort of a mixed bag. Charlton Heston stars as Thorn, a hardworking police detective living in a dystopic future city riddled with overpopulation and all the problems it brings- cramped living space, food shortages, drained resources, and an over-controlling governmental system. The Soylent company enters as a savior when they develop cheap and nutritious foodstuffs, but when a member of their board is found murdered Thorn finds himself embroiled in a mystery surrounding their supposedly plankton-based Soylent Green food tablets.

There's a lot of positive things I can say about this movie. It's exciting, for one, with a strong mystery at its core and a couple of cool action sequences. I liked the crumbling vision of the future, especially the quick-cut time-lapse opening that shows the world going to shit. The best cast member is easily Edward G Robinson, who plays Thorn's researcher and best buddy Sol. An older man, he is funny and sympathetic as he remembers what life was like before- green fields, fresh fruit, the works. The actor was secretly dying of cancer as he filmed his role, and there is a truly tender scene between him and Heston (who knew) towards the end, definitely the strongest moment in the film.

Heston to me comes off as a larger-than-life figure, yelling most of his lines and taking control of every situation he can. And I think I don't really like him in general. He just seems like an asshole and I don't care what happens to his characters. Everyone else kind of sucks too, with a weepy lady (Leigh Taylor-Young) who somehow falls for Thorn's dickhead schtick, thus leading to a pointless and sexist romantic subplot, one of my least favorite things. Joseph Cotton is there for a few minutes though, so that's cool.

Soylent Green is a fairly solid sci-fi mystery. Though I have personal drawbacks regarding some of the characters, I think really its biggest failing is that the final reveal... doesn't actually seem that bad. I knew "Soylent Green Is People" so I was ready for it, but I thought the company would be slaughtering innocents to get its meat supply or something. Turns out it's old people who are ready to die, and commit themselves to be euthanized with a beautiful send-off of classical music and pretty imagery? Honestly, I don't think it's that big of a deal. Maybe if I hadn't known the ending it would be more of a shock. As my friend Muffin put it, "The moral seems to be that comfortable, state-sponsored mercy killing and recycling are evil. That movie takes place in Utopia."


Pair This Movie With: I do enjoy Jeunet's dystopia with human food, Delicatessen.


  1. Looking at Heston's OMEGA MAN, PLANET OF APES & SOYLENT, it's interesting to see him drift in and out of period pieces - he'd done so many historic films, and now he was turning the clock forward?

    It's interesting to see that my favorite films of his were anything BUT his contemporarily timed films - those disaster films were disasters for me to endure watching.

    SOYLENT is a film I can rewatch occasionally, although, yes, I do have a finger on the FF button.

  2. Great pairing for this one Alex.

    I've linked to your review from todays Dystopian Movies post