Soylent Green-attachment0

Soylent Green

Movie Information

In Brief: Soylent Green is one of those movies that has drifted into the lexicon of popular culture based entirely on one line — the last in the film — that can't be repeated in any fair critique because that famous line gives away the whole point of the movie. On its own merits — devoid of that line — it really isn't a particularly good movie. In most respects, it's a cheesily predictable slab of 1970s dystopian sci-fi with the usual (and now quaint) trappings of its time and its time's vision of what'll be "cool" in the future.
Score:

Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Director: Richard Fleischer (Compulsion)
Starring: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten
Rated: PG

OK, so most of us are painfully aware of what the Soylent Green in Soylent Green (1973) is. Moreover, anyone watching the movie is apt to figure it out long, long before the famous line has been spoken. But out of deference to anyone who doesn’t know what it is, I’ll refrain from revealing it. The line is a staple pop culture punchline (it most recently was used as a joke in last year’s Cloud Atlas). The film is interesting without being particularly good. While it’s pretty much your dystopian sci-fi basic, it may be the first picture to depict mankind’s woes as the result of global warming — and it’s almost certainly the first to use the term “greenhouse gases.” It is not, of course, the first ecologically-minded sci-fi movie, and if you aren’t listening closely, you can miss the global warming bit.

Most of the film is a kind of futuristic (not very far removed now) police story played out against an overcrowded, underfed city with Charlton Heston (giving his usual block-of-wood performance in all but one scene) as a tough cop trying to solve the murder of one of this society’s privileged few (Joseph Cotten). That’s what will lead to the central conspiracy and big revelation. A lot of it is pretty tough going with its now rather silly looking notions of futuristic clothing and design. It doesn’t help that the extras all feel strangely inauthentic. It’s hard not to think of them as dressed up extras. What sets the film slightly apart is the relationship between Heston and the old man (Edward G. Robinson in his last role) who does research for him. Their scenes together stand out in an otherwise so-so movie — and this happens despite some pretty clichéd writing. The real highlight of the film is Robinson’s trip to a government sanctioned suicide parlor when he’s had enough of this world. Everything about this — even Heston’s acting — is a good bit above the rest of the film. And, of course, there’s additional resonance in the fact that Robinson’s death scene is in a film that wouldn’t be released during his lifetime.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Soylent Green Sunday, April 21 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

2 thoughts on “Soylent Green

  1. DrSerizawa

    SOYLENT GREEN is one of those movies that everyone said was soooo great and then when I finally watched it I went, “Eh, overrated.” I didn’t care for its self-importance too much either.

    The idea of using people for food is pretty stupid anyhow. You can grow cattle quicker with less calories, which is why we raise them and not people. You’d do better raising soybeans than burning the energy requirements to convert humans. Which is why they grow them in Asia. Not too mention the disease issues of cannibalism. Unless you were an alien race that is simply coming by to gather up cheap protein (like in “V”) it’s a loser. (Scary to think of Marc Singer running around in a movie with a smarter basis than SOYLENT GREEN.)

    The problem with science is that it ruins so many “science” fiction movies.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Like I said, it’s pretty much risen to “classic” status because of that one line — not because it’s smart or very good.

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