Soylent Green (1973)
Cert: 15 / 96 mins / Dir. Richard Fleischer / Trailer
Oh dear, it really makes you appreciate what we've got. The future was crap in the past, wasn't it? Soylent Green is the very epitome of 1970s conspiracy/paranoia flicks, but it's also the very epitome of 1970s movies that represented futuristic opulence with pastel colours and sliding panels for doors. A briskly efficient opening montage depicts the rise and fall of civilisation before dropping us in New York City in 2022, where crime, poverty and general discontent result in it looking like the Bronx in 1973. Food is in short supply, and the government's solution is a radical new type of sustenance derived from plankton! Soylent Green is the… oh, you knew already.
This is the main crux of the problem, of course. The film's big 'reveal' has passed into common culture since the original book/film, but notwithstanding that, it's still so heavily telegraphed that I can't believe the early 70s audience didn't pick it up half way into the movie. Other than that, the screenplay is often quite slick, implying rather than flat out stating many of the societal quirks of 2022's underclass. It's just a screenplay which is let down by the film's production values, the acting and some of the most toe-curling fight choreography you've ever seen (I'm guessing the real strain on the budget wasn't the film's make-and-mend sets but the film-stock itself, as more than a few of the scenes look like they'd have been reshot if the money had been there).
Even making allowances for it being a bit crap, Soylent Green is still a bit crap. Although it becomes an interesting thematic progenitor to Blade Runner (a film released only nine years later), the bottom line is that this procedural detective thriller underlines Charlton Heston as a really one-dimensional actor. And it's not the dimension which is needed for this movie. In many ways, I think a 21st century remake could solve a lot of the issues this film had with its production. Then again, Romero's Land Of The Dead wasn't a million miles away from this, and that already felt dated when it was released…
Credit where it's due though, John Solie's poster is far better than Richard Fleischer's film.
I do hope this dystopian scenario doesn't come true in seven years, as I'll have to get the CRT television out of the loft, and I'm not sure I can carry off a neckerchief…
Well, once you know what the punchline is, it seems like a long joke to sit through, y'know?
I'm glad I've finally seen it, yes.
Only for fans of schlocky nostalgia, to be honest.
There isn't, and there are a couple of perfect moments for one.
Soylent Green stars Charlton Heston of course, who showed his face in 1993's Wayne's World 2, a film which featured Ralph 'Ric Olié' Brown.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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