Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)
You’ll note, so far, that I’ve avoided any spoilers in my reviews – and long may that continue. But who is reading this and doesn’t know the twist at the end of Soylent Green? Surely, surely there can only be a handful of people reading a movie blog who don’t know what happens. I knew. I knew because the term ‘Soylent Green’ has itself passed into popular culture as a ‘meme’ of sorts. It’s a replicating piece of knowledge that allows people ‘in’ to a joke or a reference. Chances are you’ve seen a parody or reference to Soylent Green several times in your life and you’ve asked someone or looked it up and, without actually having to see the film, you know. You know what Soylent Green is. So what effect does this have for a viewer of the film for the first time, abundantly aware of the properties of the titular substance? Well, it makes the film a bit dull to be honest. There was no tension to be had. Soylent Green may have been a shocking look at a potential world we might one day inhabit when it was released in 1973. Now though, the cultural reference has completely surpassed the film itself in terms of impact and relevance. But that’s quite a harsh review, Soylent Green has plenty to interest aside from the plot itself – it’s a wonderful window on the early 70s ideas of the future, especially the newly looming ecological awareness of the time. Charlton Heston as Det. Thorn is watchably brusque and caddish as he traverses the crowded New York City in search of answers. And finally for all the video game players, a sexy woman (amusingly called ‘furniture’ in future parlance as women come with the rented accommodation) plays ‘Computer Space’ in one scene – the first ever arcade game. Unfortunately though Soylent Green is hamstrung by its own kind of success.
Note: Soylent Green is listed in the Neon book 1000 Essential Movies on Video under Surprise Ending Movies.