After battling Pharaoh, Orson Welles and a bunch of damn, dirty apes, Charlton Heston steps into the familiar starring role as a bitter hero in “Soylent Green.” A futuristic crime thriller, “Soylent Green” is not all that colorful as Heston stumbles around, gritting his teeth, trying to figure out why the hell the world is disintegrating.
The year is 2022 and Earth is over-populated. The once plentiful farmland is one of the many victims of a dying environment. Good eats are expensive and hard to come by, while the civilians are restless and fed up with hungry stomachs. A single raw steak is better than gold. Here enters Soylent Green, a synthetic tile chip made from the oceanic kelpy goodness, but even it isn’t enough to sustain the troops as demand far exceeds supply. And so continues the hellish days of a not-too-distant future.
When a big-wig within the Soylent Corporation is murdered, Detective Thorn (Heston) is put on the case. In talking to several people his investigation shifts from the homicide to the corporation itself. Thorn has suspicions about what is really going on with the company and whether or not their solution to erradicate world hunger is all that it appears to be.
In many ways there’re two films going on here. One is good, the other, well, not. As Heston trys to solve the murder the film is bogged down by overly long scenes hindered by meandering speeches. This fault is further amplified by the fact that Heston’s doing the most of the talking. Don’t get me wrong, even without the loincloth and oiled skin he’s as macho as ever, but Heston is someone I’ve never enjoyed hearing even though I’ve enjoyed his films. Give this man some fiber because whenever he begins to speak his face scrunches up in an awkward constipated grimace.
On the other hand, there are several points in the film where hell-on-Earth is shown. These parts work. The dialoge is sparse and the images provide a more convincing explanation than Heston’s gnarled line. When protestors are scooped up and taken away in garbage trucks and when a man chooses to die a peaceful death rather than live on in the inhumanity that has consumed the world, “Soylent Green” comes together.
Based on the novel by Harry Harrison, “Soylent Green” isn’t your typical sci-fi fare. There aren’t any lasers or robots, flying cars or aliens invading the planet. The film’s world resembles our own. With that in mind, it is a thought-provoking movie that is still relevant with the many environmental concerns that are out there now. Couple that with corporate cover ups and anti-conglomerate protests and you’ve got something that isn’t really all that far out there, which is probably the scariest thing of all. Well, except maybe the macho Heston shtick.