Monday, January 23, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #54: "Soylent Green" (1973)

Movie Stats:
Released 1973 (USA)
American, in English (very minimal translated Spanish)
Director - Richard Fleischer
Stars - Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson

Plot Summary:
In a near, dystopian future, police detective Thorn (Heston) uncovers a disturbing conspiracy while investigating the murder of a wealthy man. Robinson co-stars as Thorn’s partner, Sol Roth.

Violence; gore; very minor blue language; implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
The fight scenes are cheesy.

Since this movie is over 40 years old, I already knew its big secret, even though I’d never seen a single second of it before (didn’t even know who starred in it). Already knowing the big secret made the great lengths the movie goes through to keep it seem silly. I felt like, “Geez, just spit it out already.” (It doesn’t until the final scene.)

The “love interest” (Shirl, portrayed by Leigh Taylor-Young) felt shoehorned in and unnecessary.

Good Stuff:
I always enjoy a dystopian future that feels realistic. The problems the human race faces in this (overpopulation, pollution, climate change, famine) made sense. The way individual people and society react to those issues also made sense.

It’s moving. A lot of times, when dystopian futures are depicted, empathy, compassion, and wonder are missing. That’s not the case here. My favorite scene was when Sol and Thorn were viewing a video of Earth as it was (i.e. teeming with natural beauty) and Sol, an old man who knew that world, said, “See, didn’t I tell you?” and Thorn, a younger man, replied, “I didn’t know. How could I have imagined?” The idea that whole generations of human beings could grow up without knowing natural beauty affected me.

There are a lot of “big hitters” in this (in addition to Heston and Robinson: Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, Joseph Cotten, and more). They all do a pretty good job.

The Verdict:
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. I expected it to be slow, boring, and cheesy (like a lot of 1970s sci fi). While the fight scenes were indeed cheesy, the rest of it wasn’t, and I didn’t find it slow or boring at all. Knowing “the secret” took the suspense out of it, but that’s certainly not the movie’s fault. I feel like I complain a lot that the movies on this list have great ideas that are executed poorly. This one has a great idea that’s executed well. It was refreshing after a couple of films that didn’t exactly delight me.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

I'm in the same boat as you were. I know the secret, and have not seen the movie! Your review tells me I might like it though. Thanks.

balyien said...

I was really surprised by how much I liked it. "That scene," the one with the big reveal, has been spoofed so frequently in pop culture since then, and in such cheesy ways, that I was misled into thinking the movie was bad.