The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review of: The Movie "Soylent Green"

Review of: Soylent Green. Directed by Richard Fleischer. Based on a novel by Harry Harrison. Screenplay by Stanley Greenberg. Starring: Charleton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Joseph Cotton, and Chuck Connors. MGM, 1973.

By Tim Krenz

January 27, 2010

What would happen if food gets scarce and the people got too fruitful and multiplied too much? What would political and economic leaders do when a globalized civilization reaches its “limits to growth?” “What is Soylent Green?” Around the theme of what it is and why is it important, the story unfolds.

The classic sci-fi MGM production of Soylent Green, starring Charleton Heston as police detective Robert Thorn, shows a 1973 film version of such a world. It is in film what for three hundred years in real history, political and economic leaders have feared would happen: Too many people and not enough resources. In the movie, the world suffers from the greenhouse effect, an early definition of the theory of global warming. Farsighted, perhaps, or just a really good science fiction story. Besides a climate that makes food production difficult, drinkable water is just as scarce. The commodity of once abundant repast and hot showers, even electricity, all become subject to high prices which only the rich can afford.

The corporations and the government in combination (fascism, by definition) strictly control not only the entire economy, but especially the food chains to get the maximum efficiency. Robert Thorn and his police book assistant and friend, Sol Roth, produce electricity during brownouts by pedaling a stationary bike to charge the batteries that run their apartment lights. In real history, hungry people make revolutions. And as Vladimir I. Lenin said, electrification is socialism; and as the late Pi Kielty once exclaimed, keeping people in the dark, they will to bend to that power giver to see what is rationed to them, and they will be grateful. And the simple economics of this society of “Soylent,” it is all about survival in this world—dog eat dog, one could say.

In the New York setting of the movie, twenty million people unemployed on Manhattan Island alone line up in quays at the market bazaars for ersatz wafers of food manufactured from various synthetic materials, produced by Soylent Corp., and coming in pleasant colors of yellow, orange and green. And all of those unemployed, says Thorn, would like to have his job. In consequence, Thorn does his job thoroughly to retain it. The job also allows him as a cop to confiscate food, whiskey, and other things for evidence on his dinner table.

But Soylent Green, with a little ripe margarine, “taste pretty good,” according to Sol Roth, played by the venerable Edward G. Robinson. People like it, and like it so much that Soylent Green's market demand and limited amounts require it to be sold only one day. “Tuesday is Soylent Green Day.” With a half-pint of strawberries costing $150 each bottle, and beef untasted except by the likes of the lawyer and Soylent Corp. board member, Mr. Simonson, Soylent Green is an organic solution to world hunger. It's made of plankton farmed from the oceans, the last exploitable frontier on an earth otherwise clouded in the hellish pink of sunny haze days and swirling dust (which were nicely done camera filters and lighting effects in the movie).

When Simonson is murdered in his penthouse apartment in the beginning of the movie in a well-guarded building, Thorn and Sol Roth believe it involved more than random burglary. Thorn sets out to find the truth behind the murder, and Roth investigates the world Oceanic survey for the year 2020, which Thorn brings from the penthouse along with other goodies like writing paper, beef, a carrot, and two apples. The entire take of food costs over $100. Simonson was—WAS—a very rich and powerful man. Powerful forces in foul play, Thorn and Roth conclude, but why? Things get tricky when political pressure comes down on Thorn to close the case unsolved. He refuses for the very good reason: If someone said he did not do his job, well, twenty million unemployed in Manhattan would like to apply for it. Without spoiling the movie, most every sci-fi fan and everyone else knows why, and it involves the dangers of dying oceans, the oceans where plankton grows; the plankton from which Soylent Green is made.

As a sci-fi movie, Soylent Green has quaint aspects of early 1970s theories of an impoverished world, that does not advance much by 2020 in fashion or technology, due to a warming of the globe. As another of the great repertoire of Charleton Heston science fiction roles, it is almost as good as a sci-fi crime detective drama as the Maltese Falcon was for film noire detective stories. Made near 40-years ago, one wonders what larger and more relevant meaning Soylent Green has for today's world as a political-economic commentary and for societal-culture insights into the way things could very well go wrong with calculating how humanity can overcome sheer stupidity in the forms that we so very much indulge ourselves.