Spoiler Level: Medium
"Soylent Green is..." Is there anyone out there who doesn't know the rest of that famous line? Heck, if you Google Soylent Green, it comes up as a suggestion prompt. How's that for a spoiler you can't avoid? For me, the first time I heard it (that it really stuck with me) was from a Saturday Night Live sketch where John Goodman played a movie producer on a talk show discussing all the sequels he made to Soylent Green.
So I have to admit, for a long time I figured there was no point in watching the movie if I already knew the ending. But then I started to want to see it; after hearing only the punchline for years, I wanted to at least hear the set up once. So last weekend I finally sat down and watched it.
That was a surprise.
To everyone out there who thinks, like me, that just because they know what Soylent Green is then they know what this movie is about... It doesn't matter if you already know. Not one bit. This movie is still just as shocking and horrifying even when you do know. Because the point of it isn't what Soylent Green is; it's about the kind of world that think that Soylent Green was a reasonable solution to their problems.
It's a story about overpopulation. The weight of humanity has broken the back of the Earth. New York City alone holds 4 million people, 2 million of which are unemployed. People fill the stairwells because they have no where else to sleep. All the resources are used up, and nothing works anymore. Attractive women are practically property of the rich, and so dehumanized they're actually referred to as "furniture." Charlton Heston plays Ty Thorn, a police officer who's considered a good cop. He steals from crime scenes, searches without a warrant and beats suspects he knows aren't allowed to lift a finger against him... and he's considered a good cop. And the scary part is, for this world he actually is, because things have gotten so bad the people don't know of a better way to do things anymore. It's a frightening view of humanity in decline, and what makes it frightening is it's not so far ahead as to seem unidentifiable. Their world is just close enough to ours that it's entirely possible to see how it could happen. And, heaven help us, why the Soylent company would think Soylent Green was a solution to their problems.
So if you're like me and had been putting off this movie because you thought knowing the ending would lessen its impact... stop waiting. Go watch it.