Friday, September 12, 2008

Review - Soylent Green

Soylent Green
1973 Nebula Winner for Best Dramatic Presentation

Let me get this out of the way. Despite having the highest spoiled to watched ratio of any other movie out there I'm not going to say a word about the contents of soylent green. I do these write ups considering the perspective of someone who hasn't seen it so no Charlton Heston jokes even if they did blow it all to hell.

The Nebulas have a funny history when it comes to dramatic presentation awards. They experimented with them in the seventies where the first one given was for Soylent Green. After just three years the idea was award was abandoned but the arguments over it continued for decades. The pendulum swung back in the late nineties but now the awards are for "Best Script" but the bad feelings over it were so prevalent that a porno film made the final ballot.

Only twice have the Nebulas disagreed with the Hugo for dramatic presentation and both times it was the first year that the Nebula handed out an award. Soylent Green is one of these films, the other is The Sixth Sense.

I have to say that I'm not fond of the script/dramatic presentation Nebulas. It's not because there aren't enough script writers in the SFWA (there definitely are) or that it's not "real" science fiction writing (it definitely is). My issue is that the SFWA is a writer's association and the awards (despite their label) are not being handed out for writing. Few of the people selecting the award would have access to the script in order to judge it. The selections are being made on the final product where hundreds of people coming together under the director are responsible for the result. Not that I'm particularly passionate about the subject; the award just seems out of place.

Today's subject Soylent Green is loosely based on Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! which was one of those late sixties books that told us that a world with six billion people in it wouldn't leave anyone with food or even room to stand. A police detective in this overpopulated earth is called in to investigate the murder of an executive of the Soylent Corporation, the company that manufactures most of the food on Earth. They're gearing up for the launch of a new product soylent green. Over the course of the movie the detective finds a conspiracy around the product line of the Soylent Corporation.

This movie is very clearly a product of another time. Setting aside the very 1970's style future Charlton Heston's detective spends the bulk of the movie rather forcefully "seducing" the victim's live-in prostitute (she comes with the apartment). It's clumsy and creepy and I got the impression that it was not the intended effect. At the height of the feminist movement we have a movie where the only woman who is not literally objectified to the point of being furniture is a nun.

The film's story is told at a pace that might generously be called "leisurely". A less generous person (like myself) would say it's plodding. I suspect viewers are supposed be entertained by the depressing future rather than interested in the actual plot since it slowly wanders its way around before getting to the point. There are good sequences in the film (the food riots, the suicide facility) but they're few and far between.

The only reason really to watch this movie is the surprise twist and if you know it already then there's nothing left. The direction is bland and the style is very dated. The acting isn't really that interesting. Soylent Green just isn't worth watching.