We’re at an extraordinary time in history where science fiction stories set in the not-too-distant future are suddenly coming to pass. One cult classic from the 1970s took place in the year 2022. Let’s take a look.
Horror Comes To Pass
Soylent Green was released on April 19, 1973. The film is explicitly set in the far-off year of 2022. The film is about an overpopulated New York City with over 40 million people struggling to survive. The poor live off the nutritious wafers called Soylent Green. The film tracks some detectives as they uncover the horrific truth behind the miracle food.
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The film was based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! from 1966. Comically, the book was set even earlier than the film (1999) and predicted only 35 million people in New York City. If you’re curious, the population of the Big Apple in 1970 was about 7.9 million people. Today, it’s about 8.8 million. This is pretty far off from the staggering totals in Soylent Green, but that’s not saying the film couldn’t predict anything.
An Interesting Cast
The cast of Soylent Green is truly something to behold for film buffs. Charlatan Heston is the sugar, and the margins are dotted with legends. Just to name a few, The Rifleman star Chuck Connors is in the film alongside Citizen Kane star Joseph Cotten. Edward G. Robinson appears as Heston’s friend Sol Roth. It would be Robinson’s final film role, as he died later that year.
In its time, Soylent Green was not a hit. It failed to make an impact at the box office alongside hits like Enter the Dragon and The Sting. It eventually found an audience on home video and became a cult classic. The line “Soylent Green is people” has remained a mainstay in popular culture.
How Accurate Was It?
A cautionary tale about overpopulation and ecological terror, Soylent Green was pretty ahead of its time. Movies like Don’t Look Up and World War Z should tip a cap to it, and some of its predictions are interesting to look back on. Populations have skyrocketed, but the jury’s still out on whether or not that’s a bad thing. We haven’t resorted to eating people… as far as we know.
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The film did explore prescient subjects like doctor-assisted suicide, the dangers of too much time on screens, and environmental disasters. Flick on the news and you’re liable to see some report on climate change or technological danger. Even 49 years later, everyone is still terrified about what rapidly depleting resources mean for the future.