In 1973, ‘Soylent Green’ envisioned the world in 2022. It got a lot right.
By George Bass / The Washington Post
The year is 2022. Our overpopulated planet is experiencing catastrophic climate change, megacorporations have excessive power over the government, and clean living is a luxury only the 1 percent can afford.
It may read like a scan of the front-page headlines, but these predictions were laid out half a century ago in the dystopian film “Soylent Green.”
Hundreds of films have attempted to visualize the future; most didn’t do a great job. “Freejack” (1992) imagined widespread time-traveling assassins by 2009, while box office bomb “The Postman” (1997) predicted 2013 would be post-apocalyptic.
But about 50 years ago, Hollywood’s prognosticators seemed to hit on the truth.
In 1972, the “Planet of the Apes” franchise released its fourth film, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.” It’s set in the year 1991 and imagines Earth in the grip of a lethal pandemic. Draw your own AIDS/SARS/Zika/covid comparisons.
But “Soylent Green,” released in 1973 and based on a novel by Harry Harrison, was even more eerily prescient. It’s set in the then-far-off future of 2022. It stars Charlton Heston – known for playing Moses in “The Ten Commandments” (1956) and for being the five-time president of the National Rifle Association – as Thorn, a New York police detective. And the planet he inhabits looks a lot like ours.