Silent Running is probably one of few sci-fi films to promote environmentalism, despite not having a single scene take place on earth. In a fleet of spaceships belong to American Airlines, Freeman and his colleagues are supposed to be taking care of a bunch of trees and foliage, the last of it's kind since earth has apparently become devoid of plant life. Freeman as a deep connection with the trees. He plants, spends time in the forest, and eats the fresh fruit while everyone else eats pre made slop. He says that he still does this to avoid become like everyone else, the main problem back on earth. He says that everyone has lost their uniqueness, and he is doing what he can to preserve his. At one point, they are ordered to abandon the forests and return home. Freeman is outraged, and after killing one crew member, convinces everyone he cut the forests loose, even though he they are still attached and under his supervision. Now, with everyone gone, he is floating alone in space, with only the forest and two robots to keep him company. He gives the robots names, Huey and Duey, in an effort to silence his loneliness and boredom. He plays cards with the robots, teaches them to plant, and talks with them often. Eventually, he is discovered by the other humans after floating around space for what seems like a long time. Knowing he would return to earth, become assimilated among the cookie cutter people and see the destruction of the last trees ever, he orders the robot to care for the forests and then kills himself.
The movie doesn't offer any solution for earthly problems, or wow anybody with special effects. Instead, the movie is both a possible outcome for the future of earth, and a look into the mind of someone obsessed with the environment. It's clear that this movie was made by people who are at least minor treehuggers. The fact that freeman would both kill and die to save the trees doesn't present any alternate opinions. It's hard to believe that this film was intended to spark a debate about environmentalism or convince people to be more 'green.' For one, all the really obvious product placements take away from any sincere message, and also by having Freeman kill the other crewmember trying to get rid of the forests, the movie makes environmentalists look bad if anything. Also worth mentioning is the rapidly deteriorating mental state of Freeman as the movie goes on. He seems a little crazy in the beginning, probably a product of a long travel. However, as the movie progresses, so does his craziness. Giving the robots names so they'll take the place of humans would suggest that he's losing his mind, especially when be plays games and has conversations with them. Similarly to Dark Star, Silent Running's subplot is the internal time bomb of the main characters psyche. This movie did have some funny bits, but the monologue delivery of Freeman and his unbelievable motivations make this a bit of a chore to watch.