The original Rollerball is set in the future, which is essentially just looks like the 70’s with more computers and glass. The movie set in a world where corporations rule. Business control politics. Of course this is all very wishy-washy as it’s never really explained. rollerball is a social event. It’s not a sport and it’s not a game. It was invented to give people something to watch as entertainment. Rollerball is also pretty violent and while it has “rules” they are subject to change. I believe the idea is that the rules change to please what audiences want, hence the increasing level of violence. The corporation also controls the players. The player’s lives are managed and you basically have no say (which is what the movies about).
So yes it’s a dystopian sci-fi film from the 70’s. The movie is good and not so good. The rollerball sequences are cool to watch, but the rest of the movie is sorta meh. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just isn’t that great. Yes it brings up some interesting issues and philosophical/moral/ethical dilemmas, but that doesn’t make a move good. My problem with that part of the movie is that it seemed pretty vague to me. James Caan’s character spends most of the film trying to find answers to things and he never explicitly does. There’s something to that, but it just seems like a waste. I don’t want to watch a character spend half an hour playing detective when it’s done half-assed. This movie tries to be a thriller and it doesn’t work that way. I never got that vibe from it. It was just a repeat of the corporation telling him what to do and never really putting a lot of pressure on him.
The stylistic choices there also sucked. It seems to be a 70’s thing having these long slow shots of people not really doing anything. It’s boring, especially when there is literally nothing happen. I understand a minute or so of this to make a point, but movies like this tend to just drag those scenes out. Jonathan (Caan) walks around his house while videos of his wife plays. That scene was too long. I understand the importance of showing him watching those videos and at least they had him move around, but it was too long. Maybe I am just too used to things moving faster nowadays, but there are times when movies slow down way too much for no reason and Rollerball was one of those movies to me. That time could’ve been better spent on clarifying the story more.
Back to the action sequences of rollerball itself. Those were actually pretty good. It got a little confusing as to what was going on sometimes they way the edited some fo the scenes, but for the most part it was really well done. I only wish that there could have been fewer close-ups. It would have been nice to actually see a bigger picture of them playing rather than medium or close-ups most of the time. Those shots made it a bit harder to follow what they were doing.
The music was another great pice to the movie. It’s classical music and it works well for these dark sci-fi movies. Not that I have anything against people like Michael Giacchino, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, or John Williams, but there are times when there is already music out there that works perfectly for some scenes. Especially classical music. There are some great pieces that would work better than what a composer tailors fo a movie and I feel like rollerball is a good example of that.
One of my favorite things about watching old sci-fi movies is how they portray the future. Especially films like this from the 70’s. The future looks like the 70’s. The clothes and designs are all the same modern style that they used to where, but they make sure to include a lot of skyscrapers or fancier office buildings as well as computers, though only in businesses usually. While the movie may not be visually/stylistically accurate, a lot of the deeper themes are actually interesting to reexamine now.
Oh, and it does get pretty sick. Not gory sick or anything, just the people’s actions and whatnot. It may be easy to miss at first because it is quite subtle, but if you pay attention to what actually goes on (and not just in the rollerball matches) it’s not a plesant movie to watch. That is the point though. Your supposed to see those scenes and be disturbed. And it only gets worse the further into the movie you get. The last match is just…not nice.
So Rollerball definitely has its flaws. People who don’t like slower paced films will probably be bored when they aren’t playing rollerball. If you try and stay attentive for the whole film though, it is really interesting and it is really good if you consider that it was released in 1975. Not great, but definitely a good sci-fi flick to check out.
As a final side note: I watched this on Netflix and the sound was annoying. The rollerball sequences are incredibly loud. I had to constantly adjust the volume so that I could hear people whispering or turn it down so I wasn’t deafened.
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