tek's rating: meh

Rollerball (R)
Badmovies.org; IMDb; MGM; Rotten Tomatoes; TCM; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; iTunes; Vudu

This came out in 1975 (the year I was born, as it happens). There was a remake in 2002, which I didn't want to see until I'd seen the original, but now I don't think I'll ever bother with that. I finally watched the original in 2012, and I gotta say, I wasn't impressed. In fact, I feel like it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

It's set sometime in the future. The world is controlled by corporations, each of which seems to have a very specific function, and each of which seems to control a specific city (there are no more countries). The story focuses on the corporation that's in charge of Houston. Also, there's this bizarre, violent sport called Rollerball. Basically, there's this steel ball that gets fired pinball-style onto a circular track. There are two competing teams which consist of several guys on rollerskates and other guys on these sort of motorcycles. And they try to get the ball into a goal. But mostly the game seems to be about beating up the opposing team. Apparently, fatalities are commonplace, and perfectly legal.

Anyway, there's this one player on the Houston team, Jonathan E. (James Caan), who's the best player in the world. He's lasted like ten years, which is longer than anyone else, ever. And now the corporation wants him to retire. Johnny doesn't understand why they want this, and they don't understand why he refuses. (And I don't understand why they don't just fire him.) So, he tries to figure things out, and they start changing the rules of the game, making it more dangerous than ever before. (It gets to the point where I really don't understand why he doesn't want to quit; the only possible explanation I can see is that he doesn't give a crap about his own life or the lives of anyone he considers a friend.) I should say, I had a theory early on, which I didn't expect to be correct. And I guess I was right, it wasn't correct (but I think it would've been way more interesting than whatever the film was about). Um... maybe the reason for everything was explained, but I really don't feel like it ever was. Not clearly, anyway. If someone explained it to me, I'd say that based on what I saw in the movie, their explanation was probably what the movie was going for... but not definitely. And that is unacceptable to me. I don't doubt for a moment that the movie is anti-violence, but I'm sure it's about more than that. Yes, okay, I get what it's about, and I'm not going to tell you what it is. But what I will say is that the movie doesn't make it nearly clear enough. There's a part of me that accepts that the implication is clear enough, but then there's a part of me that insists implications, by definition, are not enough. I don't think "message" movies should beat you over the head with their message, but I do think they shouldn't expect you to infer it. So I was waiting, throughout the movie, for the corporation's motivation to be explained in no uncertain terms. And it just wasn't. It was strongly hinted at, but unless I missed something, there was nothing in the movie that could be called an "explanation." That just really pissed me off.

Another thing that pissed me off is that the protagonist seemed to me to have less of a personality than anyone else in the movie (and that's saying something, because pretty much every guy was a cipher, and every woman was just an accessory, like jewelry). And ultimately, I couldn't see him as any sort of hero. I think... he was supposed to represent a threat to the status quo, supposed to "defeat the purpose of the game" by winning. But in my estimation, he did just the opposite. I feel like he fulfilled the purpose perfectly, and that's a bad thing. Ironically, I felt like the only way to actually defeat the evil purposes of the corporations would have been to do exactly what they wanted him to do: quit. To continue playing proves he loved the game, in spite of how abhorrent it was. And as far as I'm concerned, no one who loves a game like Rollerball has any right to call themselves human. (Hell, it's clear to me that the corporate executives themselves recognized that fact.)

So... I don't know what else to say. I just felt like the ending wasn't an ending, and nothing in the movie made any sense at all, no one was remotely likable, there's no one to root for, and the human race is doomed. The end.

dystopian index
sports index