Movie of the Day – Rollerball (1975)

Going old school today with a James Cann classic from 1975, Rollerball.  Hopefully you weren’t expecting the terrible 2002 remake of the same name, if so then get the hell off my blog.  The remake was atrocious and someone really thought that Chris Klein was a leading actor.  I am talking about the dystopian future where corporations are the single largest entity in the world and just for shits and giggles, they flex their power through a global game of Rollerball.

The film is set in the year 2018, corporations have become so large that they turned the Earth into a Global Corporate State.  To essentially flex their power, the corporations engage in a global sport of Rollerball, in which each corporation has a team that represents them in the games.  We follow the story of Jonathan E (James Cann) who is the captain of the rollerball team for the Energy Corporations team in Houston.  Jonathan has become one of the greatest players of the game and is recognized worldwide.  His fame doesn’t please the corporations as Jonathan has become bigger than the corporate entity.  The Energy Corporation want Jonathan to retire at the end of the season and pave way for newer, less recognizable players.  They offer him a lavish retirement packages with eerie similarities to Roman style gifts of women and incentives.  Jonathan isn’t ready to retire and goes against the wishes of the corporation which set into motion a plan to rid them of Jonathan either by his own accord or through the game itself.

The film is interesting in that you can see parallels to our current time in that corporations are starting to gain more power than the people.  It is the hegemonic structure of the vast corporations that influence people and become the only thing they recognize.  It’s interesting when you see Jonathan trying to come to terms with the reason for this.  He see’s it as a way for the corporations to quell any sort of hero figure that the people can rally around, thus eliminating the power one has from the backing of the people.  The corporations move to eradicate individualism from society.  You see this in their team structure as there are no one star to rally behind except Jonathan, who is charismatic and amazing at the game.  The team is an extension of the businesses, so you can see why they would be upset when it isn’t about them.

While the movie has this retro look at a dystopian society, the game itself is where you see the trappings of a futuristic society.  Rollerball substitutes for war and all other individual sports where a superstar can arise, but also is an example of the futility of individualism.  It is a team sport and requires everyone to work with one another in order to achieve a goal.  If a player doesn’t cooperate with the team and goes off on their own, they are quickly swept up and beaten down by the opposing team.  It’s this weird form of conditioning for the populace as you watch some free-spirited team member try to win it all and just get knocked down in the process.  But the final game in which the corporations try and get rid of Jonathan shows that one man can climb to the top.

Rollerball is slow at times, but the story and subtext are incredible when you watch how society behaves when corporations are in control.  You get this eerie feeling that this hits a little close to home for us, but the endeavor of the individual spirit comes through in Cann’s performance.  The final rollerball game is incredible to watch as it is a no holds barred deathmatch where chaos and destruction is a metaphor for the crumbling of the corporations hold on the individual.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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