1975: Rollerball

Rollerball_1975I’m a day late, aaaannnddd, I’m not even writing about what I had intended. I was going to do Giant-Size X-Men #1 which introduced Storm, Nightcrawler, and  Collosus, but honestly, I’m a little comiced out, and I feel people are familiar with the story. Also I was able to find something else instead. What I found was a semi dystopian tale of a world-famous, and world threatening sports star.

Rollerball. A cross between basketball and roller derby. A game with few rules. A game with few survivors. Jonathan E. is the Wayne Gretzky/Tiger Woods/Michael Jordon of this game. The man who has ascended above the game and become a legend of himself.

Unfortunately, becoming such a symbol puts a target on Jonathan E.’s back. The corporations that have taken charge of the world in the near future of 2018 (like companies aren’t already running the world) feel that Jonathan represents something that the game was supposed to extinguish in people. The thought that if you try hard and are good at something, you have a chance to rise above what is expected of you.

So they ask him to retire. And he simply refuses. He has already given up his wife to a corporate executive and he wasn’t going to give up this. Not for money, not for woman, and not under threat. Despite changes to the rules of the game and the death of many of his teammates and one of his closest friends, Jonathan keeps on fighting until the last scene of the movie, which is him skating around a ring of dead players of which he is the last to survive.

rollerball-movie-poster-1975-1020228603I actually did enjoy this film, despite it being about sports. The story wasn’t actually that dependent on being set in the future. It could have taken place today and, with a few tweaks, still have been very relevant. That being said, a remake was made in 2002 that is apparently set in present day, but was not well received. I am under the impression that more focus was put on the action of it though. 

What I did like is hard to put into words. I watched it in segments throughout a day, before, after and during my break at work. Despite being a fairly flat character  (he doesn’t portray a great deal of emotion off the track) Jonathan E. is a character that very much represents someone who I wish to be. Or at least some aspects of who I wish to be. He is not threatened by authority, but instead uses it to his advantage. He is willing to fight for what he wants, and what he knows he entitled to. He exudes confidence. And while he does this, he doesn’t put people down, he doesn’t have to be physically intimidating. As shown in a scene of their practice he is able to eliminate a threatening person by using their own momentum and attack against them, with little effort. The cool, calm, and simple protagonist. James Caan performance as him was superb.

1_aw_rollerball_0The film itself, although at some times seems as though it is trying to hard, is a good commentary on how much we can let our companies control society and the world we live in. There were some scenes that either seemed to be reaching for a depth and completely missed, or were so clever that I just completely missed it. Either way, there weren’t many of them. My biggest gripe would have to be the use of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor during the opening and closing scenes. Maybe because I liked the uses of classical work so much in 2001: A Space Odyssey  that I felt that it being used here was just a rip of the success there to make the film seem more epic. But it is a different film entirely. 

All in all, for a movie I randomly came across, and watched in sections, I think that James Caan delivered a great performance, William Harrison, whose short story from Esquire Rollerball Murder, that the movie was based on, wrote a great story, and that Norman Jewison directed it quite well. I am unfamiliar with other works for Harrison and Jewison to compare to, but i really enjoyed this the fist time through.

Sidenote: I knew that James Caan was Buddy’s father in Elf, but I didn’t realize he was also Sonny Corleone from The Godfather. He is a very hairy man, but my standard of hairy is always one of the dinner scenes from The Godfather where Sonny is sitting with his family, wearing a wife beater and he’s got hair falling out everywhere, his arms, his back his shoulder. I was looking at his 70’s exposed chest hair and thought to myself “that guy is hairy, but still not as hairy as OH MY GODFATHER THEY’RE THE SAME GUY!!!!!”

I’m looking forward to get through 1976. I’m sure there will be some good stuff, but 1977-79 are all great years for sci fi film and I can’t wait. Thanks for reading. 

Pictures from http://images.moviepostershop.com/rollerball-movie-poster-1975-1020228603.jpg, http://img.soundtrackcollector.com/movie/large/Rollerball_1975.jpg, http://www.creativereview.co.uk/images/2013/11/1_aw_rollerball_0.jpg

Video from YouTube

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