LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Rollerball (1975)
Back in the heyday of the Roman Empire, emperors kept the common people of Rome content by what has become known as "bread and circuses." The bread was free grain the Empire gave to each citizen; the circuses were nearly half a year of holidays when gladiatorial games to the death would be played. The idea was to create political stability by keeping the people fed and entertained.
In Rollerball film maker Norman Jewison has depicted an empire of corporations. People's wants and needs are taken care of. The corporations only ask in return that people not question their decisions. The bread of this empire is prosperity and peace. The circuses are the Rollerball games. Rollerball is a cross between hockey and roller derby; just for more danger toss in some motorcycles. The league star is Jonathan E. He's simply referred to as The Champion.
The problem is the corporations don't like that Jonathan E. is a star in a society where the individual isn't supposed to matter. Jonathan is the defining personality in a game that is supposed to show that the individual is nothing. Clearly, he must go.
Rollerball speaks of the danger of corporations running our lives. All the books are collected and "summarized" (or sterilized if you want). Corporations are the enemy of freedom. Jonathan E. doesn't like the order he has received to retire. Everywhere he looks for an answer to the question of "why," he hits a wall of silence. His defiance creates a confrontation on the Rollerball floor. Jonathan E. versus corporate power: David and Goliath. Guess who wins.
Rollerball's point is well taken. Corporations do flex their monetary and political muscles; and, if you let it, a corporation will try to run your life as an employee. But I am reviewing this film 25 years after its release. In the year 2000, big corporations are having their lunches eaten by former employees who quit and started their own corporations. Rollerball assumes that no new corporations can be formed, and that's where its argument falls down. Perhaps things looked different in 1975.
Another point Jewison misses is the idea that a corporation would not like to have a star on its team. In an era when Michael Jordan has almost singlehandedly been synonymous with the NBA, this point just feels way off the mark. Corporations usually are clambering all over each other to compete for star power.
All in all Rollerball is a good example of classic style science fiction. There's more idea and message than action, and that's why even after 25 years and a slightly dated view of the world, it's worth your time to seek out.
Directed by Norman Jewison
Released in 1975
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewed by Mongo