Norman Jewison’s “Rollerball” is one of those silly science fiction films which attempt to push their themes under the weight of far-fetched and illogical sociological reconstructions that presume the entire human race to be homogeneously content to follow a singular path to behavioral mollification, often mistakenly identified as dystopian, but since the modification appears to be entirely beholden to the willingness of the entire populace to subsume its free will for the sake of a trivial distraction, it’s more an overused example of conveniently complacent mass population lethargy. Have these writers ever encountered a diverse group of people? (Diverse in thought, not in useless brownie points attributable to condescending ethnic categorization.) The loss of individual enterprise and motivation may play as a fertile backdrop for mindlessly nihilistic visions of fascistic futuristic constructs, but when dealing with a corporate model of the future as visualized in this 1975 film, the sociological theorem doesn’t fail because it’s tired (though it is that), but because the wafer thin design of that society is unconscionably stupid. “Rollerball” is the simply a more athletic example of the same inert consideration of futuristic futility in which one resistant individual seeks forbidden knowledge to explain the repressive elements of the crushing social order; a quest which inevitable meets with frustrating encounters with knowledgeable individuals who speak in circular riddles until it is clear that either the writer has no original ideas on the subject, or that everyone else in the world seems to be in on the secret except for the clueless cluck with whom the film demands the audience’s sympathies lie: neither prospect being particularly satisfying nor likely to bear stimulating fruit.
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