February 8, 2002
"Rollerball is an exciting new state-of-the-art extreme sports game. It involves the incorporation of high-end speed skaters with motorized vehicles. There are very few rules other than to score with a small, but heavy, solid silver ball. Two teams play opposite each other in a battle of skill, will and brute strength. This game will put all others to shame by reintroducing a gladiator mentality to the modern sporting event."
--from the official Web site
In this remake of the 1975 film of the same name, a none-too-distant future (only 2005) is envisioned. Hopefully, Rollerball will actually debut by then. Plagued by horrific early screening reviews, the film has endured no less than three reschedulings, from the original date of May 18, 2001, to July 13, 2001, to August 17, 2001, to the current pending date of February 8, 2002. MGM has stated that it wants to build a capable marketing strategy for Rollerball without rushing things along, but one has to wonder just how much time is really necessary before suspecting other underlying issues for the repeated delays.
Unlike the recent remake (or "re-imagining") of the classic Planet of the Apes, the original Rollerball was not a sci-fi franchise, but instead a one-off film of similarly themed sci-fi flicks of the '70s, such as Soylent Green, Silent Running, and Logan's Run, that not only sought to entertain, but to provide a visionary social commentary upon the ultimate destiny of a progressively selfish, cruel, and violent world. The 1975 version of Rollerball imagined a future world of corporations instead of nations, wherein the great unwashed's penchant for violence is provided cathartic release in the form of a multi-corporation-sponsored brutal sport with virtually no rules, no intended heroes, and injury and death as an inevitable and acceptable game-play consequence.
Plot details remain sketchy at this point, and it is unclear whether or not the Rollerball remake will follow along the same plotlines as the original, but the concept of worldwide corporate domination has been dropped, with the global scope reduced to a smaller, Eastern European scale of evil entrepreneurs. The level of gore and language may be toned down as compared with the original's R rating, as it has been rumored that MGM will edit the remake to PG-13 levels of acceptability (and accessibility), perhaps to insure that the younger male demographic will potentially bolster box-office revenues.
The official Web site offers few details on the film itself, beyond an MTV-style teaser with quick-action edits and a pounding hard rock soundtrack, but it does offer visitors the opportunity to become involved in a virtual league of Rollerball teams, which is clever, if not particularly illuminating at this point.
Veteran action-film director John McTiernan will steer stars Chris Klein (American Pie 2), LL Cool J (Kingdom Come), Jean Reno (Just Visiting), and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men) through their sporting gladiatorial paces, hoping to win the crowd of February 8, 2002, against the likes of heavy-hitters Robert DeNiro in the crime/drama City by the Sea, and Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman in the just-in-time-for-Valentine's romantic comedy, Kate and Leopold. (Cal Hubbard/BOP)