Rollerball (2002) Aug 7, 2018 10:15:15 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Aug 7, 2018 10:15:15 GMT -5
Directed by: John McTiernan
Directed by: John McTiernan
As an idea, a Rollerball remake shouldn't have spawned reactionary groans. The original Rollerball still left quite a few ideas on the table along with the potential for being an even greater social commentary. The working drafts of what this new Rollerball was supposed to be were allegedly groundbreaking and inventive, perhaps even better than what writer/creator William Harrison initially conceived. The intent appeared to be genuine and the approach careful and cognizant of the project's potential. And then it all fell apart.
John McTiernan's Rollerball is a horrendous miscalculation; an insulting work that undermines the intelligence of its story, its predecessor, and its audience. Upon McTiernan — director of Die Hard, Last Action Hero, and other appreciated action movies — being hired as the overseer, he demanded a rewrite of the aforementioned script; he strongly disliked its moves to modernized Rollerball and scoffed at how it dared focus on subtext and all things the original shortchanged a little too much. He demanded rewrites and got them, but a hectic production soon prompted reshoots and poor test screenings, causing the film to miss its originally scheduled summer 2002 release date. The fact that this film had to be reshot and overhauled and is still an unmitigated mess in its current state leads one's mind to wander and contemplate how truly loathsome that first cut must have been.
What came about is now a stain on the fabric of a great IP, and goes to show what happens when an innocent project is caught between its director's desire to make a violent, hard-R movie and a studio's request for a safe, MTV-friendly PG-13 action flick that fits their approval. I recently had a discussion with director/editor Raja Gosnell. Gosnell noted how four separate studios were involved in the making of his remake of Yours, Mine & Ours. What was conceived was a romantic film that featured the couple's plethora of kids as the forces causing friction and preventing them from being together. What ultimately was made, at the sometimes contradictory requests of the many companies involved, was a ribald family comedy with copious amounts of physical humor in effort to emulate the similar and successful Cheaper by the Dozen remake. "It's always better to get everyone in the same room and make the same movie," Gosnell concluded.
On that note, McTiernan seems to be making the Cirque du Soleil of shock and awe with Rollerball, while the writer is struggling to keep one scene more than a minute long, the actors are making an uneven sports/exercise hybrid video, and the editor is just trying to salvage the pigsty of footage before him. You can almost see the tensions flaring and detect the uncertainty in the faces of Chris Klein, LL Cool J, and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, all of whom I'm sure are capable and committed individuals especially when they're given a film that's the least bit competent.
Returning to the point of the editing looking like the ultimate goal was for the project to be salvaged and released, editor John Wright inherited a doozy from the start. This is a film that both sorely lacks an identity and has too many dueling perspectives and directions to which to cater. The filming and assembly of scenes is so sloppy, with klutzy transitions that I'd go as far as to remain dubious on the notion that following this film linearly is something one is actually capable of doing. Rollerball is filled with jump cuts and canted angles as if to serve as patchwork padding a sorry excuse for a directing job. Then there are sequences that don't make any sense, my personal favorite being a scene set late in the night that's presented with a neon-green, night vision filter when no one is wearing night vision glasses.
Few bad films are complete without some blasphemous claims on part of the studio, and in this case, MGM didn't disappoint. Apparently, initial cuts of the film were deemed "too Asian" in their focus with a musical score "too Arabic" for the tastes of execs and of course the American people. It's wildly ethnocentric of MGM to agree to have the film set in the Kazakhstan Republic and proceed to chastise the initial footage and directorial job as being too culturally different. Their answer to combat the ethnic sensibilities of the work print was apparently to score the film to the grating sounds of nu metal and C-rate grunge ostensibly appealing exclusively to those on a steady diet of energy drinks, Doritos, and Slipknot.
The cherry on the Sunday for Rollerball comes long after the credits roll and the film subsequently going on not even to reciprocate half of its production budget during its theatrical run. McTiernan eventually went to prison for lying to the FBI about his attempts to spy on and wiretap Rollerball producer Charles Roven, whom he disagreed and fought with prolifically during the film's production. At least some justice came out of what is arguably a candidate for one of the worst films of the new century.
Starring: Chris Klein, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Jean Reno, and Naveen Andrews. Directed by: John McTiernan.