One element extracted form the original into the remake is to make the fast paced action of the game scenes in the original the norm for the whole of the remake. The performance of the actresses and actors in the film are obscured by the swirling sequence of actions so their relative inabilities become masked and not detrimental to the film as a whole.
The editing is a textbook case of how not to edit a movie. It was an incoherent collection of random and rapid fire shots, sometimes repeated in slow motion for needless emphasis, that amount to a number of muddled and disjointed action scenes. In the original, we understood how the game worked on a circular track. In the remake, there's a track that crosses at points like a figure eight, but because we're never shown an entire "play" in this game, we never understand the inner workings, so it's like watching a sports highlight film for a sport we've never seen before. At no point during the film are we ever shown a score for a game. There were three games played in the film, but we were never told what the score is not through the incredibly annoying announcer or through graphics. If the score doesn't matter, the characters have nothing invested in the outcome of the game and the audience is not liable to care. Moreover, this film failed to duplicate one of the best aspects of the original: hearing the sounds made by the athletes, fans and motorcycles during competition. Instead we are subjected to blaring rock music that distracted from the thrill of competition. The only good thing about the soundtrack is that it drowns out the inane dialogue.
The original Rollerball had the struggle of wills between Jonathan E and Mr. Bartholomew as its underlying theme, but this film has no such subtext; leaving only a ridiculous plotline plainly obvious to the viewer. This raises the question: why remake this? If you're going to remake a movie, there should be some kind of compelling reason to remake it such as a new take on the original story or improved special effects based on today's technology to take the concept further.
There is nothing about this movie that I can recommend to anyone.
Ignoring the dystopian theme of the original film, John McTiernan updates Rollerball for 2002's contemporary MTV crowd and makes it simply a modern day story about a violent reality TV show with a bunch of attractive young people competing in a popular sport. This ignores all of the importance in the original short story by William Harrison so much that it practically disgraces him. It takes the commercialised aspects of the story and attempts to build on it from there as much as it can, doing the same thing that Paul Michael Glaser did when he directed his despicable adaptation of the Stephen King story The Running Man. Rollerball is a repeat of that terrible feat, except a lot worse because there isn't any fun in the gimmicks this time, and only the most ignorant MTV obsessed viewers will actually find this interesting.
For some reason, despite being fairly action heavy, Rollerball fails to actually glamourize the sport it is attempting to create. The action sequences are so boring and repetitive that it is hard to actually find the motivation to keep on watching. The technical issues in the viewing experience are different to the ones in essentially every other bad action film of today. The problem with action these days is that the cinematography is excessively shaky and the editing as way too fast. But the problem in Rollerball is that what is actually being filmed is pointless and stupid. The camera shots in Rollerball are all from the wrong angles because instead of capturing everything in perspective, the camera only ever captures a small portion of the actual character on screen or the motorbike being used, and it fails to actually make anything look the slightest bit good. Seriously, for a film that is so overblown with action, Rollerball does not have a single good action scene which means that it fails to do what its story intends in terms of glamourizing the titular sport. Rollerball is built on a lot of weak roots, and one of the most central ones is terrible action scenes. It makes the film less convincing, more artificial and above all just genuinely pointless. The titular sport of Rollerball is made to look like one of those children's game shows for adults, but its lack of technical quality make it simply a blur on the eyes which isn't the slightest bit tense of entertaining. One of the scenes in Rollerball is an extended terrible motorbike chase scene filmed entirely with a night vision camera technique which is both pointless and visually awful. You can just tell that John McTiernan has lost sense of making Rollerball a visually good film any better than he could tell a story. John McTiernan reveals that it is time for him to retire on a low note because Rollerball shows that the once promising sense that he had as a film director is no longer present. He cannot remake a film and cannot create good action out of a roller derby game, so why he was given a budget of $70 million is way beyond me, but the fact that the film lost more than $44 million makes perfect sense.
Rollerball is simply a very painfully vain commodity which attempts to use its soundtrack to appeal to the MTV generation, Chris Klein to capture the interests of American Pie fans and Rebecca Romijn to entertain people obsessed with her seductive role as Mystique in X-Men. Rollerball even gives her a scene in which she is topless, although it is unnecessary, poorly filmed, darkly lit and clearly thrown in there for publicity purposes. But it doesn't do any justice for any of them, and simply waits around for the next crappy action scene to fit into the story. There is not a single moment that I was entertained in Rollerball with the exception of the last two minutes of the film which were slightly entertaining. But Rollerball isn't even fun as a camp film or a movie that is so bad that it's good. It Is just so bad that it's terrible.
A lot of people have put crap on Chris Klein for portraying a bland hero, but few people seem to realise that the entire movie is written to be bland and dooms any potential actors from the start. So it is clear that Chris Klein has nothing to work with, and in all seriousness an actor whose career is built on supporting performances in the American Pie films and an effort in the Academy Award nominated Election is not one that is strong enough to actually hold the low quality of Rollerball up. As the lead actors, Chris Klein is forced to carry lacklustre storytelling on his shoulders, and there is no way that he ever had a chance of doing that so his performance is not great. But none of the actors in the film really are. Although Jean Reno is ok simply because it is really easy for him to portray a villain by creating a sense of mystery, Chris Klein is an actor ideal for the role because the material is terrible but not actually ready to hold up a $70 million film. The criticism in the film can be more attributed to Larry Ferguson and John Pogue for their terrible script, and Chris Klein got a lot of the blame for it. But the fact that in such a terrible film he actually tried is slightly admirable. He failed, but at least he gave it his all which is more than can be said for anybody else involved in the production of Rollerball.
So Rollerball manages to get everything wrong as a remake and as a standalone film because it disgraces the original story, the original film and then the viewers all at once without an ounce of entertainment to boast.