Rollerball Blu-ray Review
PictureComing in with a 2.35:1 image that is bright and colourful and filled with popping lights and shiny surfaces, Sony's Rollerball transfer is immediately eye-catching. Primaries are extravagant and fully saturated with a boldness that is visually arresting. Reds throb from the screen, as do blues and whites have a keenness that is Daz-bright. The variety of costumes that the different teams wear - and the ridiculous makeup that some of them also sport - is vividly presented, from gold and blacks to smart blues. The plastic-shine of the padding, the bikes and the long scarlet jacket and freaky helmet that Aurora wears is acutely realised too. Reflections are accurately caught and the lights of the arena are vibrant and bright. Flames are great for the split-second that they flash orange and red, but I feel that they blast a little too white-hot too quickly, looking too clean and animated. Blood, in this watered-down version of what McTiernan originally intended, isn't given much screen-time, but when we do see it, it looks suitably gaudy. Silver is another colour that is given a precise sheen and it can either gleam like chrome or appear metallic as evidenced on the speeding balls. A lengthy section of the film - something like ten minutes - is actually illuminated only by night-vision. Although used only for stylistic purposes (nobody is actually wearing such goggles, making the scene a little irritating after a while) the soothing green glow that suffuses the image is well handled and the varying shades punctuated with black shadows are about the only time that you will encounter grain of any kind.
Some faces can appear a little waxy at times which, coupled with the lack of grain, leads me to suspect that a little DNR has been applied to this transfer. However, the sharpness and detail of the image remain extremely high. Close-ups can reveal lots of information on the costumes, the pads and the tools of the trade. Mid-range shots are excellent, with the many crowd-filled sequences stuffed with detail and a clarity that is always rewarding. You can look around the banks of spectators and see more information each time. The comical - and totally un-nasty - image of a player whose face has just been smashed with a rollerball offers lots of jagged flashes of light (that should have been blood and bits of teeth) that look tight and crisp and clear. Despite the overt smudging of some faces, there are still elements of detailed stubble on show - on Jean Reno, for example - and the little tattoos that reside beneath certain players' eyes are cleanly delineated. The clocks and read-outs in the TV control room are nice and detailed, too. And long shots - the streets of San Francisco during that daft introduction to Jonathan, or the sports car arrivals of our boys at the nightclub, for example - are provided with a pretty decent level of depth and visual acuity.
Blacks are spot-on and contrast, as a whole, is consistently smart. Fast motion, of which there is plenty, is held well and I saw no instances of drag, aliasing or smearing. What little edge enhancement there is - a couple of shoulders and the odd helmet - is nothing to worry about. This is, without doubt, a terrifically exciting and vibrant transfer. It positively glows and shows off the movie with a flamboyance that it probably doesn't deserve.
SoundIt's Dolby TruehD all the way, folks, and Rollerball packs in plenty of oomph and wallop for your money, that's for sure. This is certainly a track that gives your entire system a thorough workout. All channels are fully utilised and the sub is never left out for long. Take your pick from the aural barrage of roaring motorcycles, the deep throaty rumble of the spectators that really does shake the floor, the high-judder value of the crash and smack impacts and the grating bump 'n' grind of the cross-country pursuit for a none-too delicate test of the bass levels.
The stereo spread across the front is wide and expressive, with many instances of effects moving across it. Depth is also well observed, with vehicles roaring away from us into the distance and natural sounding receding and placement of voices, hubbub and all-round activity. Voices can move across the soundfield and the roar of the bikes and the cacophony of the crowds is well realised and steered to match the on-screen action. Well-placed impacts as people collide into walls and across the track are pinpointed with accuracy and solid, enjoyable thumps. The rears offer frequent support and produce some dynamic and exhilarating surround. Sometimes, however, they seem to sit out during moments that I would have expected them to chime-in with, such as the taxiing plane that seems to be bearing down on Jonathan and Ridley as they attempt to cross the desert. But, on the whole, they deliver some great and aggressive effects.
Dialogue is never drowned-out even when the score and the bombastic effects are rip-roaring around the speakers. Serra's music comes over well with depth and presence and the source-cues from the bands have an energy and drive that leaps around the soundfield. The rock tracks may stink, as far as I am concerned, but I can't fault their delivery. All in all, Rollerball sounds extremely wild and forceful with a TrueHD track that pounds and surges in all the right places and makes the effort to thrust you right into the heart of a kinetic and well-designed soundscape.
As with the great video performance, however, the thought about being unable to make a certain stinky thing shine comes to mind.
ExtrasWe don't get much to add value to this release, I'm afraid.
There is a commentary from the actors and a twenty-minute featurette on the stunts and the action of the film.
The chat-track features Klein and Romijn-Stamos recorded together and obviously enjoying the chance to reminisce about the production, and LL Cool J rather poor contributions slotted-in around them. I've got to be honest, there was nothing here that I was even remotely interested in hearing and certainly nothing to bother using for illustrative purposes here. I would have liked to have heard from McTiernan about what he had intended to do with the film. Test audiences and previews had been met with singular disapproval forcing him to recut and rethink, and considering his fouled-up experiences with Michael Crichton on The 13th Warrior, I would have thought that he'd have come out fighting this time around and been determined to state his case about studio pressures and whatnot. His reticence can only mean that he has washed his hands of it, too. Then again, this entry in his oeuvre is possibly far from his mind at the moment, considering recent legal obstacles that the filmmaker has had to contend with.
Future-Sport: The Stunts Of Rollerball is actually a pretty frank look at the training, choreography, stunts and design-work that went into putting silly-looking people on bikes and skates and sending them careering around a track that is considerably smaller than it already looks on-screen. We see wire-work and stunt-doubles but the effort that appears to have gone into it all does not translate at all well on screen. Yep, the cast got into it so that LL Cool J and Romijn-Stamos are pretty adept at riding bikes and Klein can skate like a pro, but when the results are as dire and sloppily exhibited as this ... who cares?
In all fairness, if you like the film, then you will probably enjoy these two meagre bonus offerings.
Oh yeah, there's a Music Video for Never Gonna Stop from Rob Zombie, as well. But that's your lot.
VerdictAlthough plagued by some insurmountable reservations, I still think that McTiernan's Rollerball actually makes a very decent stab at relocating the scenario and placing it in a believable (ish) context. But whilst I can accept this rogue-state, life-is-cheap, mass-media take on the sport, there is no escaping the fact that the games, themselves, are so badly handled that you neither know nor care who is doing the bashing or the crashing. The leads are in the wrong film and the off-track antics, as contemporary and pseudo-political as they are, are no match for the quiet quest for identity and understanding from Jewison's vastly superior original. Consequently, although the film strains for effect and relevance, it has no power, no substance and no point. Personally, I cannot wait for a BD release of James Caan's cult interpretation of Jonathan E and, sadly, this won't help me kill the time until that day arrives.
In short, don't blind buy this because you will probably never watch it again. But, if you've already seen it and actually like the film, then this BD presents it extremely well with a top-notch picture and audio exciting enough to surely surpass any SD edition that you may have.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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