There are a few reasons why a futuristic sport is hard to pull off in a screenplay and I'm sure the main one is that nobody has anything invested in it. It's not like anybody watching has a favourite team or even knows the rules without having them explained. I'm not much of a sports fan and so watching a sci-fi film that expects me to get into a sporting event as part of the story is a big ask. It almost always fails to engage me.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. Thunderdome of course. Two men enter, one man leaves. That's good, I can watch that becasue there's Dwarves strapped to mutants and chainsaws on the roof. But the best future sport I've ever seen in any film has got to be Rollerball.
Weridly for me, when I first saw Rollerball I loved it. It's not a case of me liking things just becasue they're sci-fi. Indeed, there's not that much in this film that explicitly defines it as science-fiction apart for the "hyper-media" amping-up of national sport to a more gladitorial sort of thing and a few pissed-up rich idiots setting a tree on fire with a laser-pistol. Perhaps it's because it was so violent; there was the increasing threat of James Caan's character meeting a brutal death every time he played. It gives the story a really solid trajectory and in the big game at the end where there's hardly anybody left alive it's really touching.
The game is pretty easy to follow without the need for a windy explanation and the rule-change that allows team members to kill other team members in the big game at the end of the film is amazing. I love the look of this too. James Caan is always guranteed quality and orange and black with the old-school sci-fi digital font for the team numbers is pure vintage class. It photographs lovely.
When they were making Rollerball the crew used to play the game in their down-time. You would though, wouldn't you? Who doesn't like spiked gauntlets and motorbikes and fire and shit?
Bob Peak did such a nice job on the poster art too. I know it's not the best illustration ever to grace the movie poster format but it's still become a piece of iconic imagery. Anybody familiar with the old Bitmap Brothers game Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe will know what I'm talking about. It's all about the spikey gloves.
But there is another contender for best ever future-sport. If you've ever seen the Prisoner you may be aware of it. As well as starring as Number Six, Patrick McGoohan was heavily involved in the show's creation and writing and for one particular episode he had to make up his own future sport. Which he did. Admirably. On the offchance you've not seen it before, I'd like to introduce you to Kosho. He made up the rules, designed the outfits, the lot. I've got to say, I think he did a hell of a job.
Here's the description of the game: "The game of Kosho is played on two trampolines set on either side of a four-foot-by-eight-foot tank of water and bordered on two sides by a wall with an angled ledge and hand-rail. Two helmeted opponents each wear a boxing glove on their left hand and a lighter padded glove on their right, and while moving freely in three dimensions attempt to knock, push or throw each other into the tank."
Sounds pretty good right? Don't take my word for it, have a watch yourself.