Why Are All 'Future-Sports' Movies About Death?
If we were to ask you to predict what sports look like in the future, you'd probably say something along the lines of "A bunch of robots playing football," or "A bunch of nerds playing video games," or "Screw you, I'm not taking your dumb online survey. I've got masturbatin' to do." But, if you were to ask that same question to screenwriters, especially screenwriters of the '70s, '80s, and '90s, they'd paint you a vastly different (yet still masturbatory) picture. They'd say sports in the future will be designed to kill nearly everyone involved.
How do we know this? Partly because we've read through the collective diaries of every known filmmaker of the past 50 years, but mostly because practically every movie about sports in the future is some kind of hyperviolent battle to the death. Let's look at the tape:
That's a clip from the re-make of Rollerball, both quintessential future sports movies. You'll notice the game being played looks like a sort of roller derby if roller derby involved using your spine as a ramp for motorcycles. Still, if you're not convinced that playing Rollerball is lethal, the film makes it clear to incorporate a death match rule by the end. Here's another example:
This is Death Race 2000. Here five drivers compete in a transcontinental race in which they score points by murdering people with their cars along the way. The more helpless the victim (babies, old folks, white dudes who love ska, probably), the higher the points.
Even The Phantom Menace, a movie that's not necessarily about future sports (technically, it's a past sport in a galaxy far, far away), has a sports scene that might as well be considered vehicular euthanasia for all participants.
The list goes on. There's The Running Man, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, The Salute of The Jugger, Endgame, Battle Royale, Motorball in Alita: Battle Angel - all of these movies depict future sports as death sports. And here's another bizarre commonality almost all of these movies have: The protagonist goes on to start an insurrection and/or kills the head of state.
Seriously, every single one leads to the direct murder of the movie's President/Supreme Leader/Big Boi In Charge or starts a movement that leads to the eventual upheaval of the societal order. Even The Phantom Menace, which isn't supposed to be a sports movie, ends with Darth Vader killing Emperor Palpatine five movies later.
It's as if every director of the past half-century to make a future sports movie essentially predicted Lebron James would be a Manchurian candidate. So what gives? How does a trope this specific develop? Well, it's probably that these movies are making a statement about sports and sports media. The filmmakers saw one too many dudes get checked into the boards at hockey games and clearly thought the future of competitive play is that of hyperviolence. They also saw shows liked Jacked Up! on ESPN and thought the media would eventually push our bloodlust past the point of no return.
Of course, this all seems ridiculous in 2021. Yeah, new sports to hit the mainstream, like MMA, might feel like gladiatorial battles at times, but boxing has been around for far longer and is way, way more dangerous. And yes, playing football professionally is like asking someone to dive headfirst into an empty swimming pool, but again, there's every indication that they're at least trying to make the sport safer, not more deadly. We're a long way off from plowing into babies in our roadsters or staging a Hunger Games. (Hey, another future sports movie where the protagonist kills the president.)
But it still makes sense why this keeps happening. Adding death to your sportsball demands a post-apocalyptic society, and, in movie worlds, a post-apocalyptic society usually demands some type of upheaval to that society, or people might get sad at the end. It's a shame because the sports stars of the future are going to feel far less badass when their kills only result in virtual death.
But that probably won't stop them from talking trash anyway.
Top Image: 20th Century Fox