Rollerball is a sport, or, depending on how you look at it, a replacement for war. It’s a cross between football, motorbike racing, roller-blading, and gladiator fights.
The game’s longest-tenured player, Jonathan E., portrayed by a young James Caan, has survived 10 whole years of the sport. He’s a laconic, famous, and passionate rollerballer, but his team’s sponsor, Energy Corporation, wants him to retire (for reasons the film never truly explains).
In the world of Rollerball, governments have disappeared, and massive, global corporations have taken their place. It’s not all bad though—people no longer get sick, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable. Sure, they lack essential freedoms—the “Executives” make every major decision for every single person on the planet—but as Jonathan E.’s ex-wife Ella says, “comfort is freedom!”
This lack of freedom affects everything, even the type. In this alternate reality, it seems everything printed (at least everything in the Latin script) is printed in Countdown, designed by Colin Brignall for Letraset Type Studio back in the 70s. Countdown is funky, high-contrast, and hardly-readable; it functions fine the first time it appears—as stylized jersey numbers—but Brignall’s typeface loses its charm when used as wayfinding signage, corporate logotypes, and hospital-equipment labels.
Apparently, in this dystopic view of the present, we have only one typeface, no doubt prescribed by our corporate overlords. One other restriction this world imposes: Jonathan E. spends about 15 minutes of screen-time trying to track down a book on business decisions, “how they’re made and who makes them.” Unlucky for him (and everyone else) all the books in the world, which used to be stored in Geneva, have been digitized and redacted. Oh, and the supercomputer responsible for maintaining the world’s knowledge seems to have misplaced the 13th century—I guess we don’t need Fibonacci.