42 Blu-ray Review
Baseball is “America’s past-time.” Since it’s inception, no other game has captured the imagination of the country in the way baseball continues to, though its sway on the national conscience has been more limited in recent years with the advent of the modern NFL. Yet no other sport has the historical context of baseball because of its immense popularity for much of American history. What happened in baseball was, in many ways, a microcosm of what happened in America; baseball movies tend to be given deeper meaning because of the societal backdrops they so effectively convey. As is often the case with a movie like this, the filmmaking is secondary to the importance of the story. However, I am happy to report the filmmaking is beyond proficient and 42 was shot and edited beautifully.
42, the Jackie Robinson story, is the newest slice of Americana released on Blu-ray. Jackie Robinson was famously the first African American baseball player to be signed to the major leagues. 42 adds some context for later generations (like mine) that might not understand anymore just what a HUGE deal it was at the time. Our story begins with the Brooklyn Dodgers suffering through the off-season, the owner realizing he has to do something drastic if he wants to retain ownership of the Team. His idea: The Negro Leagues are taking off and the talent is phenomenal. It’s only a matter of time… Maybe it *is* time for him to sign one of these players to play in the major leagues.
The search begins, and one of the things I found most interesting was the selection process. Robinson was selected not only because of his ability but also because of his history. He was hard, someone who had been through the ringer and kept coming back for more. Rickey knew that he had to have someone with such conviction; he couldn’t take someone “soft” because they would never be able to stand the onslaught of racism that was sure to follow. Robinson himself almost doesn’t survive it. He was threatened repeatedly and taunted by players, managers, coaches, and of course the crowd. What is most incredible about Robinson was his resolve; he didn’t give in because he didn’t want the other guys to win, because he knew what was right.
42 is a movie with very similar themes to many presented in the past but as an adult I enjoyed it much more than, say, REMEMBER THE TITANS. Part of that is because of the ending, which I don’t feel bad about discussing ambiguously. 42 is a feel good movie, but it doesn’t necessarily end with a happy resolution. It doesn’t say that everything is just okay all of a sudden. Instead, 42 recognizes the greater impact of this small slice of history. This was the first step taken by a few brave men to reconcile a major injustice in our country’s history… and it is extremely entertaining even though it is, at times, difficult to watch.
The story, as based on what really happened, is told very well and the casting is great. 42 eschewed the usual Hollywood “we need a big star in all of the big roles” for casting the best possible person for the role. Virtual unknown (unless you watch soap operas or remember bit players from a variety of television shows) Chadwick Boseman earns his stripes as Robinson. Boseman plays Robinson with an incredulity and charisma absolutely necessary to convey the story and I applaud the filmmakers for going with him. Harrison Ford is actually quite good as Branch Rickey, in fact he’s nearly invisible in the role. But the biggest surprise is the featured players, the smaller parts, all of which are perfectly cast. From the terribly racist opposing Manager played by Alan Tudyk to Jackie’s own teammates, 42 is absolutely believable in its portrayal.
Finally, I’m thankful that the actual baseball scenes were shot very well, even though they aren’t the centerpiece of the film. Sadly, baseball has lost some of it’s appeal in recent years; the pace is great in person but has been deeply injured by the advent of television, where the speed is often abyssmal. The presentation of the games is really secondary here; focusing instead the experience of Robinson, his Team, and the people around him. I highly recommend this drama.
42 BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) 42 has some great visuals and presents an absolutely beautiful world. The grass on the field has never looked so good on my HD television.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is equally well done. 42 features a great sound track and mixing that make you feel like you’re right in the middle of everything with Jackie.
Behind the Scenes: Stepping Into History (09:21) A nice, quick feature where actors and film crew discuss why they wanted to be involved in 42 and what they loved about the flick. Very nicely done.
Behind the Scenes: Full-Contact Baseball (10:05) Filmmakers discuss the physicality of baseball and the presentation of the game throughout 42. They did a really great job with this and I really enjoyed this brief feature.
Short Feature: The Legacy of the Number 42 (09:17) People discuss the legacy of Jackie Robinson and his signing with the Major Leagues. Very interesting if you like American History.
The 42 Blu-ray also features sneak peeks of a few other films and the feature film on both DVD and UltraViolet digital copy.