HTS Overall Score:89.5
Major League Baseball is a game that places history and statistics on a pedestal, spending endless amounts of time comparing one team, player, or era to the next. If one were to look purely at stats, Jackie Robinson would appear to be a very good ballplayer. Perhaps not shoe-in Hall of Fame material, but impressive nonetheless. He wasn’t a hulking power hitter, in fact he never hit more than 20 home runs in a single season, but he did have a knack for getting on base. He did so over 40 percent of the time through a good mix of singles, extra base hits and walks. Sprinkle in speed and a nose for stealing bases, and you have the ingredients of a good opponent. Unfortunately due to the ugly and repressive nature of institutional racism, in addition to World War II, Robinson didn’t have a shot at a full Major League career. He only played in the Majors for ten years, entering the league at the age of 28 and retiring at 37. During these years the Dodgers played in 6 World Series, winning their first in 1955.
This brings us to the reason that Robinson is one of the most – if not top – historically significant players in Major League history. It’s because he is a sure-shot bonafide hero. Some players impact how the game is played, Robinson shattered cultural perceptions. In one incredibly courageous and emotionally charged act, Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947 and became the first African American to wear a Major League uniform. He went on to become the first African American player to be named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, and the first to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the trailblazer that has made it possible for so many of baseball’s greats to play the game. What’s most impressive is that Robinson accomplished this in the face of a culture of unrelenting hate and extremely powerful racism – conditions that would break most anyone singled-out on the public stage.
42 plays like a historical documentation of Robinson’s Major League emergence and the racist culture of the time. Directed and written by Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale, Green Zone), the film is amazingly powerful on a number of levels. The story begins in 1955. Major League Baseball has 16 teams and 400 white-only players. African American players are relegated to the Negro Leagues. Fast forward nearly a decade and the Brooklyn Dodgers are a great team that just can’t seem to find a way to win the pennant. General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is scouring the Negro Leagues looking for a player that possesses the ability to help the Dodgers win while able to successfully shoulder the burden of breaking the color barrier – a player that has the ability to stay calm under social pressures and look away from the noise. He eventually focuses on Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) and invites him to join the Dodger’s minor league affiliate in Montreal. It’s at this point that history is set in motion. A year later, Robinson signs a professional contract with the Dodgers and breaks the color barrier. Many players protest, fans protest, Robinson becomes the subject of unrelenting overt bigotry, and he’s the target of nasty hazing on the field. Eventually some of his teammates, including Hall of Fame short-stop Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black), begin to stand beside Robinson and the tide begins to permanently turn.
The film is an incredibly emotional story. While it’s a baseball story, it’s also a story about basic humanity and equality. It is, at times, difficult to watch simply because Robinson’s encounters with hatred and racism are brutal. The language is strong as are the actions of those rejecting him – the film does a good job of giving viewers an idea of what he experienced, how he felt about it, and the kind of support he received from teammates and management. Obviously the subject matter runs much deeper than a two hour long movie is able to tackle, but enough is touched-on to paint a good picture. The film carries an impressive historical feel, be it period music, clothing, cars, or the league’s classic stadiums. These visuals paired with a distinctly aged video color tone help to transport viewers to the the 1940’s.
Boseman plays a fantastic Robinson and carries the movie to great heights. Other characters, such as Robinson’s wife (Nicole Beharie), Pee Wee Reese, and Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), are also well played. Harrison Ford does an admirable job of bringing Branch Rickey to the silver screen, however there are times where Ford’s acting feels a tad forced. Perhaps the character would have been better off played by a less recognizable actor. There are also moments where the movie’s pace is a tad slow. That being said, it’s hard to find many faults with 42. It’s an uplifting emotion-filled story with levels of truth that are staggeringly real. And with that, 42 joins the ranks of great historical sports movies and definitely deserves attention for it’s amazing presentation and subject matter.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/423.jpg[/img]Warner Bros. fantastic 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode of 42 is simply delicious. Shot digitally on RED equipment, the film’s 2.40:1 cinemascope presentation has a beautiful aged-appearance driven by a color palate washed with sepia overtones and a cinematic texture. Colors aren’t held back with reds and blues looking particularly sharp. Blacks are nice and deep, but not robust. In fact their slight softness fits perfectly with the film’s historical appearance. Shadow detail is excellent with nary a hint of crush, which helps darker scenes look stellar. Flesh tones look natural.
The film is loaded with fine details throughout, spanning from textures of the ball players’ uniforms to facial details to the grains on Jackie’s bat. Larger scenes, such as the grand insides of ballparks, are to die for – especially for fans of the National Pastime. It’s hard to find any fault with the transfer. In fact my only complaint about the film, visually, is that the brownish/yellow hue to the movie makes the sky appear off-color, in some cases almost poluted. But, given how amazing this film presents itself on Blu-ray, I’ll take a somewhat off-color sky.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/424.jpg[/img]42’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is a thing of beauty, masterfully crafted and perfectly delivered with amazing sonic detail. The highlight of the track is an incredibly airy and wide front sound stage that expands with dynamic directionality. The sounds of old time radio, humming cicadas, echoing announcements, jeering crowds, sprinkler systems, and roosters pop-up to the left and right perfectly matching their source location on screen. Sound pans, such as that of a moving bus, also perfectly match action as it’s seen. The surrounds bristle with thunder, crowd noise, train whistles, and airplane engines, along with unique effects such as the sound of flying dirt exploding from the front to the rear. All the while each setting, be it a stadium or a front porch, is enhanced with enveloping ambient sounds.
Mark Isham’s potent musical score is grand, oozing a dramatic Hollywood sound as it fuels the grandiosity and emotion of Jackie Robinson’s story. It’s loaded with rumbling bass and crescendos at all the right moments. Speaking of LFE, as one would expect, it doesn’t play a primary role in 42’s presentation. However there are some nice low rumbles associated with automobiles, trains, and subtleties like the thud of a closing car door. One of the center pieces of a historical drama is the dialog, which, in the case of 42, is spot-on in every respect: clear, intelligible, appropriately thick and throaty and locked-in mid-screen.
All-in-all, 42 delivers an exceptional audio experience.
• Behind the Scenes: Stepping into History
• Behind the Scenes: Full Contact Baseball
• The Legacy of Number 42
42 is one of 2013’s must-see movies. Jackie Robinson was not only a baseball star, but an American hero that showed unparalleled bravery in breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Chadwick Boseman does a fantastic job playing the legend and the vast majority of the cast is equal to the task in bringing their characters to life. The film does a phenomenal job of setting the stage with amazing sets and beautiful renditions of Major League fields of the past, all of which are shown with a sepia-hue that gives the film a period feel. The audio presentation is simply stellar with great use of all channels and spot-on dialog. The end result is an incredibly powerful storyline and subject matter that is given the kind of treatment it deserves. This is a must watch film.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Warner Bothers
Runtime: 128 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 16, 2013
Buy 42 Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It