By Nathan Gordon | firstname.lastname@example.org | @GordonRises
42 | Directed by Brian Helgeland | Rated PG-13
A biopic for Jackie Robinson has arrived -but much later than expected for such a prominent figure in American history (I believe Spike Lee tried to make a film about Robinson back in the 90’s with Denzel Washington as the star, but that obviously didn’t work out). So, after such a long wait, does 42 do the legacy of the legend justice? I would have to say that it does.
42 chronicles the life of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) from his time playing with the Kansas City Monarchs up through his historic first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers as he becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.
The story crafted for 42 is very smooth and easy to sit back and enjoy. You just have to get through rush period of the film before Robinson makes to the Dodgers. The film proceeds to cater to the legacy Robinson had left in almost a “paying tribute” way. To reach a broad audience, I believe this was the way to go. Most of the film showed Robinson going through acts of racism only to combat it with his tremendous play on the field. This route director Brian Helgeland took, like I said, made the film move along smoothly. Viewers are able to just sit back, laugh, and root for the positive outcome that everyone knows is coming.
The casting of Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey and Boseman as Robinson were also highlights of the film. 42 also centers around Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, and his role with bringing Robinson to the Dodgers to break the color-barrier in baseball. So that means we would see plenty of Ford, and we did. Ford completely steps into the role and makes the voice he had to use for Rickey’s character bearable. Boseman, as well, is able to pull off playing such a prominent figure (it probably helps that he closely resembles Robinson). He is able to handle all the pressure and responsibility it takes to play such a character, and comes away being very believable in all range of emotions needed to pull it off.
What seems to be holding 42 back from completely taking off is that it wants to not sway too far from a hero type story. I realize I mentioned how that pays off for the film, especially in the broader spectrum, but it also plays as its fault. It would have been nice to see more of the pain Robinson had to suffer on and, especially, off the field (I realize this sentence kind of sounds a little heartless). Instead, the most suffering we seen Robinson go through was when he was being taunted by a team’s manager while at bat. The film needed to show more of the struggle Robinson went through on and off the field so that when he is finally able to pull through it at the end, it really shows how strong of a person he was to withstand all the racism he experienced. That goes for the baseball moments too. Viewers witnessed mostly him succeeding on the field, but I feel it needed to find that balance of the good and the bad. I’m sure Robinson wasn’t always a saint on the field and off, so it would have been nice to see that- show the true strength of his character and how he was actually human.
42 is an impressive movie that leaves you walking away feeling good inside that the hero, in a way, “won,” but I can’t help but to wonder what it would have been like with a touch more of a darker tone (I must not want to walk away from any movie I watch feeling happy).