42 (Blu-ray)

July 16, 2013 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There are things we all take for granted and I think one of the most obvious ones are professional athletes.  At any given point in time at any given time of day, it’s easy to find some sport that’s on TV.  I’m willing to bet that no one really watches a sport and thinks of the color of the athlete’s skin and if they do, I’m sure it’s not dwelled on for too long.  I’d like to say that “it’s hard to imagine…” about things like someone not being allowed to play a sport based on the color of one’s skin.  But no, unfortunately it’s not so hard to imagine that not so long ago the game of baseball, America’s Pastime, was a “whites only” game.  This all changed in 1946 when Branch Rickey found a strong-willed baseball player and got him in the system.  Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, paving the way for the likes of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks as well as becoming a role model and source of inspiration for every fan of the game – black or white.  This is his story.

World War II is over and the United States is in the midst of one of the greatest times in its history.  Baseball is king and Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) has had it with the “whites only” rule in baseball.  He seeks out Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boesman), a second baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs and puts him on the farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson endures the obvious racial threats from both fans and teammates alike, but keeps his head up.  He eventually makes it to the Dodgers where he learns that some are accepting of him, while others aren’t.  Slowly, Jackie starts to turn the heads of his naysayers and it doesn’t hurt that he’s an amazing player to boot.  He’s scrappy. He uses the dirt from home plate to coat his hands and every time he steps up to the plate he runs the risk of a fastball to the head. He also changed history and was probably one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

I’m a fan of baseball and always have been.  I’d heard of Jackie Robinson back when I started collecting baseball cards in the 70’s.  But I don’t think any of us really realize the sacrifice he made until we sit down and think about it.  Add to that that the movie is well made and historically accurate.  The picture with Phillies manager Ben Chapman – it happened. Enos Slaughter spiking Robinson’s calf? Fact. Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Robinson in Cincinnati? True.  As I said at the beginning of this review – it’s easy to take for granted what Robinson did and has done not only for baseball, but also for sports and a race in general.  And it would have been easy for Robinson to fight back, yell insults back at the crowd…but what would hit have really accomplished?  Unfortunately racism will probably always exist, but by seeing 42, this does show us that we’ve come a long way in such a short time.

Accomplishments by Jackie Robinson

1962 – Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

1947 – National League Rookie of the Year

1949 – National League MVP

1949-54 – National League All-Star Team

1949 – Won Batting Title

1955 – Brooklyn Dodgers win World Series

Number “42” retired by baseball for ALL teams

Every April, all players wear “42” for one game

Video: How does it look?

Everything about 42 looks amazing.  After watching a few of the features, I learned that the majority of the baseball fields were CGI and I was hard-pressed to find any evidence of this while watching the film.  Warner’s 2.40:1 AVC HD image is essentially flawless.  I noticed, in a couple of scenes, a bit of shimmering on the grills of a few cars and in one of Rickey Branch’s suits, but aside from that it’s rock solid.  Detail is amazing, we can make out the ads on the outfield walls, see the patterns in the uniforms and each grain of dirt on the ground.  This is indicative of a new to Blu-ray transfer and I’d be surprised if it looked anything less than it does here.

Audio: How does it sound?

Admittedly, there are baseball movies out there that sound better than 42, but this DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack isn’t that bad.  There are a few scenes when we get the crowd-like ambiance and the surrounds kick in, but those are a bit few and far between.  More to the point, the film is front-heavy and dialogue driven.  The LFE make their presence known a few times for some added depth.  Vocals are loud and crisp – we hear Harrison Ford’s best Southern accent and Chadwick Boseman’s very soothing, calm voice in full uncompressed glory.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unfortunately, this is where the film comes up short.  We only get a trio of featurettes starting with “Stepping into History” which features an interview with writer/director Brian Helgeland and his inspiration of the film.  “Full-Contact Baseball” shows the more physical side of the movie, the actors training with real baseball players and whatnot.  Finally we have “The Legacy of Number 42” with some interviews with Robinson’s family as well as the lasting cultural impact that the man had on the game and our society itself.

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