The story of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s "color barrier" seems like ripe material for a Hollywood biopic, but other than ultra-low budget The Jackie Robinson Story from 1950 in which Robinson played himself, subsequent efforts to bring his story to the big screen have not been fruitful. Robinson’s widow, Rachel, had been personally involved in trying to get a biopic made for three decades before 42, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, managed to finally round third base and slide into theaters.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 2 Hr. 8 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletStandard ELITE Blu-ray case with inner case hubs for two discs. Includes a cardboard slipcover.
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/16/2013
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
The Production Rating: 4/5
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Andre Holland, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley
42 dramatizes the true story of Jackie Robinson (Boseman), the first African American player in Major League Baseball. The film begins with the careful selection of Robinson to break the “color barrier” by Brooklyn Dodgers President and General manager Branch Rickey (Ford) and then follows Robinson over the 1946 season with the minor league Montreal Royals followed by his Major League rookie season with The Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson is met with racist vitriol both overt and covert over the course of two seasons from numerous baseball fans, officials, players, managers, and teammates, but per the advice of Rickey, stoically refuses to respond in kind. Finding strength in the love of his wife Rachel (Beharie) and support from the pragmatic if not always heeded advice of journalist Wendell Smith (Holland), Robinson perseveres, puts together a solid season, and helps put the Dodgers on track for a shot at the pennant.
Director Howard Hawks famously once offered up his personal formula for a good movie which consisted of “Three great scenes, no bad ones”. Brian Helgeland seems to have taken that to heart in his deliberately old-fashioned cinematic adaptation of Jackie Robinson’s groundbreaking first years in Major League Baseball. To extended it to a baseball analogy, Helgeland may not be swinging for the fences but thanks to a very strong cast, a true-life story ripe for Hollywood adaptation, a solid script , and a pleasingly nostalgic look, he keeps the runners moving around the bases at all times.
The film takes a certain amount of dramatic license, but never feels like it is either grossly exaggerating nor pulling any punches. Helgeland focuses on developing viewer empathy with Robinson. To do this, he employs technical devices such as shooting the baseball scenes with cameras on the field from the players’ perspectives, eschewing familiar and distancing TV angles. At times, the movie seems a bit old fashioned, but that approach seems appropriate and consistent not just with the era in which the film is set, but with the nature of the central characters of Robinson and Rickey, both of whom were devout Methodists and known for their personal restraint.
The cinematography by Don Burgess, whether depicting bright summer exteriors or beautifully lit interiors, offers up plenty of eye candy that adds apparent production value to the modestly budgeted film. The only place budget restrictions occasionally become apparent are in some of the CG set extensions used to recreate vintage ballparks which occasionally show some of their “digital seams”.
Relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman not only bears a striking physical resemblance to a young Robinson, but he turns in a strong performance that economically conveys the inner turmoil being suppressed as he forces himself to live the biblical lesson of turning the other cheek nearly every day of his public life. Harrison Ford may not look anything like Branch Rickey, but thanks to a prosthetic paunch, a slouch, and a committed performance, he does not look much like Harrison Ford either. Strong supporting performances abound with stand-out work turned in by Andre Holland as journalist Wendell Smith, Christopher Meloni as Manager Leo Durocher, Alan Tudyk as racist heckling St. Louis Manager Ben Chapman, and Nicole Beharie as Robinson’s wife, Rachel.
Convincing the World
42 is presented on Blu-ray disc via a 1080p AVC encoding letterboxed to the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.4:1. Shot with Sony Red cameras and heavily manipulated to deliver a sepia tinted nostalgic glow, the image is rendered flawlessly. Early in the film, I found the unapologetically digital appearance a bit off-putting, but as the film progressed, I quickly became more comfortable with it and ultimately appreciated the razor sharp image and Don Burgess’ beautiful lighting set-ups. Viewers who prefer a more traditionally film-like appearance can feel free to knock a star off of my rating above.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Audio is courtesy of a DTS-HD MA 24 bit lossless 5.1 track. Whether portraying outdoor action in a crowded stadium or intimate dialog scenes, the film’s mix more often than not makes creative use of the complete surround field in both subtle and overt ways. Dialog and sound effects are well recorded and integrated into the mix. The primary beneficiary of the lossless encoding proves to be the film’s music which includes both vintage source music of the dramatized era as well as Mark Isham’s lovely old fashioned teetering on the edge of corny score. Alternate 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos
Special Features Rating: 1.5/5
- Anti-Smoking PSA that parodies energy drink commercials (1:02 4:3 SD Video DD 2.0 Audio)
- Pacific Rim Theatrical Trailer (2:34 - 1080p Video - Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio)
Stepping into History (9:15) is a brief featurette that discusses the real life Branch Rickey, the importance and legacy of Jackie Robinson, Harrison Ford's portrayal of Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman's portrayal of Robinson. On-camera comments are provided by writer/Director Brian Helgeland, Harrison Ford (“Branch Rickey”), Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Chadwick Boseman (“Jackie Robinson”), Andre Holland (“Wendell Smith)”, and Nicole Beharie (“Rachel Robinson”)
Full Contact Baseball (10:06) while brief, is the most comprehensive behind the scenes feature on the disc. Topics covered include the physical nature of baseball in the 1940s, replicating Ebbet's Field and other historic ballparks, the uniforms, baseball training for actors, the way the film was shot, and Boseman's efforts to embody Robinson on the field. On camera commenters include Helgeland, VFX Supervisor Jamie Dixon, Aaron, Holland, Executive Producer Jason Clark, Production Designer Richard Hoover (I think - he is not identified with an on screen title when he speaks), Lucas Black (“Pee Wee Reese”), Boseman, Brad Beyer (“Kirby Higbe”), Ryan Merriman (“Dixie Walker”), Derek Phillips (“Bobby Bragan”), Baseball Consultant Pete Smith, Jesse Luken (“Eddie Stanky”), 2nd Unit Director Allan Graf, Baseball Pro Blake Sanders, Baseball Pro Gene Hermanski, Ford, Hamish Link later (“Ralph Brands”), and Brett Cullen (“Clay Hopper”).
The Legacy of the Number 42 (9:18) is a brief featurette on the historical Jackie Robinson and his legacy in baseball and beyond. On camera comments are provided by Ford, Helgeland, Producer Thomas Tull, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Major League Player Ed Charles, Major League Player Son Newcombe, Major League Player Ralph Brands, Mr. David Robinson, Boseman, Aaron, Pro Football Player Jerome Bettis, and Black.
This Blu-ray combo pack comes with a version of the film on SD DVD with available DD5.1 audio tracks in English, French and Spanish and subtitles in English SDH, French, or Spanish. When the SD DVD is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos presented in 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio:
- Anti-Smoking PSA that parodies energy drink commercials (:36)
- Pacific Rim Theatrical Trailer (2:30)
- Man of Steel Theatrical Trailer (3:11)
- The Great Gatsby Home Video Trailer (2:27)
- Jack the Giant Slayer Home Video Trailer (2:28)
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy Promo (1:20)
Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with appropriate desktop software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive. Multiple viewing options are available from online services such as Flixster, Vudu, and CinemaNow which allow redemption of Ultraviolet titles and/or linking to Ultraviolet accounts.
Brian Helgeland’s biopic of Jackie Robinson focusing on the key “color barrier” breaking years of 1946 and 1947 is a solid, old-fashioned movie that uses its narrow time focus to create empathy for Robinson's experience and an appreciation of his discipline, character, and talent. It is presented on Blu-ray with outstanding audio and video and a disappointingly modest collection of special features.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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