Jackie Robinson is less a man nowadays than he is a legend. If I were to ask a person on the street who Jackie Robinson was, they would tell me that he was the first black major league baseball player, and that his trials as such paved the way for civil rights. A person more knowledgeable about baseball may even know that he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers starting in 1947 and that he did a pretty good job as their second baseman. But how many people could tell me who hired him, that he had a fierce temper that he had to really control to play, who he was married to, and the extent of the racism he dealt with before he became a hero. The point is that people know what Jackie Robinson did, not who Jackie Robinson was, and who those around him were. He is a figurehead to be put on third grade Black History Month projects (as I can attest to), not a man. 42 seeks to change that.
42 is a Jackie Robinson biopic that covers the most important period of his life, 1946-47, when he first started playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The film does a decent job of giving us a clearer picture of Jackie Robinson’s personality. Robinson is a rock, and not in a bad way. He can withstand all of the crap people throw at him, and he remains a good man through it all. But a rock is not impenetrable. Jackie Robinson does have a few moments in the film where it looks as if he is about to explode and lash out at those who abuse him. This is a far cry away from the usual depiction of Robinson as having willpower made of adamantium, which never once wavered in the face of racism. This movie takes the legend and humanizes it, without making Robinson appear too flawed. It strikes a good balance is what I’m saying. And the man who plays Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, does a fine job, but overall is somewhat forgettable in the face of such inspiring subject matter.
In addition to being a respectful, and by all accounts pretty accurate depiction of Jackie Robinson, this movie has more to offer. Harrison Ford puts in his most memorable performance since Air Force One, playing a fantastic Branch Rickey. Him and the voice he does are probably the greatest single parts of this movie. Other than Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman, nobody else puts in a really memorable or impressive performance, but in all honesty Ford has enough acting talent to make up for all of them. The movie is well paced and does an excellent job portraying the widespread racism in the United States at the time. Both in the north and south, the only difference being that the southerners are more direct. Racism was a systemic disease in this nation, not a localized one. There is one more cool thing in this movie: Robinson’s chronicler. I like the character, whose job is to record the career of Jackie Robinson. His addition to the movie really helps show just how historic this series of events was. He makes the movie seem bigger and more important.
Overall, 42 is an accurate, memorable, and well-done depiction of Jackie Robinson as a man and a baseball player, not just a legend. I appreciate that, and I think that most people will as well. So, I’d recommend that people see this movie, both because it is good in it’s own right, and it’s one of the better films you’ll get compared to everything else out there.