Jackie Robinson


Baseball hall-of-famer, social activist, and boundary-breaker Jackie Robinson has long been due a full-scale feature film to chronicle his many achievements, and while Brian Helgeland’s 42 wisely sticks to telling the remarkable story of Robinson’s burgeoning Major League career as anchored by uniformly great performances, it’s an otherwise stale portrayal of one of America’s greatest heroes. 42 will likely be hailed as some manner of crowd-pleaser, but the film’s frequent lack of emotional punch and linear sense of history leave it far more suited for sharing within a classroom setting. Helgeland’s film feels safe and stagey, a bizarre take on Robinson’s bold and brash life story, and it only occasionally allows moments of true emotional impact to fly out of the park, seemingly beyond Helgeland’s control. 42 picks up with Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in his post-collegiate and -military life, as a star player on the Kansas City Monarchs, part of baseball’s Negro leagues of the 1940’s. Unbeknownst to Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ club president and general manager, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), had his eye on then-shortstop, as he was cooking up a plan to drive revenues (and, apparently, his own good sense) by bringing on the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues. He wanted that player to be Robinson, and 42 centers on Robinson and Rickey’s dual struggle to overcome all manner of prejudice, hate, and stupidity to give Robinson his quite well-deserved place on the Dodgers and in the majors.


42 Trailer

The historical drama, the meditation on race relations, and the inspirational sports story: separately they’re all crowd-pleasing film genres that tend to do well at the box office and earn plenty of recognition during awards season. But put them all together and you get some kind of unstoppable super movie. Or, at least, that’s probably what writer/director Brian Helgeland was hoping when he made 42, a biopic of baseball player Jackie Robinson. For anyone out there whose nerdom doesn’t travel over into the sports world, Robinson was the first black player to cross the color line and play in Major League Baseball during the modern era. Which, you might imagine, was something that a number of tobacco-spitting ballplayers and drunken fans in the stands didn’t take kindly to back in the late 1940s. 42 seems to focus on the struggle of going somewhere you’re not wanted, so that you might pave the way toward opportunity for those who come after you; a noble goal that’s ripe with dramatic potential.


42 Movie

A young boy stands between two sets of train tracks, bat in one hand, the other pointed out toward the Heavens. It’s a simple twist on a classic image and just one of many found in the first trailer for Brian Helgeland’s 42. The film tells the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, and with carefully crafted shots and a booming reminder from Jay-Z that Brooklyn goes hard, it’s a hell of a way to introduce a movie. Although, you might be thinking, “A Helgeland period piece with modern music? Is this A Knight’s Tale with an infield fly rule?” If you are, that’s an oddly specific reference to go to, nerd, and the movie itself probably won’t feature anything but mid-1900 jams. So keep heart. Without a doubt, this will be a break out chance for Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, but it’s Harrison Ford who’s nearly unrecognizable here as Branch Rickey, the man who signed Robinson to the Dodgers. Check out this exciting trailer for yourself:



What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column about movie news and things that interest you. Hopefully it finds more of the latter, but it tries to do its best. It’s no super soldier of news aggregating, but it certainly has taken its share of experimental drugs at the behest of Tommy Lee Jones. The characters of Captain America: The First Avenger now have their own posters. Released today via Cinemarcado, the one-sheets feature Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull (above) and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Cap’s lady of interest. The most interesting is Red Skull, who looks pretty wicked. Is it me or does he look like Hell-spawn that spent too much time with Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon?



This project just keeps sounding better and better. The Legendary Pictures take on the life of Jackie Robinson just cast Robert Redford in a major role – that of Branch Rickey, the man who signed Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers and made history by helping to tear that color barrier down. It’ll be great to see Redford back in uniform, even if he’s not busting out stadium lights. According to the LA Times, the original draft of the script is back to square one with writer/director Brian Helgeland in the driver’s seat. How he can type while driving is beyond me, but the guy wrote L.A. Confidential, so I don’t question it. With this, and a Sam Cooke movie, the biopic world looks on healthy ground right now. It’s a shame that Paul Greengrass’s Martin Luther King, Jr movie Memphis got axed, but even without it, the trend seems to be taking on the stories of famous black Americans. There are plenty of stories to mine there, and plenty of other fascinating figures from American history as well. Hopefully these films come out swinging because as it stands, they’re both off to a great start.


Robinson’s story of breaking the color barrier in major league baseball is one of the most legendary stories in this country’s history (sports or otherwise), and now that story – the story of his life – is going to be brought to the big screen with ESPN and Robert Redford producing.

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published: 01.26.2015
published: 01.26.2015
published: 01.26.2015
published: 01.26.2015

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