I am an unabashed movie lover. Ever since my father and I watched all three original Star Wars when I was barely a toddler and he pointed out all the elements that made Darth Vader scary (there I learned that “dum-dum-dum-dadada-dum-dum-dum-dadada means the Dark Lord cometh), I have enjoyed the magic of film.
I have written reviews on movies before, namely one on a Chinese blockbuster called Ip Man (which is an amazing movie) and Man of Steel (making Superman cool in a post-Nolan superhero world), but today I’d like to harp on a recent movie my family and I saw on pay-per-view called 42.
For those who do not know, 42 is a biopic about America’s first black Major League baseball player, Jackie Robinson. We had heard about it in April from several friends who raved about how awesome and inspirational it was, but with ticket prices at the old box-office being so exorbitantly sky high (the average price of a matinee at roughly half a forearm and 2/3’rds of a leg), we delayed seeing it until late July (when it came out on Comcast Pay-Per-View in which pay-per-view still rips one off but at least you have it for two days before you must pay $4.99 to re-watch it).
So, lets begin. When you boil it down to its fine, melty essence, 42 is a movie about turning the other cheek, even when one is being mobbed at all sides by a venomous mob of bigotry. In this movie, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is a young, promising baseball player who is selected to be the ballplayer to break the color barrier in the previously racially segregated national baseball leagues. He is selected by the general manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (old, raspy voiced Indiana Jones), who wants to integrate baseball and defy the chauvinistic system.
Jackie is told from the very front that this attempt to break the unwritten rules of the color line will put him up against a storm of ingrained racial prejudice, and that many people would be whipped up into a frenzy of hatred. Jackie knows this, but even so, he wants to play Major League Baseball and he has amazing, God-given talent, and is willing to expose himself to all the hostility and antipathy the world will throw at him in order to break the barriers for others.
Throughout the movie, the white community confronts Jackie with complete contempt and degradation. It seems like everybody is out to destroy him, from his fellow teammates who sign a petition refusing to play ball with him, to hotel managers who refuse to let him stay, even when his other teammates are allowed. He receives death threats, is constantly barraged with abuse, and is put under the immense pressure to be superhuman by an entire country of people who are rooting for him to fail. And Jackie can’t even fight back because even if he loses his temper or composure in a completely justifiable situation, he will loose everything he and many others have worked for. Jackie must turn the other cheek constantly. In fact I’d say the entire movie is a study in the always humble, but extremely bold character of Jackie Robinson, a deeply religious young man who discovers the strength to go up against a corrupt system by being strong, staying under the authority of his equally brave owner, and ignoring the hounds of hell that try to destroy and discourage him along the way.
Many of you will catch the spiritual message in this movie, intended or unintended by the moviemakers. There are lots of little nuggets of truth that are very plain to find in 42, like how a little boy prays for God to give Jackie the strength to withstand the taunts, how Branch Rickey encourages Jackie when he is completely exhausted from all the abuse he is dealt to follow the example of Jesus and withstand the flaming arrows of the world. Jackie and his girlfriend Rachel keep themselves pure until marriage, and have a beautiful and loving relationship in which his wife lifts up his arms and supports him in everything, even when times get hard.
Jackie’s struggle and success parallels that of Jesus. His boss chooses him to endure terrible suffering, endangers his life and reputation in order to prove false the lies of the counterfeit and open the doors for others to follow the path he trailblazed. Jackie always remains above reproach, turning the other cheek to the barbs of his adversaries and always remaining calm and focused.
Overall, it’s a fabulous movie and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to watch something uplifting, inspirational, and full of such amazing symbolism and parallels. Jackie Robinson is genuine testimony of how an ordinary man with a bit of talent , and great faith in God can change the world and make miracles happen.
P.S. This movie is set in the 1940’s, and deals with Black History and the Civil Rights movement. Obviously, there are heavy amounts of racism and derogatory slurs that are thrown at Jackie, so parents may want to save this movie for older children. It’s a very good movie