An unknown middle-aged batter named Roy Hobbs with a mysterious past appears out of nowhere to take a losing 1930s baseball team to the top of the league in this magical sports fantasy. With the aid of a bat cut from a lightning struck tree, Hobbs lives the fame he should have had earlier when, as a rising pitcher, he is inexplicably shot by a young woman. Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
The film takes place in 1939, which was the 100th anniversary of professional organized baseball and the year the Baseball Hall of Fame opened. See more »
In the scene depicting the team on a passenger train streaking across country as the Knights make their "run" at the pennant, the drumhead on the observation car says "Super Chief". This would make it a Santa Fe high-speed train running daily between Chicago and Los Angeles. Since the movie is set in 1939, they would not be riding that train because there were no major league baseball teams west of St. Louis in those days. See more »
What give this movie its power? Is it baseball? Is it the acting? No, it is deeply, powerfully moral. The morality of the movie decried and abused even way back in 1984 is why it resonates. The ending is meant to be supernatural; Levinson keeps Malumad's satanic imagery and transmutes it into the opposite. The lightning bolt that heralds Hobbs, a nickname for the Devil, by the way, into much more than a baseball player. His goodness is evinced in small ways, his befriending of all children, like Bobby, whose bat saves the team. The goodness he did comes back to him: what a great touch by the master director Levinson. He protects and sides with Pop and Red against the pure evil of the Judge. Notice he likes to live in the dark. He detests the light. Look, I did not write this; the imagery is undeniable. The morality in this movie could not be more dichotomous. Levinson that took a very dark, depressing book about a ballplayer who made a deal with the Devil to be famous; then he was destroyed at the end. The second lightning bolt was in the book; it showed the end of Hobbs.
Levinson and Redford wanted a completely different movie. Redford always likes damaged heroes who come back from great adversity to triumph. He always makes deeply moral films. THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT is quintessential Robert Redford. Here, Hobbs becomes the moral center of the team and a battle ensues for his soul with Iris representing goodness, family and God and Memo representing evil, corruption and selfishness. When Iris stands, watch for the sunlight behind her, it shines through her upon him and he hits the baseball shattering the clock and ending his slump Memo began. His stomach blows apart after Memo, urged on, puts that food in his mouth. One always gets the impression she was trying to kill him as she almost does when she tries to shoot him in the Judge's office when he throws the bribe back at him.
Baseball is the surface story if this were all there was it would be as brainless and arid as MAJOR LEAGUE or BULL DURHAM. What gives the movie its power is the moral conflict that underlies the surface; Hobb's soul is in play. The suffering he undergoes, the tragedy that befalls him, his struggle into the Light this is why it is a masterpiece. It is the struggle of all of us, one and all. The acting and the cast are without compare. Close was always an excellent actress, watch PARADISE ROAD, also Duvall, Prosky and Redford are above reproach. Wilford Brimley steals every scene he is in; but all the credit belongs to Barry Levinson who transformed a dark, depressing baseball novel into a morality piece without equal. The ending, which Siskel and Ebert mocked, is the highlight of the entire movie. For two and a half hours we have endured Hobbs struggle; the ending was never intended to be empirical, HELLO?, this is a supernatural film good versus evil. Like the clock, the light comes showering down upon him; I love the shot of the sparks flying in front of Memo and the Judge.
As you listen and watch him take that last stroll across the bases with the sparks transfiguring him with almost a nimbus ask yourself which would you like your children to emulate Roy Hobbs or SIN CITY? Good comes with a great price; it almost kills Hobbs but it is always the right choice, always.
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