Does the New Jackie Robinson Movie Look Any Good?

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 21 2012 3:43 PM

Trailer Critic: 42

robinson42
A still from the trailer for 42

In the opening moments of the new trailer for the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic 42, an obscure figure walks slowly down a dark, narrow hallway towards a faint light. A voiceover proclaims, “I don’t know who he is … or where he is … but he’s coming.” Those last words land just as the figure reaches the light and reveals the iconic number on the back of his jersey, which Major League Baseball retired league-wide in 1997.

This melodramatic setup actually feels entirely fitting for a story about Robinson, who lived an incredibly intense and revolutionary life as the outsider who busted his way into the then exclusionary world of America’s national pastime. That story has been brought to the big screen before—the athlete played himself in 1950’s The Jackie Robinson Story only three years after he first integrated the league—but that was a different time. With a relative unknown, Chadwick Boseman, portraying Robinson this time around, and Harrison Ford—looking, perhaps for the first time, like the 70-year old actor he is—as Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, one hopes that this film will take a more critical approach to the period’s racism than the first film possibly could.

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The trailer zips rather quickly through images of mid-20th-century America—“colored” and “whites only” entry ways, for instance. And it is one of many trailers this year to feature Jay-Z, who is, perhaps, becoming a movie-promotion cliché. But in this instance his lyrics could hardly be more appropriate: “I Brooklyn Dodger them / I jack, I rob, I sin / A-men, I’m Jackie Robin-son,” he raps on the track, “Brooklyn (We Go Hard).”

Most tellingly, although Ford is the big star, director and writer Brian Helgeland appears, thankfully, more focused on Robinson and the incredible abuse he had to endure on and off the field, from rivals and fellow teammates alike. One hopes that Boseman will prove a smart choice for the role of the legend. Judging from this trailer, at least, he looks up to the task.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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