The Natural is a film based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Malamud. Tells the story of a man with a gift, who after 16 years of being away, returns to play the game he loves baseball. As a young kid Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) loved to play baseball with his dad in a farm. One day his dad died mysteriously under a tree. That same tree where his dad had died under is struck by lightning and split in half. Roy carves a bat from that very tree and names it “Wonderboy.” Now 19, Roy has gotten the opportunity to try-out for the Chicago Cubs and is on his way there. During a train stop, Roy is challenged by The Whammer (Joe Don Baker) to strike him out. Roy strikes him out in front of a crown and sportswriter named Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) manages to catch the action to make a post on the newspaper on the following day. Roy’s sudden popularity gains the eye of Harriet Byrd (Barbara Hershey) who is only going around shooting athletes and Roy is to become her next victim.
The story is skipped forward 16 years and Roy Hobbs has returned to play baseball once again for a National League team, the New York Knights (fictitious). At 35 years old he was to make his rookie debut in the majors much to the dislike of coach/co-owner Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley), who refuses to give him a chance. When Pop finally allows Roy, his incredible ability allows him and his team to shine bringing him much adoration from the fans and trouble he possibly is not looking for. He is to see what greatness feels like, but must be able to learn from his mistakes. Roy must now look back at his past and learn from his suffering. If not, then he is destined to continue on the same path that has kept him from the game he loves, baseball.
The Natural features a great story and it’s a great adaptation from the book. I suppose when you look at it you can probably see a life story, were you take on life and as you progress you will either learn from your passed mistakes to make yourself better or ignore and continue down the wrong path. The Natural not only has a fascinating story from the man who came from nowhere to beat all odds, but leaves me with the thought of how a person’s perseverance can take you a long way. Robert Redford gives life to Roy Hobbs and well he does an excellent job at it. The ensemble cast was perfect as well. I enjoyed the way the filmmakers managed to capture the look of the 20s and 30s to perfection. The clothes, the way people talk, venues, etc. all done with careful attention. The Natural has that essence of baseball which radiates throughout the film, I am not baseball fan by any means, but I can see how such inspirational film can truly show why the sport was/is called America’s favorite pass time.
To sum up this great story is the musical score of the film is fantastic. Randy Newman’s score is simply incredible, well fitted for a film like The Natural. It sets the tones during the key scenes of the film and draws inspiration inside of you as you are watching what is happening in the movie. The Natural has become one of my instant favorite films for its content, theme, and solid story and I have no doubt it will captivate anyone willing to give it a try.
The Natural arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode framed at 1.85:1. For a film that’s 26 years old it sure looks magnificent, I wouldn’t expect any lesser for one of Robert Redford’s great movies. From early on the film viewers will instantly see how the colors are beautifully rendered and reproduced from the golden wheat fields to the long stretches of green grass everything looks magnificent. Vibrant greens, the blue in the sky, yellows, browns, etc. all looks right down amazing. Black levels are stable and well reproduced. Picture detail is excellent, textures are never hide from the eyes of the viewers, and very well reproduced throughout. Skin tones are also spot-on throughout the film. All this is topped with a fine layer of grain to give a more film like touch. There are a few scenes which are a bit soft, but are really nothing major. This is not the cleanest looking picture but it’s magnificent nonetheless, Sony’s touch and handiwork has left me impressed from beginning to end.
The Natural arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. From the minute you start the film to the end credits viewers will be captivated Randy Newman’s score. Oh is just simply beautiful. It was perhaps one of the first few things I noticed from this track, it reproduced with such fidelity it captures and engulfs with the beautiful melodies. The dialog has absolutely no problems being reproduced and is perfectly prioritized. The directionality is excellent and the bass is reserved, but is put to good use when needed. This is not the best audio track out there, but it sure does a hell of a job for this film. Sony did an excellent job that I am sure viewers will appreciate.
The Natural comes to Blu-ray with a decent amount of extras and we can’t ask for much more than that. Check below for a breakdown of the supplements.
When Lighting Strikes: Creating The Natural – This is a three-piece featurette. First, Pre-Game: A Novelist Steps Up to the Plate let’s a few personalities and historians, including Malamud’s own daughter, talk about the man behind the book ‘The Natural’. Second, The Line-Up: Assembling the Moviemaking Team let’s the filmmakers talk about the difficulties and all around production issues before beginning to shoot the film. Lastly, Let’s Play Ball: Filming the Show allows actors and filmmakers to share anecdotes of things that occurred during the film of the movie.
Extra Innings – This is a four-piece featurette. First, Slow Motion allows Caleb Deschanel Director of Photography to talk about the slow motion scenes used in the film. Second, Uniform Color allows Bernie Pollack Costume Designer to share how he managed to pull off the uniforms in the film. Third, The Sandberg Game let’s Bob Costas and Ryne Sandberg talk about the comparisons between the player and how the essence of the film is reflect on Sandberg’s winning home runs. Lastly, The President’s Question features Phil Dusenberry and Roger Towne talking about the meaning behind the woman in black featured in the film.
Clubhouse Conversations – This features professional baseball players talking about anecdotes of when they were kids playing baseball.
A Natural Gunned Down: The Stalking of Eddie Waitkus – This is the story of Eddie Waitkus and his tragic event. This was the basis of the woman in black in the film.
Knights in Shining Armor: The Mythology of “The Natural” – This feature different persons talking about what Bernard Malamud saw in the sport of baseball.
The Heart of the “The Natural” – Features Cal Ripken Jr. talks about baseball and uses excerpts from the film to talk about personal moments and anecdotes.
Previews – Features movie trailers for “Ghostbusters”, “A River Runs Through It” and “Facing The Giants”.
The Natural offers an incredible story of a beaten man resurrecting to do what he loves the most, play baseball. A cast of Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Glenn Close, among others make this excellent tale worth watching. Sony has done an excellent job with the video and audio transfers for this film and believe it or not it will leave you impressed with the quality. There is a fair amount of supplements included in this release to keep the viewers entertained after the film is over. This is a no brainer and it comes highly recommended.
The screen captures are only a small representation of what the Blu-ray looks like and are not representative of Blu-ray’s true quality.