The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Tri-Star Pictures - 1984
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 138 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English/French/Portuguese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Starring: Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Wilford Brimley, Kim Basinger, Richard Farnsworth, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Robert Prosky, Darin McGavin, Joe Don Baker
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Music by: Randy Newman
Written by: Roger Towne & Phil Dusenbury based on the novel by Bernard Malamud
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: April 6, 2010
"My Dad wanted me to be a baseball player"
The Natural follows the epic journey of Roy Hobbs. A once-promising ballplayer on his way to stardom in the big leagues, Hobbs finds his dreams shattered when a mysterious woman and a silver bullet end his career prematurely. Sixteen years later, Hobbs, armed with his childhood bat "Wonderboy," finds himself coming back to baseball, joining the roster of the lowly New York Knights. Can Hobbs overcome physical pain - and nefarious forces around him - to lead the Knights to the pennant?
The Natural is an inspiring fable that begins when 14-year-old Roy Hobbs exhibits an natural talent for baseball that is cultivated by his father. When his father is tragically taken from him Roy fashions a powerful bat from an oak tree after it is split by lightning. In high school he impresses major league scouts with his ability, and after graduating is summoned to Chicago for a tryout with the Cubs. He leaves home and his childhood sweetheart Iris, with the promise to send for her, but a chance meeting with a mysterious woman shatters his dream. 16 years pass and an older Hobbs reappears as a rookie signed by The New York Knights. Overcoming physical pain and defying those who have a stake in seeing the Knights lose, Hobbs, with his boyhood bat, which he calls Wonderboy, get the chance to lead the Knights to the pennant and to finally fulfill his dream.
I love The Natural. I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea that it was based on the novel by Bernard Malamud. It has been a favorite of mine since I saw it in the theater when it was released in May of 1984. Being a baseball fan and player I was drawn to it. This isn't a complex story but it's stemmed deep in references to the game both in events and some of its memorable characters. It speaks to the mythology of baseball and has a timeless appeal that can be shared from one generation to the next. It isn't hard to become involved in its thematic fantasy thanks to the scope and enamor of its beautiful presentation as well as the depth of its meaty characters that as a whole complete the story. Caleb Deschanel's beautiful cinematography along with Randy's Newman's evocative and memorable music plays an integral role in the film. This was the first film for Tri-Star Pictures and the filmmakers assembled a terrific cast. In support of star Robert Redford each of the primary supporting players makes an essential contribution that solidifies the legitimacy of their characters and in turn the genuine appeal of the story itself. Large part or small with none noticeably standing out it is easy to appreciate enriching performances, such as the cantankerousness of Wilford Brimley's Pop Fisher, the ominous calm of Barbara Hershey's Harriet Bird, the glib pretentiousness of Robert Duvall's Max Mercy, or the sinister ruthlessness of Darrin McGavin's Gus Sands (to name a few), that as a whole come together to establish a strong thematic foundation.
For me The Natural has many moments that I find rewarding and memorable. I won't name them all but here are a few; the sequence where Roy breaks out of his slump in Chicago (where Iris stands up) by drilling a homer that shatters the clock (based on a real event by the way), the initial meeting between Roy and the Judge, the period style banter that goes back and forth between Max, Whammer, and Sam, and of course the showdown in the finale, the conclusion of which still gives me goose bumps. The film ends differently than the book but personally I think that its fairytale style ending is apropos. For me The Natural is a stirring and ageless film about larger than life heroes, redemption, and dreams that revolve around a sport that has touched the lives of many of us in one way or another. If we were to envision ourselves in a similar capacity what better way than to be fondly remembered by passersby as the greatest there ever was.
The rating is for brief violence and mild thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Natural comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 27 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 mbps.
This is a solid looking high definition Blu-ray catalog release from Sony. It boasts clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. The earth tones of the baseball fields/ball park appear very natural as the green grass, filtered sod, and delineated tones in the clothing, billboards and backgrounds have excellent depth. Reds are deeply saturated and brighter colors such as the yellow of the cabs in Chicago are rich and visually enticing. Resolution is definable with varying degrees of refinement that can be scene dependent. Sharpness wavers, which results in some scenes offering lucid clarity while others are noticeably lacking well defined edges and finely rendered detail. There are one or two instances where the image appears slightly out of focus (One occurs during the scene where Roy and Red are talking over dinner in the restaurant). Fidelity may be questionable here and there but I believe that in most instances these minor issues are innate and probably attributable to the use of lighting, hazy/smoke filled environs and the film stock used. Black and white levels are stable which gives a fair level of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low lit segments looking noticeably punchy with crisp, quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. The sequences shot in the Judges darkened office with light streaming through the blinds, as well as the moonlit barn where Iris and Roy meet early in the film are excellent examples of the presentation's strong depth and dimension. The light/dark contrast during the finale as the sparks of light rain down onto the dark ball field gives the shot strong dimensionality that borders on a 3D effect. Grain is present with a prominent texture and film like rendering that occasionally takes on heavier emphasis that some may find distracting but it never bothered me. Having seen this in the theater over 25 years ago I have no recollection of how this presentation compares. What I can state without equivocation is that I have never seen it look better on home video.
The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mix does a terrific job rendering the film's soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. This is a more or less front oriented presentation that makes good use of the entire system to deliver a seamlessly integrated audio experience that is highlighted by solid impact, defining clarity, and Randy Newman's memorable music score. Dynamic range is quite good and doesn't seem limited by the dated elements present in the recording. Sounds and effects have copious expression that extend well into the room. Surround activity isn't constant but when applied can be engaging as discernible spatial ambience and discrete sounds fill the listening area. The LFE channel is similarly used to add weight that extends low bass frequencies. The soundtrack runs the gamut and contains a variety of sounds/effects. Everything from the envelopment of cheering stadium crowds, to the crystal clarity of shattering press booth glass or the substantive low frequency response of clapping thunder exhibit refined definition, pinpoint imaging and tangible presence that belies its age. I thought that this lossless audio presentation was very well done and sounded terrific.
- When lightning strikes - Creating The Natural:
- Pregame: A novelist steps up to the plate - 9 minutes
- The lineup: Assembling the moviemaking team - 16 minutes
- Lets play ball: Filming the show - 23 minutes
- Extra innings - A series of short segments ( 6 minutes total):
- Slow motion
- Uniform color
- The Sandberg game
- The Presidents question
- Clubhouse conversations - 15 minute documentary
- A natural gunned down: The stalking of Eddie Waitkus - 17 minute documentary
- Knight in shining armor: The mythology of The Natural - 9 minute featurette
- The heart of The Natural: A short film by Charles Kiselyak - 44 minutes
- (HD) Previews: Ghostbusters, A river runs through it, Facing the giants
- BD-Live enabled
The Natural is a wonderful American sports film, based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Malamud, about a guy that never gives up on his dream of succeeding at the one thing he seemed destined to do, play professional baseball. It's a fairytale style story that appeals to the imagination and provides a rewarding level of escapism that makes it both memorable and fun. It is a personal favorite that I enjoy revisiting from time to time and I am thrilled that it has been released in high definition. It hits a home run in this fan friendly Blu-ray Disc offering from Sony that delivers excellent audio/video quality and a comprehensive bonus supplement package that looks behind the scenes from soup to nuts and includes retrospective/interviews from the cast, filmmakers, historians, and players. Not to be missed this is a must have for fans and comes highly recommended. Enjoy!
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package