Film Analysis Of The Natural – Part One: The Use Of Timeline

The Natural is a 1984 film based on the novel by the same name by Bernard Malamud, which was published in 1952. It was directed by Barry Levison and the screenplay was written by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry. It’s the story of fictional baseball great, Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford).

The Story

When he’s sixteen he gets a tryout with the Chicago Cubs. The train stops at a carnival and Hobbs strikes out a Babe Ruthish baseball star simply known as The Whammer (Joe Don Baker). A woman on the train named Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey) met Hobbs, and later in Chicago she invites Hobbs to her room. She shoots him and then jumps out of the window.

Fifteen years later Hobbs signs a major league contract with the New York Knights, a fictional team. The manager and part owner, Pop Fisher (Wilfred Brimley) refuses to play Hobbs. In time he becomes the starting Right Fielder and plays quite well. The team is inspired to play well. Hobs dates Fisher’s niece, Memo Paris (Kim Basenger), and she ends up being bad luck because Hobbs goes into a hitting slump.

At a game in Chicago, Hobbs’s old girlfriend from his teenage years, Iris Gaines (Glen Close). When he sees her in the stands, he hits a homerun that shatters the scoreboard clock. Hobbs wants to help Pop win a pennant because if he does, then contractually Pop can buy out his partner, a man simply known as the Judge (Robert Prosky). Hobbs gets pressure from the Judge, Meno, and a gambler named Gus Sands (Darren McGavin) to not play, but Hobbs overcomes all, including his health problems from the bullet in the stomach, and wins the pennant for Pop Fisher.

The Timeline

The original 1984 release told the story in a straight-forward linear means, just like the novel. But on the 30th anniversary DVD, Levison re-edited the beginning. The first act is Hobbs on the Train to New York to play for the Knights. On the train, everything from his youth up to his getting shot is shown as a flashbacks, as if Hobbs were reminiscing about his first chance at the Big League, which ended tragically.

Having seen both, I prefer to the original linear storyline. It’s almost as if Levison edited the beginning knowing people were already familiar with the 1984 release. It was as if Levison made the changes for people who already knew the story. If the non-linear/flashback version were the original release, it would not have made as much sense, and I feel that The Natural would not be the cinematic treasure that it is.

The flashback version skips quickly over Hobbs’s past. This edition focuses on his days with the Knights, but his early days are still important to the story. To me, this edition weakens the character development of Hobbs, but also Iris Gaines. Still, the re-edition I still basically true to the Malamud novel, which I highly recommend. And it is the cream of the crop for baseball movies.

Movieclips. (October 25, 2012). The Natural (1/8) Movie CLIP – Striking Out The Whammer (1984) HD [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdtCFKVtSls

 Crackle. (January 21, 2010).The Natural. Roy Hobbs smashes the clock tower at Wrigley Field. Mammoth home run [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3w0FLxdEKk

 Crackle. (June 15, 2011). The Natural – The Final Homerun [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjk3RsytFZg

 

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