Picture source: http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Greatest Death There Ever Was

The Natural (Director's Cut)Before you begin reading, you should go and watch The Natural. It is one of the greatest sports movies ever and this post is all about it. So, go. (Yes, it's from 1984. I don't care. I just watched it the other day. Give me a break.)

Quick summation for those of you who haven't seen it in awhile: Roy Hobbs is a young phenom pitcher from a farm. He is on his way to the big city to try out for a team. Along the way he encounters a woman who appears to be attracted to skilled players. When they both reach the city, she invites him to her room. Once there, she shoots him and then kills herself. The film jumps to several years later where Hobbs is a rookie right fielder for the New York Knights. Hobbs isn't started until necessity requires it and then he hits the cover off the ball. He soon becomes the star player. The Knights are in an ownership struggle. The bad owner, The Judge (we know he's bad because he likes the dark), will retain control if the Knights don't win the pennant. For this reason he attempts to bribe Hobbs so he can retain control of the team. Hobbs continually declines. Towards the end of the season Roy ends up in the hospital. It turns out that he still had the bullet inside him and it was destroying his stomach. The doctor says that if he wants to live, Roy needs to stop playing baseball immediately. Roy ignores this advice so that he can do the right thing and help his team win the pennant. Roy wins the game with a miraculous home run in the bottom of the ninth. We are then treated to a brief scene of Roy and his son, who he only learned about just before his game-winning home run, playing catch on Roy's old family farm. The End.

Or is it? Cause it kind of looks like Roy Hobbs died on the field.

Hobbs's injury seems to be worse that anybody thought because it is actually oozing.
At this point in the game, Hobbs is down to his last swing. And unlike the mighty Casey, we're lead to believe that Roy Hobbs succeeded. However, I think with the last swing Roy Hobbs ruptured his wound to the point that he died. The reasons I think so are numerous. He is shown to be woozy and barely able to walk on occasion. The umpire even asks if Roy is ok. This is not a man who is about to hit the greatest home run of all time. Not only that but the home run is filled with some interesting imagery.

Things then slow down. I know this can be done for dramatic effect, but here I believe it is applied to create a surreal quality. The reason I also believe this is that when Hobbs swings the crowd is blacked out, so we only see him. Then the ball that Hobbs hit, creates a "bright light."
Hobbs then runs the bases while the field, and presumably the crowd, is showered with sparks and probably glass.

Hobbs crosses home plate in the dark. We catch a brief glimpse of how excited his team is. We're then treated to a shot of a slow moving baseball traveling among the sparks. This is probably intended to represent Hobbs's soul traveling to Heaven. We don't see the celebration of Hobbs and his teammates in the clubhouse. We don't see them playing in the World Series. We don't see the reconciliation of Hobbes and the mother of his child. We don't see the introduction of him to his boy. Instead, we just see ball. Then we see the ball land in Hobbs's son's glove. The boy is in a field with his mother and father. Hobbs and the boy are playing catch and we can see they are all truly happy.
And then that's it. The movie is over. Hobbs has to be dead and in Heaven. His team lost the game. The Judge took over control of the team. And that story isn't as happy. Which is why we're shown Hobbs in the afterlife, enjoying himself.

Whether he lived or died, we can all say, "There goes Roy Hobbs. The best there ever was."

Think I got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments.