Film / The Natural

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Roy Hobbs: I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book.
Iris Gaines: And then?
Roy Hobbs: And then? And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said 'there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game'.

Based on the 1952 novel by Bernard Malamud, The Natural is a 1984 film directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a supernaturally gifted young baseball talent whose career is derailed when he is shot in the gut by a deranged fan. Sixteen years later he makes his belated big league debut, but his dark secret threatens to destroy him.

Also stars Wilford Brimley as New York Knights manager Pop Fisher, Glenn Close as Hobbs' childhood girlfriend Iris Gaines, and Robert Duvall as sportswriter Max Mercy.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Roy in his younger days. He develops into a (very downplayed) Broken Ace after the incident that ruined his early career.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: A male version with Roy, who expresses interest in Harriet (until she reveals herself to be a Loony Fan) and pursues a relationship with Memo despite being cautioned against it. The trope is ultimately subverted when he chooses Iris in the end.
  • And Then What?: Both Harriet and Iris pointedly ask Roy at different times what his plan is for after becoming "the best there ever was in this game."
  • Artistic License Ė Sports: The New York Knights somehow are batting in the bottom of the inning in Chicago despite being the visiting teamnote .
  • Betty and Veronica: Iris and Memo, one sweet and innocent, one a sexual temptress.
  • Big Game: The National League pennant race comes down to the last day, with the Knights and their rivals facing off in the last game.
  • Book Ends: The movie begins with young Roy playing catch with his father in a field on their farm, and ends with adult Roy playing catch with his son in what appears to be the same field.
  • Call Back:
    • Roy, a young natural talent, strikes out The Whammer early in the film, right after Max calls Whammer the best there ever was. Roy becomes determined to earn that title for himself, and during the climax of the film he is almost struck out by a young pitcher who the radio announcer describes as "a natural", and who will clearly one day become a legend in his own right. The man even looks a little bit like a young Robert Redford.
    • About a third of the way through the film, the Knights' bat boy Bobby Savoy comments that he wishes he had a bat of his own, and Roy agrees to make one with him. After Wonderboy breaks in the climactic game, Bobby loans him the bat he and Roy made, and Roy sends the next pitch crashing into a lighting tower.
  • Calling Your Shots: Subverted: The Whammer (a Babe Ruth expy) calls his shot in an impromptu showdown with young Roy Hobbs, but goes down on strikes.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Roy has a nightmare involving the woman who shot him (while in bed with Memo), and jerks awake in fright.
  • The Conspiracy: A bit of exposition reveals that Pop Fisher owes a lot of money to the Judge, and bet his share in the New York Knights franchise against the forgiveness of the debt that the Knights would win the league pennant. The Judge conspires with a bookie and Fisher's own niece to fix the Knights' games so Fisher loses the bet, but Hobbs' talent and personal integrity become the Spanner in the Works.
  • Dark Is Evil: Implied with the Judge, who refuses to light his office. Roy doesn't hold this belief, saying that the only thing he knows about the dark is "you can't see in it."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Roy likes to sneak these into conversation now and then.
    Max: You read my mind.
    Roy: That takes all of three seconds.
  • Destructive Savior: Roy may have saved the Knights and Pop Fisher's career, but he smashes up a hell of a lot of ballpark with his home runs in the process.
  • Disney Villain Death: Of the not-family-friendly variety. Harriet Bird jumps out a high window in a black negligee after shooting Roy. The Judge later shows Roy the gory crime scene photographs in an attempt at blackmailing him to stay out of the league pennant game.
  • Down to the Last Play: Roy's walkoff homer off the lighting tower to win the pennant.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from the novel by Bernard Malamud. Malamud's novel is considerably darker in tone and has a Downer Ending in which Hobbs strikes out at the end and is disgraced, while the movie has a completely opposite ending. Also, in the book, Hobbs becomes an arrogant Jerkass as a result of his sudden fame, whereas he remains a goal-oriented Nice Guy in the movie.
  • First Girl Wins/Victorious Childhood Friend: Roy refuses to throw the game and run away with Memo, and the final scene shows him playing catch with his son while Iris watches with a smile.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Max is introduced reading a news story about two famous athletes who were both shot with silver bullets. Harriet enters the train-car moments later and begins eyeing Whammer. After Roy strikes out the Whammer on a bet, she switches targets and shoots him instead.
    • The first time we see Roy miss a pitch is at the carnival when Harriet (along with Max and Whammer) comes over to watch his throwing. This foreshadows the slump he goes through later, during his relationship with Memo.
  • Friend to All Children: Roy goes out of his way to be kind and friendly with every child he meets.
  • Gaussian Girl: A male example for the early scenes where 48-year-old Robert Redford is asked to play a teenager.
  • Give Me a Sword: A baseball bat, this time. "Pick me a winner, Bobby."
  • Hero of Another Story: The young pitcher who faces off against Hobbs in the final game, and who nearly strikes Hobbs out, is described by the game's radio announcer in the same terms that Hobbs is described at the beginning of the movie. This pitcher is another "Natural", and its clear that, given time, he'll end up being one of the greatest players in the game, just like Hobbs.
  • His Story Repeats Itself: Memo pulls a gun on Roy during her Villainous Breakdown. She doesn't shoot him, but he's understandably unnerved at the sight (considering what happened to him sixteen years before), and he visibly relaxes after taking it away from her. Then he hangs a lampshade on the parallel by telling her she was right; they have met before.
  • How We Got Here: A subtle example. The film opens with a scene of Roy boarding a train as an adult, then flashes back to his childhood and days as a young, up and coming pitcher. After the incident that ends his career before it even starts, the film cuts to sixteen years later and shows Roy arriving at the Knight's ballpark in the middle of a game, wearing the same clothing as the opening scene.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Judge berates Roy for turning down his bribe to throw the game by declaring "I thought I could rely on your honor!"
  • I Call It "Vera": "Wonderboy", Roy's bat. And later, Bobby's "Savoy Special."
  • Karma Houdini: Memo, Gus and the Judge get no comeuppance at the end, though the Judge does lose his shares to Pops.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie has a Happy Ending, unlike the book.
  • Living Legend: Becoming one is Roy's biggest dream in life. He succeeds.
    "There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game."
  • Loony Fan: Of the very creepy variety. Harriet Bird turns out to be the briefly-mentioned lunatic responsible for killing star athletes with silver bullets.
    "Are you the best there ever was?"
  • A Master Makes Their Own Tools: At the beginning of the movie, lightning strikes an oak tree outside the family home. Obviously, the thing to do is to turn the wood into a regulation baseball bat and use it to start a career as a professional baseball player.
  • Missing Mom: Roy's mother is never seen or mentioned, which raises some interesting questions about who exactly took care of him after the death of his father.
  • Mood Whiplash: Bump Bailey's death occurs during a game where he's playing exceptionally well, and the coaches are congratulating each other on successfully motivating him to play better. Then he crashes through the outfield wall while chasing a ball and it cuts to a radio announcer describing his funeral while his ashes are scattered on the field. The whole thing comes completely out of nowhere.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The film makes games in which Hobbs plays seem like Ragnarok. Hobbs knocks the cover off of balls, wedges the ball into the net when he pitches, and at the end his home run hit destroys the lighting fixtures, causing explosions of sparks to rain down on the field as he rounds the bases.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • "The Whammer", played by Joe Don Baker, is obviously inspired by Babe Ruth: they look an awful lot alike and the Whammer has a reputation as a tremendous home run hitter (though this is an Informed Attribute courtesy of Roy's right arm).
    • Roy Hobbs is something of a Composite Character inspired by both Ruth and Ted Williams. both a tremendous pitcher (he strikes out the Whammer) and a fearsome slugger, much as Ruth was in real life. Williams was also a decent pitcher who was quickly changed to a left fielder while still in the minors, wore the number 9, and hit a home run in his last at bat of his career.
  • Noodle Incident: Baseball players are renowned for being hilariously superstitious. For the Knights, the number 11 is unlucky for some unexplained reason, and their supply manager warns Roy off.
  • Paparazzi: Sportswriter (and sports cartoonist) Max Mercy comes off as this, seemingly just as interested in baseball scandals and scoops as in baseball itself, and unknowingly aids and abets The Conspiracy on a number of occasions.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Knights manager Pop Fisher is initially highly reluctant to let his absurdly old rookie play in a game. He finally relents for batting practice after Hobbs loses his temper at him when Fisher announces he's sending Hobbs down to the Knights' minor league farm team, and Hobbs' talent for long fly balls convinces Fisher to let him try it for real.
  • Redemption Quest
  • Running Gag: "I shoulda been a farmer."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Roy's statement he wants people on the street to say "There goes Roy Hobbs, the greatest hitter who ever lived" was something Ted Williams stated.
    • The whole plot appears to be heavily influenced by Greek Mythology and Homer's writings. Roy is Odysseus, the hero trying to find his way home. Max Mercy is Vulcan, the God of Fire and Forging; he can "make or break" upcoming ball players and is always seen in red or brown clothing. Pop Fisher is Zeus, King of the Gods; his uniform is #1 and both the oak tree and lightning bolt are his symbols. The Judge is Hades, God of the Underworld; he is always in the dark a.k.a. death, and the dead are "judged" in the underworld. Memo Paris is Kalypso, a sea nymph who had an affair with Odysseus and held/distracted him from returning home. Gus Sands is the Cyclops with the one strange eye. Iris Gaines is Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who patiently and faithfully waited for her true love to return home. Lampshaded early in the film when Harriet Bird compares Roy striking out the Whammer to something out of Homer.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Iris has a secret.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: To keep the Knight's from winning their next few games, Memo offers an unsuspecting Roy a bite of drugged food at a party. He ends up ill and has to be rushed to the hospital, where he spends several days recovering.
  • The Thirties: The commemorative centennial patches on the left arm of the Knight's uniforms indicate that the later part of the film takes place during the 1939 season.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Paul Sullivan Jr. as Young Roy, and Rachel Hall as Young Iris.
  • Throwing the Fight: The Judge wants his own players to throw the climactic game so that he can force out Pop Fisher and take total control of the team.
  • Truth in Television: Players have indeed hit home runs into scoreboard clocks, light arrays, and through the outfield fence. When Greg "The Bull" Luzinski was playing for the Phillies back in the 1970s, he hit a ball off the Jumbotron. It started smoking and they had to turn it off.
  • The Vamp: Pop Fisher's niece, Memo Paris, is in cahoots with the conspiracy trying to fix games to take the NY Knights franchise away from Fisher, using her attributes to distract the Knights' top players and cost them games.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Eddie Waitkus was shot in the chest in his hotel room by a deranged fan in 1949. He recovered from his wound and played six more seasons in the big leagues, starring with the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Philadelphia team that won the National League pennant.
    • Bump Bailey's fatal collision with an outfield wall was inspired by a similar (but thankfully non-fatal) accident involving talented young Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Memo pulls a gun on Roy when he tells The Judge that he's not going to throw the game, since it also means that he's refusing to run away with her like she begged him to.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Max Mercy.
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: How Bump Bailey meets his end, courtesy of an outfield wall.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Le Morte d'Arthur, right down to the manager's name being Fisher (Fisher King), the team being called The Knights, Roy's bat being named (as Excalibur was), broken, and "healed" (in this case, a replacement). Except unlike Arthur, in the movie Roy Hobbs wins his final battle and lives to retire in apparent happiness.
  • Woman in White: Iris, when she attends the baseball game in which Roy breaks his batting slump. She's even back-lit by the sun so it looks like she's glowing.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: The bullet in Roy's gut, which is still bleeding nearly 20 years after he got shot.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheNatural