Despite having heard of it for some time, I’d never seen Field of Dreams until now. Besides the whole “If you build it, he will come” shtick, I didn’t know much about it other than it starred Kevin Costner and it involved baseball. Having seen it now, I can certainly tell you that… well, that it stars Kevin Costner and it involves baseball. There’s more to it than that, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t all click together for me. There was enough sentimentality and fantasy elements to keep me entertained, but to me, they ended up just being individual elements; they didn’t bond together into a cohesive whole. I’ll explain.
Costner, in the role that would cement his status as a box office draw, is Ray Kinsella, and the film spends its first few minutes or so extolling a montage of exposition and images detailing Ray’s life up to the point the actual story of the film starts; an arbitrary and contrived decision, in my opinion, but one that the film is largely forced into in order to start the film off proper without having to spend a third of its running time setting up everything. From there, the film pretty much drops right into Costner hearing the voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come”, and he is compelled to tear up a good chunk of his farmland property to build a baseball field. Further proclamations from the voice, as well as some ghostly baseball figures appearing on the field to play prompt him to seek further goals, until it all comes together in the end. Or, well, doesn’t. And that’s the main problem I had with Field of Dreams; it never fully comes together. Spoiler alerts aside, the other proclamations the voice tells Costner lead him to pick up a fading-into-obscurity writer, who had a childhood dream of playing baseball, and search for an old baseball player who played in a single game without an at-bat, who turns out to have passed away some years before. When the group, which somehow includes the dead player, goes back to Ray’s farm in the culmination of the film, each ends up there with the other ghostly baseball players, and then… nothing. Their individual storylines are technically wrapped up, but not in a really satisfying way, and definitely not in an overarching manner; the whole film just seemed to be one arbitrary move after another, with the characters doing what they are compelled to do solely because the story demands that they do it at that time, and not for any real reason. Maybe I was a bit misguided to think that there would be an all-encompassing plan for everything when I first heard the voice start to talk to Costner, but I think I can be a little forgiven for making that assumption in the first place.
Now, all that said, I still liked this a good deal. It had a definite sense of wonder and magic about it, which worked to the film’s strengths immensely; the performances were very good, the cinematography was quite striking at the times when it needed to be, and the film rarely seemed to make a wrong move. It just so happened that, in my opinion, it didn’t end up making enough of the right moves to really form a cohesive storyline. The level of sentimentality was also extremely high, especially involving Costner’s character and his father, which really forms the root of the film’s exploration, but I would be forgiving to any who would feel the film delves a little too far into the saccharine. Looking online at other reviews, I’ve found that many try and make explicit mention that this is “more than just a baseball or sports movie”, and I’d have to agree with that assessment, but as for how much more it is, that I can’t say, and it seems that neither can most of the reviewers I looked over; Field of Dreams, to them, just had that intangible, incomprehensible quality about it that made it great, and hugely affecting. I thought it was very good, but for me, that was about it.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10