is Oliver Stone's epic, typically portentous homage to the band that soundtracked his youth. As is generally the case with Stone's films, its scope is impressively wide. He places The Doors at the eye of a 1960s cultural and political maelstrom through which passes Andy Warhol, Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy among others. But the details and dialogue often jar badly: the scenes in which various gilded youths imbibe the young Jim Morrison's early efforts at lyrics as if they were anything beyond dreadful sophomoric doggerel are a particular strain on the credulity. The film's central conceit--that Morrison's body was somehow inhabited at an early age by the spirit of a Navajo medicine man--makes the deranged conspiracies of JFK
seem plausible by comparison.
The Doors is redeemed by Stone's ability with ambitious set-pieces (the concert scenes are terrific) and a tremendous performance from Val Kilmer, who plays Jim Morrison as a pompous, self-regarding oaf who treats bandmates, friends and women appallingly. While this may well have been the case it is debatable whether Stone intended to show his hero in such an unflattering light: the closing scenes in Pere Lachaise cemetery, which linger over the graves of Wilde, Molière and Flaubert before arriving at Morrison's witlessly vandalised plot, certainly suggest a belief on Stone's part that the author of the ridiculous "American Prayer" has earned a place in the literary pantheon. This film fails to make a convincing case for that but, like Morrison's own work, is a compelling, cautionary illustration of what a supremely ordinary singer and songwriter is allowed to get away with if he looks good in leather trousers.
On the DVD: The Doors Special Edition has the benefit of a bewildering array of special features, though many are less impressive than their billing: the "Behind the Scenes" documentary is eight minutes of apparently random footage of the film being made, and the making-of documentary isn't much more illuminating. The interviews with the cast are also on the desultory side. There is a conventional scene selector and another that allows the viewer to choose from the songs that appear in the soundtrack. There are also several sound options and subtitles. Most useful of all is the illuminating and engaging running commentary by Oliver Stone. --Andrew Mueller
Oliver Stone directs this film biography of Jim Morrison, lead singer of the celebrated 1960s rock group The Doors. It traces the group's road to success, from their first rehearsal sessions through to their sell-out live concerts, and follows Morrison on the self-destructive path which would eventually take him to an early death. Starring Val Kilmer as Morrison, Meg Ryan as his girlfriend Pamela Courson, and Kyle MacLachlan as Ray Manzarek, the band's organist.
Oliver Stone might have considered his film a tribute to the enduring power of the Doors' music, but he seems to have also intended it as a cautionary tale on the perils of both celebrity and substance abuse. Starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison, the film focuses on the Lizard King from his days as a UCLA film student in the early 1960s to his death in a Paris hotel in 1971. In the early days of the group's formation, Morrison is at his most benign; he's just a guy hanging out at the beach writing poetry. But as the Doors' fame begins to spread--with Morrison as the focus of attention--his drug consumption and erratic behavior increase exponentially. The rest of the band--Ray Manzarek (Kyle McLachalan), John Densmore (Kevin Dillon), and Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley)--begins to grow tired of his late arrivals, the increasing number of cancellations, and the drunken recording sessions requiring infinite retakes. But no one can help Morrison as he spirals downward into an inferno of drugs, alcohol, public obscenity, and depression. Kilmer gives an excellent performance, including a frighteningly accurate imitation of Morrison's singing. Stone's intimate familiarity with SoCal in the 1960s also provides the film with a high degree of surface verisimilitude.
Special features include:
- Back to the Roots: Exclusive documentary (52min)
- Jim Morrison: A Poet In Paris (55min)