Directed by Oliver Stone
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080pAVC codec
Running Time: 138 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: August 12, 2008
Review Date: July 26, 2008
Oliver Stone’s The Doors is an audacious, moderately successful attempt to catch the essence of a man and an era. Focusing on the formation of the seminal 1960s rock group The Doors and the metamorphosis of its lead singer Jim Morrison, The Doors is filled with moments of brilliance, but it lacks depth and seems more interested in kinetic effect than psychological probing. At the end, we’re not sure we know any more about the man and his mission than we did at the beginning, to know what made him tick, and the sense of a life lost without fulfillment doesn’t rock us as it should have. The film has big moments but lacks big emotions.
Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer as an adult) is seen first as a youngster witnessing a tragic car accident involving some Indians, a calamity that haunts him to his dying day. Morrison identifies with the Indian medicine man, and on stage later in one of his drug-induced stupors, he imagines one or more of the tribe confronting him with visions of his own doom, a doom he rushes to meet as many do who come into great wealth quickly and overdose on alcohol, drugs, and sex. Before his downfall, however, we see him as a dissatisfied UCLA film student and then quickly meeting band members who will soon become the musicians in a rock band with him as lead singer. He exudes incredible sex appeal and sensitivity on stage, and that combination of looks and a mellow voice take them to the top quickly, soon appearing on CBS’ top-rated "The Ed Sullivan Show.” His refusal to compromise his lyrics on-camera is the beginning of the group’s slowly building dissatisfaction with Morrison’s behavior both on and off the stage. (In the film, we never again hear Morrison’s voice without the off key rasp of too much alcohol or drugs at its core.)
Val Kilmer seems to embody the physical and mental persona of Morrison, and it’s a tour de force performance in its wildly growing manic sensibilities. Oliver Stone and Randal Johnson’s script, however, doesn’t offer up any insights into Morrison’s soul. We see a spoiled celebrity with more money and fame than he can handle racing ever-faster toward his demise, but the core of his unhappiness, the sense of dissatisfaction with his art, is given short shrift. The three other members of the group played by Kyle MacLachlan, Kevin Dillon, and Frank Whaley are fundamentally shortchanged despite the movie being called The Doors, so we never get inside their heads either. We see drug experimentation, but what made them turn away from the stuff while Morrison embraced it? The movie offers few answers.
The women in Morrison’s life aren’t handled especially well either. Meg Ryan in particular is offered a clichéd character as Jim’s common law wife Pam, a valley girl who quickly succumbs to the lure of drugs. More interesting is a journalist who seems to embody more of what Morrison is seeking in terms of sophistication played superlatively by Kathleen Quinlan. Though the role is also underwritten, Quinlan triumphs over the mediocre script and develops a genuinely interesting character, one we’d like to know much better. Crispin Glover is a hoot as stonefaced, stoned Andy Warhol, and Billy Idol, Dennis Burkley, and Michael Masden also turn up as members of Morrison’s entourage.
A couple of concert sequences in the film capture the raw, lacerating and unpredictable vibe of Morrison’s live performances through expert Stone direction. An inventive sequence as Morrison participates in a photography shoot and an upsetting Thanksgiving celebration ruined by drugs and the band’s deteriorating unity are also beautifully staged and filmed by the director. Still, the surface glitz is there to see, but the heart and soul of the participating characters is unfortunately missing in action.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though the transfer is sharp and mostly artifact free, flesh tones seem a bit on the brown side. Blacks are deep, and shadow detail is quite good. The slightest bit of line twitter is present but otherwise the transfer seems solid. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is a solid sound mix, but for a film this music heavy, the low end seems a bit lacking, and not enough is done to use the rear surrounds imaginatively. It’s a good audio track but not a great one.
Director Oliver Stone contributes a quietly delivered audio commentary. Though there are dry patches where there is no talking (more as the film progresses), Stone’s comments don’t probe much and aren’t always that interesting. It’s a very easygoing track. I found it funny that he doesn't even introduce himself to the listening audience. A few minutes into the film, he just starts talking.
“The Doors in LA” is a 19 ½ minute look back on the inspiration for making of the film and comments on its authenticity by director Oliver Stone and original band members John Densmore and Robby Kreiger. It’s presented in 1080p.
“Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris” is a 52-minute French documentary (with English subtitles) focusing on Morrison’s final few months living in Paris before his death. Conversations with people who knew him at the time and the mistakes made in investigating his death are all quite interesting making this the best bonus on the disc. It’s presented in 480p.
“The Road to Excess” is a 38-minute combination of making of featurette and biography of Jim Morrison featuring real footage of the singer and interviews with those who knew him including the real Patricia Kennealy (played in the film by Kathleen Quinlan). It’s in 480i.
The original 1991 EPK featurette on the making of the movie runs 6 ¼ minutes and is in 480i.
14 deleted scenes can be watched individually or in one 43 ½-minute chunk. There is also an Oliver Stone introduction to the clips which can also be played separately. In it, he explains why certain of these scenes were cut, but only a few are mentioned in his introduction.
The original theatrical trailer (1 ¼ minutes in 480i) and 5 TV spots (running 3 minutes total) can be selected.
The disc offers previews for Rambo, 3:10 to Yuma, Belly, Step Into Liquid, and Crank.
Oliver Stone’s The Doors doesn’t burrow under the surface of these musicians and explore their psyches in any meaningful way, but it does a more than average job capturing a feeling of an era with an unflinching eye.