I had a spare moment last night so I watched “When You’re Strange“, a new film about the Doors. Well… about Jim Morrison (no matter how much it stresses it isn’t).
So, before I go any further, this one’s quite simple. All fans of the Doors have to watch this film. There you go… there’s your review.
For the rest of you it may not be quite such a straightforward decision. This is how it is… I’m a huge fan. Being a huge fan means there’s stuff in this film that will astonish. I had never seen Jim’s ‘movies’ before and much of this film is taken from the ‘road movies’. Therefore you’re getting to see images of Jim Morrison that you may never have seen before. It’s one of those instances where it’s actually quite strange seeing such an iconic figure actually ‘moving around’ – In footage that isn’t from the Hollywood Bowl etc. This is footage of him actually walking/driving around. Doesn’t sound like much of a revelation? Well, believe me, it actually is!
The film starts off brilliantly. Beautifully you might say. I won’t spoil it too much… but the way the very beginning has been edited is perfect. Jim driving along, listening to the reports of his own death on the car stereo. Just superb. So I sit back and think “wow, this is really going to be something”… and, well, it kind of is and it kind of isn’t.
For those of you who are less aux-fait with the Doors you might very well be better off watching the much derided Oliver Stone film. It is a far more enjoyable re-telling of the myth that became the Doors. Val Kilmer was excellent in my humble opinion… and although it showed Jim Morrison in a pretty angelic light, it still hangs together better as an “all you need to know” account of the Doors.
So, why doesn’t this ‘documentary’ work quite as well as it should? Mainly due to the horrendous script. At times it is jarringly bad! I can only hope that it is that way on purpose. But I have the horrible feeling that it really is just plain bad. A kind of antithesis of the Oliver Stone movie that I can only assume has been written that way to please the haters of that film. To dispel a lot of the ‘mystical’ elements and try to show Jim Morrison as a human being – towards the end a shambling alcoholic who went off the rails.
And, just to give a little extra polish to the awful script comes one of the worst narrations I have ever heard. Note to everyone – DO NOT GIVE JOHNNY DEPP A JOB AS NARRATOR EVER AGAIN!!! I cannot stress this enough. Talk about taking the soul from a film. He is a drag. He sounds bored… he probably was bored. I’m not even sure from watching the film whether Jonny Depp even likes the Doors?!? It really is that bad!
Anyway… ha ha! The good points! Hmmmm… look, for everything I’ve just said there are actually many good points. There’s the reminder of just how great the Doors were. The (brief) reminder of how great each individual was within the Doors. The footage of them behind the scenes and the carnage of some of those gigs. A reminder that even though I view the Doors as a bit of an art house band… in their time they were actually pretty much a pop act. And a reminder that Jim Morrison really was the most iconic rock singer of all time. He built the image of ROCK STAR that we see today. And… maybe most importantly… all by the age of 27. That most unlucky of ages for a lot of the rock stars of the past. 27.
This film is one that I’m glad was made and I’m glad I watched. It’s a piece of history.