Oliver Stone has developed a well-deserved reputation for injecting conspiracy tales into his films. A veteran of Vietnam, he has developed quite a case of drug-induced paranoia over the years. While this probably makes him a real drag at parties, it makes for some really interesting films… especially when said films are based on actual events. Audiences can drive themselves crazy trying to separate fact-from-speculation-from-rumor-from-flat-out-fiction, and that kind of thing is great fun for somebody like me.
So I guess it is fitting that the film in Stone’s catalog with the most bizarre subject matter of them all would be the one that seems to be the closest to actual fact. When you’re talking about the weirdness that is Jim Morrison, truth often times really is stranger than fiction. This is precisely why The Doors is such a perfect fit for Stone. I’m not sure a director has ever been so ideally suited to a film as this insane-o pairing. These two spirits are so intertwined, in fact, that Stone was actually arrested the day before principal photography was to start when he was found high on mushrooms and wandering in the desert.
Yet for all the hype around the director’s antics, it is amazing to find that the real story here is the acting of Val Kilmer. We’re talking about a level of mimicry that has only since been equaled by Jamie Foxx in Ray. The viewer actually has to work hard to keep reminding himself that this is Kilmer they are watching, and not lost archival footage of Morrison himself. It is simply spooky to hear Kilmer singing instead of Morrison in the close-up shots… and to not be able to tell the difference. For my money, this is one of the finest acting performances of all time, and it is awfully handy to have it available, along with a quality film in its own right, on UMD.
I was really hoping that this disc would be available with a Dolby Headphone track, but there is no Dolby track to be found. Still, the audio is more than adequate. It is important for a rock and roll film such as this one to have a powerful audio track, and this one is surprisingly loud by comparison to most UMD products. Viewers can feel the power of the live performances through the headphones, though the audio gets a little muddled when the unit’s speakers are used. As is almost always the best advice, the use of headphones is clearly the best option for optimal audio quality.
Kudos to Lion’s Gate for keeping the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, even though it meant adding black bars at the top and the bottom of the PSP’s screen. It is always best to keep a film in the director’s intended aspect ratio, even if that means making the image smaller. Unfortunately, the whole film lacks a certain level of sharpness that I had apparently been taking for granted on other UMDs. I was hoping that this was a result of the smoke in so many of the live shots, but it is in fact a problem with every scene in the film. I really think this is something that looks fine on the DVD and on larger screens, but just did not translate well to the smaller screen of the PSP.
There is not a single extra feature here. If you are a fan of this film, Artisan has released an excellent two-disc DVD set that is packed full of extras, including a sizeable number of deleted scenes. I highly recommend fans pick that one up.
Picture quality aside, this is an excellent film on a well-produced disc. I would have loved to have seen some extras here, but I am sure there was just not enough room left on the disc to put anything together. As far as a total product goes, the DVD is by far the superior release. You just can’t beat the UMD for portability, though, and this is one of the best UMDs on the market today. Music fans in particular should be rushing out to pick up this excellent film for repeat viewings on the PSP.