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Oliver Stone’s 1990 biopic of the 1960s band The Doors, leads us through the dramatic and spiritual journey of the band's singer Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer), taking in the highs and lows, the drug fuelled experiences and run ins with the authorities at many of the bands concerts.

 Doors, The
Despite only having a passing appreciation of The Doors, I have to say I rank this movie as one of Oliver Stone's better projects. Outside of the fact the movie really isn’t about the band, as the title implies, but solely about the ball of chaotic charisma that is Jim Morrison, I find the entire project rises above the formulaic confines of a biopic even though all of the usual rock ‘n’ roll elements are there.

Stone cleverly decides to make this a spiritual journey. It doesn’t always make sense, it doesn’t always feel right but the fact the story is about a man that pretty consistently took drugs to expand his mind, the mixture of chaotic camera moves and editing alongside the psychedelic drive of The Doors' music makes for quite a trippy experience. Somewhere in there an emotional connection forms with Morrison and for me at least that’s something most biopics miss by a mile. Morrison should be unlikable but somewhere within the drug fuelled spiral, Stone and Kilmer present us with someone to care about.

That said Kilmer never feels one hundred per cent natural within the role. His dialogue delivery is top notch and for the most part his presence is strong enough to carry the movie but all of the little Morrison moves, from the chilled out walk to the Lizard King mannerisms feel a little too performed. They sometimes feel thrown in at the end of a line of dialogue for effect or turned on when the character is quiet. Of course Wayne’s World 2 imitating all this has made anyone doing Morrison feel like a caricature but none the less Kilmer’s depiction always feels too much like a performance to truly get lost in the character he's depicting.

 Doors, The
That said the supporting cast are on top form. The rest of the band are sorely underplayed in regards to their journey through the sixties but the performances from Kyle MacLachlan and the rest of The Doors are very memorable. It also has to be said that Meg Ryan is actually close to brilliant here. Outside of the odd scene where she runs us through her usual (annoying) Meg Ryan traits, her performance is very impressive and really adds a lot to the emotional core of the film.

I suppose the other argument with the movie is there’s not all that much detail, especially towards the end. Like most biopics the clichés of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle are used to avoid having to spend screen time going into detail. The final act has a fat, beaten down by the drugs Morrison going off to Paris but all of that slow played storytelling from the first two acts is gone. Morrison’s final days towards his death are sadly missed after what had come before in the rest of the movie. The spiritual journey Stone set out to tell seems to be over as soon as Morrison leaves America and with no real resolve. This may have been what Stone intended but seeing a bit more of Morrison in Paris and how his life would have changed could have led to a more satisfying ending I think, instead the journey we’ve come on comes to an abrupt end.

 Doors, The

Video


It’s not staggering but the transfer here really has its moments and is a step up from the DVD for sure. Once you get through the opening credits the scenes where Jim meets Pam have a beautiful HD glow to them and the upgrade is felt immediately. Textures and details are lacking when compared to modern Blu-ray releases but they are just about there in the close ups and everything feels new and fresh (well as new and fresh as a twenty year old movie can be at least).

As the movie moves on, scenes vary in quality. There’s a lot of variation in sharpness and also colour presentation but this is sort of what Oliver Stone intends a lot of the time.  Moments can look soft, only to cut to a sharper HD feel and of course darker scenes can feel a little grubby but thankfully this isn’t an issue that raises its head too much.

Really this is a perfectly acceptable transfer that shows off the movie's intended look well. Sure, there’s room for improvement here and there, but really this is the best The Doors movie has ever looked.

 Doors, The

Audio


The DTS-HD Mater Audio 7.1 track is fantastic, especially in the music used to drive the story on. Honestly, the entire design of the movie feels like it’s an album with dialogue. Each Doors track (as well as other selections) feel totally alive in the mix and really show off how to present music in a movie. The live tracks have a slightly rawer sound but are never the raw live sound you’d expect, but that works and there’s a real energy in the live performances and it feel immersive and every bit as important as the visuals.

Dialogue is also strong, though never really ventures out of the centre speaker but it has to be said that a lot of the audio effects (such as passing cars or crowd noise) are dotted around the rears to often great results.

 Doors, The

Extras


Well the French made ‘Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris' (52:09) was all in French with no subtitle selection on my review disc (not sure if they’ll be a problem on the retail disc). It seemed pretty with a lot of photos of Morrison but not being fluent in French the true content was lost on me a little.

‘Back to the Roots’ (HD 55:53) is more band specific and features many (including Stone) talking about The Doors' history. It's a great detailed documentary and the best addition to this release.

 Doors, The

Overall


It had been too long since I’d seen The Doors and I have to say this was probably the most enjoyable viewing I’d ever had of it. It reminded me what I loved about biopics when they’re done right (Stone and Scorsese do this stuff so much better than most) and more so, it reminded me how much I miss a great Oliver Stone movie... it’s been too long.

The disc has a great audio presentation and an acceptable transfer. The features aren’t all that specific to the movie but great for Doors fans. Really it feels like there could have been a better edition but this one’s still pretty good.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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