Some directors are famous for taking a long time to complete their films. Stanley Kubrick was famous for this, often filming the same scene hundreds of times until he deems the shot “perfect”. The result is movies that take years of production before coming to the screen. While Kubrick is one of the most notorious ones, there are many other directors who work at a pace as methodical as the funding allows.
Werner Herzog is not one of those directors.
This is not to say that Herzog doesn’t make great movies. He does. But he’s also a workhorse with 73 directorial credits alone. Sometimes he’s directed three or four films in a single year. While he has done some incredibly elaborate productions (FITZCARRALDO involved moving a full sized steam ship across an Amazonian jungle) he’s also done intimate documentaries, like LAND OF SILENCE AND DARKNESS about a deaf-blind activist. THE WILD BLUE YONDER (2005) falls somewhere in between. It uses documentary footage but not as a non-fiction piece.
Normally this is where I would summarize the plot. That’s a bit difficult for THE WILD BLUE YONDER. There isn’t much of a plot. The Alien, played by Brad Dourif, tells the story of how his race travelled thousands of light years only to have a failed colony on Earth (“We aliens all suck”). He talks about their failures, the failures of the American science community to adequately address Roswell, and the failures that led to. His monologue is interspersed with stock footage of space and aquatic exploration, meant to stand in for extraterrestrial travel and distant planets.
That’s it. That’s what happens in this movie. In fact, it plays as if it were an afterthought. I can imagine Herzog having all this footage lying around and trying to craft a story around it. Even The Alien’s costume looks like Dourif picked the most comfortable clothes from his closet and showed up at a ghost town for a one-day shoot. It’s probably fifteen minutes of monologue with an hour of stock footage added on. The stock footage is pretty, and there’s a lovely soundtrack to it. But the real reason to watch is the fifteen minutes Brad Dourif is on screen. He does a good job of channeling both anger and a sad resignation to his race’s fate. Dourif’s own career is as varied as Herzog’s, ranging from the sweet innocence of Billy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST to the voice of the Chucky doll for the CHILD’S PLAY movies. WILD BLUE YONDER isn’t going to be a landmark of either’s career, but Dourif makes it interesting to watch once or twice.
Question of the night: if aliens ever came to Earth, what do you think they would be like?