Light my fire. Please.

I didn't really know much about the Doors before watching this moive. Aside from their more popular songs, and the knowledge that Jim Morrison was something of a poet, who died at an early age, there's not much more that passes through popular culture. Given the excesses of the sixties, and the trailblazing behavior of bands in that era, certain things fall into place about what kind of story this will be.

Usually, folk don't go to the movies for a history lesson. It's generally expected that events will be lumped together or embellished so the audience will be properly entertained. The most surprising detail in The Doors was that Morrison had a girlfriend for a very long time. That he cheated on her was not surprising. That he drank and took drugs, both to excess, and therefore started making poor decisions - that was fairly typical, even.

It occurs to me at this point that the plot of The Doors (excepting that Morrison was a member of the band all along) is a lot like that of Rock Star, which was fairly bad and uninspired. The difference is primarily that The Doors was made by Oliver Stone, who has some innate abilities to tell a story on film.

The shots, transitions, the shifting back and forth in time, relates a story of a man whose life is erratic and uncertain, a rebel against moral and civil authority, and someone who has not too positive an outlook. As we progress, Morrison is less in tune with himself, and scenes pour out more or less randomly before us. Stone has the technique mastered, and we certainly get a sense of what Morrison's life may have been like from his own experience of it.

But Stone never makes a case for why we should care. To a degree, Morrison is something of a self-involved jerk all along. Our best opportunity to identify is with the poor people who try to help Morrison along the way, especially his girlfriend and the bandmates who put up with him. But the story is irresolutely Morrison's.

The performances, particularly Val Kilmer as Morrison, are top notch. Many of these actors went on to bigger and better things - Meg Ryan, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan.

I fear this may be meant as an atmospheric sort of film - a slice of an sixties, to be breathed in and enjoyed for what it is. In that sense, this is a great film, but I needed something more, some reason to care. Perhaps those who already have a sense of The Doors and of what Jim Morrison means to their lives - maybe they have what it takes to make the movie connect. I don't have that, and have to relegate this one to the middle of the pack.

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