The Doors are easily one of the most hypnotic, influential, and culturally significant bands to come out of the psychedelia-driven California subcluture of the Sixties and Seventies. This is to no small degree because lead singer Jim Morrison was a touchstone for the souls seeking to save themselves through excess and/or spiritual enlightenment. His death continues to gnaw at the collective spirit of those who saw him as he wanted to see himself, as a modern day mystic. One of those people is undoubtedly director Oliver Stone, who presents his vision of Morrison and the Doors in this disjointed though oft-compelling exercise.The Doors, the movie, might as well be retitled Morrison: The Movie. Jim Morrison certainly was the focal point of the band and remains the most-identified symbol of their music and mystique, but almost every opportunity is wasted to show the band actually BEING a band. Stone is much more concerned with portraying Morrison as an artist turned hedonist drunk whose personal demons devour him and the people close to him. Val Kilmer does an excellent and uncanny job of apeing the Morrison look, style, and body language, and actually performs many of the songs himself. To be fair, the concert sequences in the film are intriguingly filmed and visually arresting, but more of the effort BEHIND the music would have been appreciated.
Actually, the film is most interesting and infuriating for what it chooses NOT to concentrate on or glosses over. We learn Morrison is distanced from his family yet we never really learn why. Morrison's fascination with Native American belief and ritual is also touched on but never truly expounded. A film detailing Morrison's endeavor to be a modern-day shaman, his spiritual successes and losses, could have been fascinating. Instead, we get the barest of outlines and a snapshot of excesses. Meg Ryan is particularly wasted as Morrison's oft-ignored girlfriend Pamela Courson, and only Kyle MacLachlan as keyboardist Ray Manzarek makes any sort of impression among the remaining bandmembers.
Despite, or perhaps because of, Stone's penchant for fiddling with fact, the film is quite watchable and serves as a workable primer for who Morrison was and what his life was about. Like most of Stone's output since, it's also highly stylized and visually dynamic. Sadly, there is much more to this story than the surface gloss Stone presents---it's much more like the grittily defaced tombstone of Morrison in Paris, and, like that tombstone, all the texture deserves to be seen.Now go listen to "The End". You know you want to.