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Review: Myth and reality collide on 4K in 'The Doors'

Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 5:03 PM Central

by John Couture

Jim Morrison died before I was born, so my only exposure to him has been through the lens of other people. Whether it's his bandmates or Oliver Stone, the myth of Jim Morrison is almost assuredly larger than life than the actual musician who helped to shape the sound of the 1960s and define counterculture.

There was a phase during college when I was really trying to define my musical chops and The Doors factored heavily into that. Of course, it didn't hurt that I had recently discovered the band that would come to shape musical life, Pearl Jam. Both bands share roots in a bluesy sound that I was too young then to appreciate fully and even now I'm not sure that I have enough life experience to truly understand the blues.

And yet, like so many rock stars before him and after him, Jim Morrison died at age 27 and left behind a musical legacy that continues to be felt to this day. In 1991, visionary filmmaker Oliver Stone released what would become the entry point into Jim Morrison and The Doors for an entire generation and to this day, there's a debate still raging over the film's authenticity of the man whose death left a musical void that is still felt.

Val Kilmer stars as the mercurial frontman of The Doors in one of his defining roles. In many ways Val transformed into Jim Morrison for the film and his performance is one of the best musical biopic performances ever captured. The film follows the band's formation and the turbulent years that followed before ending with Jim's untimely death in 1971.

There has been so much said about this film and Val Kilmer's performance that there really isn't much more that I can add to the discussion. I hadn't seen The Doors in several years at least and I can say that the film holds up very well and I was particularly intrigued to see how it compares to more recent biopics of his contemporaries.

The recent success of Bohemian Rhapsody (although Queen debuted in 1970, a year before Jim's death) and Rocketman has brought a renewed interest to this pivotal musical era and I'm happy to say that The Doors holds up well. In fact, I would argue that Oliver Stone captured this time period more accurately than either of the more recent films. We can quibble about the accuracy into Jim's life, but there's no debate about the impact of drugs and the loosening of American morals into this pivotal moment in time. Whatever else The Doors is, it feels as though it's a perfect lens into this politically charged time.

Making its debut on 4K UHD, I was extremely curious to see how the film measured up to its newer peers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it more than holds its own from a visual and audio standpoint.

They went back and remastered a new print from the original negative and Oliver Stone oversaw the color grading. The result is a beautiful picture that is more accurate than the bleached out version that is found on the Blu-ray that was indicative of films from the early 1990s. The skin tones were more accurate and the blacks were deeper which were very noticeable in the many club scenes. The HDR really shines in the club scenes and the 4K UHD is worth purchase for the visual enhancements alone, but that's not even half of the story.

The real coup on the 4K UHD is the brand new Dolby Atmos audio track. As many of the scenes take place from the point of view of the audience in a club, the Dolby Atmos track is able to leverage the various channels to create a viewing experience that comes as close to placing you inside those clubs as you can get without a time machine.

Speaking of time machines, if I had one I would definitely use it to go back in time to watch The Doors in concert. Perhaps it's not the best use of futuristic technology, but somewhere I would think that Jim Morrison would approve.

This 4K UHD version is being dubbed "The Final Cut" and Oliver Stone has gone back and shaved off a few minutes from the film. He claims that it "helps close out the film in a more powerful way." I won't spoil the changes, but had I not been looking for them, I'm not sure I would have noticed the difference. It does seem to give the film a more concrete conclusion, but again, these type of micromanaging details are a bit superfluous if you ask me.

There are a couple of new interviews for the 4K UHD, but otherwise there aren't any additional bonus features. That's a bit of letdown as the film is rapidly approaching its 30th Anniversary. I would have particularly enjoyed a retrospective look from the cast, Val Kilmer in particular.

As it stands, the 4K UHD version is now the definitive version of the film and is certainly worth a buy/upgrade. It will fit in well on your movie shelf in between Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman as an ode to a bygone musical era that continues to shape and influence music to this day.

The Doors is now available on 4K UHD.