November 14th, 2020
MOVIE: FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS
STARRING: WERNER HERZOG; CLIVE OPPENHEIMER
DIRECTED BY: WERNER HERZOG; CLIVE OPPENHEIMER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Werner Herzog does not slow down, he only digs deeper into living. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is his 3rd film in 2020 and his documentaries continue to be fascinating experiences, especially for viewers like me. His work is increasingly curious, which makes me curious as to how he arrives at his subjects, but I think the answer is just wherever the mind takes him. The subject matter of Fireball is meteors and comets and the impact they have had in the history of our time. From the study of the craters created by these falling space rocks, to the men and women that continue to hunt for them, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is an engaging documentary of discovery. It’s also another journey into the brilliant mind of Werner Herzog.
Earlier this year, I had reviewed Herzog’s Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin, which as far as his documentaries go, was the most I’ve seen Herzog open up on a personal level. Fireball is back to the inquisitive mind of this director, and although this is not as emotional of a documentary, it is nevertheless still fascinating. The story begins in Mexico City, watching a group of men doing a ritual fire dance, all in honor of a meteor that had landed many centuries ago. The impact that meteors have had is massive, both culturally and religiously, a cosmic event that happens every million or so years, and something that scientists study, in search to find endless information about the solar system. Herzog takes us everywhere, from Russia to the Yucatan Peninsula, along with his co-director Clive Oppenheimer, studying the craters created, the people living around these locations, and awe inspiring visuals of the planet we live on.
As far as Herzog’s documentaries go, Fireball is a combination of interest in recent films, Into the Inferno, which was the study of active and inactive volcanoes, and Encounters at the End of the World, a visual exploration of those who live in the endless cold in Antarctica. Each segment builds on the next, with many parts involving Oppenheimer interviewing scientists from places such as, Princeton and Arizona State University, showing brilliant discoveries of “quasicrystals” and a meteor that fell through a dog house (don’t worry the dog was okay), and concluding in Antarctica at the Jang Bogo Station, where Jong Ik Lee celebrates his multiple meteor discoveries. Each segment is a unique expression of science and how important the work and research is of many people. To some it may seem tedious or frivolous, but Herzog finds a way to make it magical.
When it has come to Herzog’s documentaries, I typically appreciate the work when the Fitzcarraldo director opens himself up. The personal touch in Nomad or Meeting Gorbachev capture a side of a man that is often mysterious, where with each film, Herzog tends to reveal a bit of himself. Fireball is not that movie. This is the director hoping that his interest in the subject matter will be injected into the audience and although there are some segments that become repetitive, some even boring, there is not a lack of curiosity to enjoy. As a national geographic style film, Fireball is a must for all science nerds.
What Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds does is continuously supplant Herzog as one of our greatest living directors, heck, I’d say Herzog is obviously the most interesting man in the world. He does not have a cell phone. He continues to search for meaning in everything that surrounds him. And with Fireball he is bringing the stars to us, inspecting them, showing the beauty inside them, and enhancing our wonder about life outside of earth. Science continues to reveal everything we want to know what it means to be alive. We just need to believe and let Werner Herzog take us there.
FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS IS CURRENTLY PLAYING ON APPLETV+ OR AVAILABLE ON DEMAND.
Written by: Leo Brady