Review: ‘Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers’ Tanks Under its Direction
Hype, flash, and the grizzly voice of Mickey Rourke did not disappoint when it came to Netflix’s recent Bob Lazar documentary.
The film is directed by Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell who shamelessly inserts himself into the film to such a degree, you would be remiss to think a better title would’ve been Bob and Jeremy’s Wacky Alien Adventure. And let’s be clear, this failure of tone and presentation isn’t the fault of anyone other than Corbell. Under other circumstances, Lazar would have presumably made a more compelling documentary with a film student.
To be perfectly frank, Lazar and his story deserved better. We deserved better.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lazar and his story, it’s an interesting one whether you believe him or not. At its best, humanity is sitting under a large extraterrestrial bombshell that is being hidden from us by our all-knowing global overlords— and at its worst, it’s a fascinating story that has ignited the imaginations of people from all around the world.
Lazar captured the minds of millions with his claims of back-engineering extraterrestrial alien propulsion systems at a top-secret military base in Nevada near Area-51, known as S-4.
When Lazar first came forward, he did so anonymously under the pseudonym “Dennis.” From there he claimed his life was jeopardized by unknown assailants and was even shot at which led him to come forward publicly in 1989. He insists his motivation then and now was to protect himself, and furthers his point by stating that he has never financially benefited from coming forward. In fact, the fallout of doing so has only made life unbearable.
“I don’t like being in the public eye. I don’t have money for doing this. And quite frankly I could make up a better lie, but I have no motivation to lie.” — Bob Lazar
With such a wealth of story and allure, you would think the 97-minute film dissects Lazar’s life and claims with a balanced perspective detailing both sides of the argument. You would think. Instead, Corbell decides to make his documentary into a cheap-thriller.
The pomp and hokey cutaways to images of aliens and flying saucers are reminiscent of old dramatic re-enactments of the 1990s — most notable of which, Robert Stack’s Unsolved Mysteries. Not to mention the superfluous VHS-distortion effect over Lazar’s 1989 interview that was all but cringe-inducing. This also includes features like the overtly indulgent sound design, corny pacing circling back to a boobish-Corbell on speaker phone, along with the pulpy nonsense-ramblings exuded from Rourke — seriously Mickey, how much did they pay you? — it all completely contradicted what Lazar (and I would hope Corbell) was trying to achieve.
In, perhaps, one of the more balanced points in the film, Lazar recounts the time he was walking along the corridor in the base when he peered through a window into a hangar and saw “something small with long arms.”
This depiction of an alien, which along with other had been nicknamed “the kids” by base staff, was originally thought by Lazar as evidence of an extraterrestrial. However, now he claims he is uncertain what it was, saying, “I don’t think I saw an alien at S-4.” He went on to compare what he saw to a doll that was possibly a representation of beings that once occupied the craft.
Many would assume this discredits Lazar right away. Others would hope it would disclose a sense of balance. But in a film where you’re endlessly struck by imagery of UFO and no voices refuting Lazar’s accounts, it’s a lukewarm admission at best.
On any other occasion, this film would have made for a popcorn-munching dream you watch ironically with friends. But there’s actually some credence to what Lazar says. Some.
For instance, the institutions who deny Lazar went to school (MIT and Caltech) and worked for the government, in at least some capacity, have been discredited to a certain degree that can’t just be swept under the rug. Um… can we dig more into that, Jeremy? However, instead of all the cheesy effects and Corbell’s hard-boiled nonsense, more of an effort could have been put into those sources that corroborate Lazar’s story.
Now, let’s rewind for a moment.
The film opens with Lazar’s home being raided by the FBI. This is a compelling piece of information — why? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The FBI doesn’t just go raiding homes unless there’s a real lead, or if they’re trying to actually intimidate someone. Both are likely. Now, Corbell chooses to unnecessarily play up the drama of the situation with his tedious text messages from the comfort of his (for some reason) dark home. Seriously, did he forget to pay his power bill? And, really, this is the tone that precedes the rest of the film leaving viewers rolling their eyes.
In fact, a better place to glean his whole story (with fewer interruptions from Corbell) is on Joe Rogan’s JRE Podcast.
Over the years, Rogan has made a name for himself cutting through the B.S. to get to the heart of the truth. He’s publicly espoused his belief in Big Foot, the Kennedy Assassination, and aliens, among others, but time and again he has forced himself to check his own bias.
All qualities that would have been nice if Corbell shared; but instead, Corbell is so intoxicated by theories of what he would like to believe, he would rather guide his audience through the muck of superstition and childlike ignorance because above all else, he has no choice — he must believe everything indiscriminately.
The B.S. is part of who Corbell is. You go in thinking Lazar might be the crackpot, but come away seeing that he is relatively normal compared to the guy interviewing him. And maybe this was Corbell’s intent all along.
All in all, Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers serves more as a sociological experiment of what blind belief can do to you. And maybe Lazar should share some of the blame for this as well. If he had been a little more choosy with who he allowed to document him, maybe, just maybe, his story would have held more weight.
My advice, watch for fun. Just keep in mind no bombshells are dropping here.