Werner Herzog. The man, the myth, the legend. A filmmaker so robust, so creatively on edge, to the point where he would sacrifice almost anything to fund his art. A man so unhinged, to the point where his immaculate dedication to his craft will become his eventual downfall. Dreams of documenting the impossible feat of dragging a boat up a mountain, or even committing to a bet of eating his own rubber shoe. Star Wars you say? No problem. Herzog will be there on set, just to have a little more money in his pocket to fund his future projects. The man is a beast, a creative genius where his films have influenced numerous documentarians and international creatives around the globe. The way we view non-fiction films would look incredibly different without him. As he continues to direct and produce more content, the more notable his influence becomes. In his latest feature Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, the film tackles the subject of meteorites. Accompanied by Cambridge professor Clive Oppenheimer at his loyal co-directing side, Herzog returns with yet another nature doc, sponsored by a renowned streaming service.
A globe-trotting journey of both the cultural impact of meteorites and the scientific revelations of these sporadic satellites, Fireball is a simplistic cinematic voyage. Herzog and Clive interview a variety of different faces, while simultaneously documenting numerous locations around the globe. Highlighting representation within various distinct culture and indigenous groups, Fireball goes in-depth on the numerous religious and ceremonial practices found within these communities. Surprisingly enough, the correlation between science and faith isn’t all that far apart. Herzog cleverly compares the ingenuity of scientific discovery with the revelation of faith, by distinctively using different locations and interviews to create a stark contrast between the two ordeals.
Though at its core, the film is just like any classic Herzog non-fiction feature. Just like the majority of his documentary work, the film is essentially just a cinematic museum tour guide, compiled with static shots of two people awkwardly conversing and asking various expositional questions. Compiled with plenty of stock footage and the occasional cheeky pop culture reference, Herzog has mastered his unique non-fiction style. It’s ingrained in the minds of western film enthusiasts at this point, where his style is just as exuberant and notably “Herzog” with every new addition to his rapidly growing filmography. As much as it pains me to say it, Herzog won’t be here forever. We all eventually perish. Though I’m glad the man is taking advantage of his later years, and producing some genuinely enthralling content.
If you’re going into Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds expecting one of the greatest works of Herzog’s modern repertoire, then you’ll be unfortunately disappointed. It doesn’t contain the same delightful absurdity of Grizzly Man or even the wondrous 3D visuals of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Though what it lacks in any real creative advances for the known director, the film is still an accomplished journey from beginning to end. An informational voyage from coast to coast, the obsessive nature of meteorites, and the prophetic and existential questions which Herzog and Oppenheimer bring to the table, further validates their convoluted journey and investigation of the mysterious vastness of the cosmos.
Dir: Werner Herzog & Clive Oppenheimer
Country: UK, USA, Austria
Run time: 97 minutes
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Apple TV will release the film worldwide on their digital platform later this year.