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The Wild Blue Yonder is about, well, ultimately, Herzog‘s idea that mankind will never find anything interesting in space. Ever. We can’t get far enough, and who knows if there’s anything actually out there anyway.
I saw a screening of this film that Herzog hosted, and he actually used words very close to that (I wish I could have remembered the exact quote). I do disagree with him, and, hey, am interested enough in the trying that I think it’s worth it even if Herzog turns out to be right. But that doesn’t stop the film from being funny, interesting and beautiful.
This of the films Herzog made back-to-back-to-back-to-back (right after Grizzly Man), the parts with Brad Dourif (the narrator and the only non-as-himself character) were shot in southern California over 6 hours. Dourif played an alien from Andromeda, whose civilization abandoned its planet (The Blue Yonder) because it was dying, and found themselves on Earth as it was the only hospitable planet around (and even that wasn’t really “around” — it took them hundreds of years to get here). There’s a little bit of backstory on Dourif’s alien race, but the thrust of the story is about Earth scientists and astronauts fearing the Earth’s imminent demise (as a result of tiny microbes on the ship that crashed at Roswell), go on a search for a possible secondary planet to colonize.
One of the interesting things about this film is that there’s interviews with real mathematicians (including the guys who figured out how to slingshot Gallileo around Venus to Jupiter and Dr. Martin Lo, the researcher who discovered Chaos Transports (real), which the astronauts used to find the Blue Yonder (fake)). Herzog used the real theories and real science (he turned out to be a hardcore math geek during the Q&A session after the film, when he spent an extended time talking about various mathematicians; I knew Herzog was brilliant, but I didn’t know it was in that realm as well) and nudged them in the direction to talk about the story of the film. Very interesting and lending it a very documentary style.
It’s a little long — footage of the astronauts could have been cut down (though it was rare footage that had never been seen before Herzog found it), but some footage (taken under the ice in antartica (!!)) was just gorgeous. The parts with Brad Dourif as the alien have a bit of a Cory McAbee vibe to them, too. All in all, it’s worth seeing.