If you’ve heard of Nevada’s infamous “Area 51,” Ground Zero in the “Aliens Have Visited Us” conspiracy web, it’s because of Bob Lazar. He’s the man of science who popped up on TVs all over the world in 1989, saying he’d worked there, he’d been involved in “back engineering” flying saucer power systems and propulsion and that he’d seen little bitty green men.
Ok, maybe they weren’t green. And maybe he didn’t actually see them, their autopsies and what not. He’s kind of walked that back. A little.
But it’s been 30 years, and as much as Area 51 has entered the culture, the font of Big Government Secrets that drove “The X-Files” and movies from “Independence Day” to “Paul” to all sorts of cartoons, no further “proof” of his “We WANT to believe” claims has been verified. Nothing important, anyway.
So four-named documentarian Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell decided to revisit Lazar, who runs a scientific supply concern in Gallup, New Mexico, and see if he could get him to back down, walk back or explain why the proof hasn’t come out in the three decades after he dropped his bombshell.
In “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” Corbell takes a shot at exploring what Lazar has convinced himself is true, how his “reality” might not be the same as ours. So he focuses almost entirely on Lazar, the polygraph tests and hypnosis he underwent over the years to “verify” his claims. Corbell interviews the Las Vegas TV reporter/personality and Lazar popularizer George Knapp (a producer on the film) about why he still believes Lazar.
And Corbell got Mickey Rourke to rumble a funny, dark and poetic narration in between the interviews, snippets of Bob interviewed “way back when,” animations and chunks of atomic bomb and space flight science films of the ’50s and ’60s.
“Memory is a mirage and mistress to desire.” “Beliefs are…stowaways in the imagination.”
Mickey should start his own church.
There are no real skeptics in “Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” just Corbell himself, who at times flirts with making this a personal essay about why he believes (or maybe has his doubts) about the claims of the two men, because at this point, Knapp is relying on the fact that “everybody in the world” carried this story to back up his own gullibility.
“The people who know him best believe him the most,” Knapp says (interviewed by phone), and Corbell confirms this one fact by talking to former neighbors and Lazar’s mother, who recalls her son’s teen years construction of a jet-engined powered bicycle (Lazar has a newer one he rides around in the movie). That proves…what exactly?
When the bookish, stereotypically nerdy Lazar is seen in 30 year old archival footage talking about seeing some guys in lab coats talking to little men, “gravity amplifiers, element 115” and “anti-matter reactors,” you wonder which comic books he’s closest to and how much “Star Trek” he has memorized.
Corbell all but crows in delight at showing Lazar a picture of U.S. government “bone scanning” ID technology that Lazar described, back in 1989, not the farthest fetched claim he made, but seemingly verified. But Corbell, a tattooed bearded hipster/believer who has named his filmmaking ventures “The World of Extraordinary Beliefs,” doesn’t show Lazar a fake mock up of the gadget first.
That would have been closer to a real “test,” see if Lazar falls for it — then show him the real deal. Corbell simply gives Lazar this one chance to say, “I told you so,” without actually testing him to verify that.
The film doesn’t need to see Corbell barking at his phone, “Call George Knapp,” but I guess if you can’t get the guy to sit down with you (Vanity? Embarrassment?), it’s a way of introducing Knapp and getting yourself on screen more as Corbell tries to “weaponize your curiosity.”
Lazar’s debunkers, “the people who despise him” is how Knapp portrays them, have punched holes in Lazar’s most easily verified claims — of an MIT/Cal Tech education. But when Los Alamos Labs said he never worked there, there are facility directories that list him.
Corbell asks the odd pointed question — “People say you saw an alien. Did you see an alien at S4 (one of the facilities at Groom Lake, Nevada, home of ‘Area 51’)?” But that’s only to allow Lazar to equivocate and take back at least one extraordinary claim, something he’s had thirty years to cook up an excuse for.
There are flying saucers there, he still insists. “Nine of them,” he says with Joseph McCarthy certitude, some of them “operational.”
“We have them. You don’t have to believe it, but we do.”
Lazar can get a little prickly about all the disbelief surrounding his claims that the government is still hiding what he says he worked on in an outrageous “suppression of science.” That explains Corbell’s kid-gloves approach, but doesn’t excuse it.
Lazar has been raided by the Feds and ridiculed by the scientific community, so a little paranoia and annoyance is understandable.
But in an era where wild conspiracies are a vital component of politics, when the future of the Republic and the Ecosystem is hanging on getting the gullible to let go of things that cannot be proven with facts, Corbell lets Lazar off the hook and seems to be building his own career out of “extraordinary beliefs” he can sell to the rubes.
Letting the guy say things he cannot prove — about “assassination attempts” and “nine flying saucers” and the like is one thing. Deciding that he really believes these things is another.
But not challenging his “reality,” while it may serve Corbell’s goals of becoming the Area 51 Filmmaker (if indeed that’s what he wants), is irresponsible and gutless.
Whatever he set out to do with “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” the still questioning among us are left with “He seems like a high-functioning nut” if not a hoaxer. Still, tracking this modern myth back to its source is Corbell’s great public service.
All this hooey about alien autopsies, flying saucers and “the truth is out there” is based on the dubious testimony of one, lone conspiracy buff. THAT was the film Corbell could have made.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Bob Lazar, George Knapp, Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell, narrated by Mickey Rourke
Credits: Written and directed by Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell. An Orchard release.
Running time: 1:37