Documentary Review — “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers”

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

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Documentary Review — “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers”

  1. Jeremy R says:

    What a horrible and weak review, with a ton of unnecessary personal attacks and laughable nitpicking. The hand scanner criticism makes sense, but as a huge skeptic I am overall very impressed with Corbell’s documentary and felt it established Bob Lazar as a credible and genuine person. Bob Lazar, when asked by Corbell if he as a message for young people replies “Just pay attention…” and “they’ve got a rough road ahead if they’re trying to cut through the bullshit.” Bob Lazar himself is concerned about “rubes” accepting extraordinary claims without evidence! Which adds greatly to his credibility. His passion is for science, and one of the main reasons he is upset about the government secrecy is because this amazing secret technology is being held back from the scientific community. It one scene he even ranks that higher in importance than aliens existing.

    • We plainly have different criteria for what establishes “credibility.” I think 30 years of failing to establish A) his bonafides and B) the veracity of his extraordinary claims speaks for itself. And I sure as shooting would have tried to trip him up with inaccurate conceptual drawings of the “bone scanner” device (like retinal scanners, a feature of sci-fi of the era), just to cover my arse as an interviewer. Your biggest whopper is “as a huge skeptic.” No, you’re not. Not even a tiny skeptic.

  2. It seems like you went into the film with a biased opinion. Your mind was already made up. (Knapp was the biggest skeptic at the beginning, drilling Lazar during the first few interviews, even making him take polygraph tests.) It takes context to be able to absorb this information.

    • And this changes history…how? Come out of the rabbit hole, put down the Kool Ade and consider facts outside of Lazar’s claims. A cult of nothing burger believers.

  3. Alfred says:

    Actually quite a sober review. I enjoyed the film as a piece of good film-making, it was entertaining. However, I was under the impression that it would help answer a lot of questions I had going in. It turned out I left asking the same questions.

    I’ve read some comments above, and I understand where the frustration is coming of. I think inside all of us we “want” to believe Bob and would love nothing more than him to be right. That’s the mentality they walked in on watching the film, and they needed this film almost as a closure for their frustrations. I find myself falling into the trap of slipping into the realm of possible belief because I seem to enjoy Bob’s mild-mannered characters.

    TLDR, I do sympathize with both sides, those who believe or want to believe, and those who are vehement skeptics of Bob.

    • Lob Bazar says:

      Now that is a well adjusted review. Well done sir.. and I haven’t yet seen the film but expected as much.

  4. chris carter says:

    I can’t help but think the timing of the movie is more than a little justification for Lazar, after the disclosure last December of the government program that documents UFO encounters, which was reported on by multiple mainstream news outlets (on the same day).

    It’s also sad to see the UFO hoax discussion tied into everyday politics. It’s obviously too tempting to tie conspiracy theory-ing in with fake news and Trump ‘truths,’ but I really don’t think one has much to do with the other. Believing in UFOs is actually a pretty bipartisan issue (the UFO program mentioned above was developed as a bipartisan study by the Democratic Senator from Nevada, Tucker Carlson will sometimes talk UFOs on Fox). Actually, if you are looking for an issue that brings the nation together, maybe asking our elected representatives to look into the newly-disclosed UFO program isn’t such a bad idea.

    Of note here is Corbell’s unquestioned ‘insider status’ in UFO-people circles, which may be the most important aspect of the film. That this film was even made, with all the people that he got on camera to make it, is itself half the triumph. This movie isn’t for the skeptic, it’s for those that already believe. Why review it like your a boxing judge at a pro wrestling bout?

  5. Alexandra says:

    Bob would have been better off being a sci-fi writer. His stories are only believable to those who cannot employ a shred a critical thinking. His claims of his degrees are verified lies. He produces a W2 that shows he only made a thousand dollars for years work (custodian). Reads an American Scientist article about element 115, then claims he had buckets of it. Only later to know element 115 decays in less than a second. Claims there are many alien spacecraft that crashed into Earth. So aliens with the incredibly advanced intelligence and technology to transverse the cosmos yet continually crash into the surface of a planet?!? C’mon. Even we lowly humans have collision avoidance tech in our lowly terrestrial cars now. Bob has the imagination of a decent sci-fi writer, people who can create worlds and universes that can sound plausible when sprinkled with enough real world information. But in the end, he tries to pass it off as factual, critical thinking be damned.

    • Yamamoto says:

      Actually, Bob never claimed that these flying disks crashed onto the surface of the earth. On the contrary, he says that he does not know how they got them but some of them appeared brand new. Regarding element 115, the few isotopes that have been created by our scientist are unstable but there many other isotopes that exist out there that have not been explored. It is interesting how people pick out things out that only justify what they want to believe.

  6. Chris Chambers says:

    not bashing this review,neither denying authenticity or the opposite regarding Lazar here – everyone has the right to their opinion(!)
    BUT only one thing – HOW,could he possibly know about stuff like Element 115/propulsion etc WAY ahead of everyone if he would be just some conspiracy loon…

    Like,for real,without going into the motive of the doc or anything related – HOW could he know & way later be confirmed,by science putting 115 on the periodic table(!) If he wouldn’t be involved on a high level of secret stuff

    Just curious,since I can’t answer this for myself ,despite if or if I don’t believe him


    • How many periodic table elements were known when he made his announcement? 114. The next discovered lighter element would be…Element 115. With or without aliens, it would be “Element 115.” And it was discovered Not at Groom Lake or Los Alamos. In MOSCOW. Without aliens. It exists in a recognizable state for less than a second…in the lab. He doesn’t know enough about science to consider that when he’s spinning his yarns. He’s talking through his hat and relying on nobody else knowing the periodic table or what element 115 (named “Moscovian”) turned out to be. Ignorance keeps his story “believable.” Seriously, P.T. Barnum would have cleaned up preying on his acolytes. You don’t have to have fake MIT/Cal Tech credentials to figure this out, kids.

  7. Nope says:

    Lazars business has been in Michigan for yesrs now. You did not watch or pay attention did you?

  8. Yamamoto says:

    ( Element 114 was discovered in 1999, element 113 in 2003, element 112 in 1996 etc. Second, each element has different isotopes, which means a different number of neutrons. Thus, even if the isotopes of element 115 that have been synthesized so far are unstable, potentially a stable isotope can be synthesized in the future as it has happened with other elements in the past. Third, the gravitational waves were only theoretically extrapolated at the beginning of the 20th century while they were directly observed only in 2015 and indirectly observed in 1993.

    • Yes, and he was “raided” because has “jars of it he stole” from the labs he “worked for” in his house. Seriously, take a step back and stop trying to parse words in an effort to blur the facts to fit your obsession. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. He can’t even provide “ordinary” proof. So. As you folks are starting to seem like Bronies and others on the OCD conspiracy buff spectrum, let’s close the comments down.

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