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Val (2021) – Review – Val is a Refreshingly Raw Documentary That Makes You Want to Go Back and Watch Every Single Val Kilmer Movie Again

September 23, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – B+ Val is a refreshingly raw documentary that makes you want to go back and watch every single Val Kilmer movie again

The only complaint about Val is that it makes it seem like Top Secret! isn’t a comedy classic loaded with inspired gags, skeet surfing, underwater fights, and cows. Aside from that, the documentary is an intimate look into Val Kilmer’s 37-year acting career. The documentary features footage from Kilmer, who has been documenting his life ever since he could get his hands on a camera. It’s neat seeing a young Val and his brothers making home movies, as their love of cinema and creativity is clearly evident and was fostered by their parents. The documentary covers his acting career, time at Julliard, love life, parenthood, and battle with throat cancer, which has left his vocal cords permanently damaged. 

We get to see footage from Top Gun, Willow, The Saint, Batman Forever, and most importantly, The Island of Dr. Moreau, which went through a historically troubled production. Kilmer shares footage from the set, which showcases Marlon Brando on a hammock (amazing), and John Frankenheimer struggling to control a hectic production that was circling the drain. It’s interesting knowing that Kilmer was uncomfortable playing Batman in Batman Forever, as the cape and cowl prevented him from hearing anything, and he felt like he was on an uncreative island, and only his chin was needed for the role. It would’ve been nice to see more behind the scenes footage, but it’s also enlightening seeing how Kilmer is dealing with life nowadays, as he can’t act because of his damaged vocal cords, so he travels to Tombstone screenings and signs autographs at conventions to make extra money (I worked for Wizard World from 2010-2016, and Kilmer was at one of the conventions, he was totally cool). 

The major complaint around the internet is that Val doesn’t explore why Kilmer was considered to be a “difficult” actor. This complaint is lazy, as the doc clearly shows why he was considered to be tough on set. Kilmer struggles with roles and directors that don’t allow him to flex his creativity, or are disorganized and unorderly. Kilmer could’ve chosen to not make them more difficult, but his neediness, and desire to give 100% to each role, prevented him from being an ideal team player. For instance, in Tombstone, he chose to lay on a pile of ice for his death scene, so he would look suitably blue and cold. His performance in Tombstone is legendary because he was listened to and respected. On The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Red Planet, he’s seen struggling with a lack of direction, and it’s obvious that the directors weren’t interested in his creative input. Once again, he could’ve been a team player, but, obviously the producers knew about his method, and decided to hire him and ignore his contributions (which lead to trouble). On the DVD commentaries for Mindhunters and MacGruber, Renny Harlin, and Jorma Taccone praise Kilmer for his work and contributions, and both mention that he was a treat to have on set. It’s clear that Kilmer wants to be heard, and when directors realize this, they are better off. 

The documentary is narrated by Val’s son Jack, and the two seem to have a close bond. We also get to meet his daughter Mercedes, who lives next door to him. Both of his children seem to respect his oddities, and it’s neat seeing them interact and deal with their peculiar father who has gone through a lot since 2016. In the end, Val is a welcome look into the actor’s life, and the 93% Tomatometer score, and 7.7 IMDb User Score is proof that people are appreciating it.

Final Thoughts – If you are a fan of Val Kilmer, watch this documentary.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 23, 2021 1:34 pm

    Man that movie is sad. I’ve always been a fan of his movies, the Ghost and the Darkness was a childhood favorite.

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