In hindsight, perhaps I should have addressed the major flaw in the season final to “Twin Peaks.” It opens the door to a new world that is constantly hinted at but yet in execution it feels satisfying and yet disappointing. Satisfying that we get to see a new realm to the town but also disappointing in the direction they take it in. There was meant to be another season but the show was canned so quick that no one could anything about it. It left on a hook so gut wrenching that viewers wanted to know what the heck happened. And this is where “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” comes in. It answered a lot of questions while at the same time keeping the vague and mystery which held the show together. But at the core of it all, what you are really watching is a David Lynch movie and many were robbed by that fact. There’s even a well-known story that it premiered out of competition at Cannes to a series of boos and jeering. Its also infamous for being the movie that made Quentin Tarantino stop interest in seeing another film by Lynch. Like movies, it has gotten a cult following over time and was giving quite a treatment when released with its TV series on Blu-Ray in “The Complete Mystery.” So is it really an underrated gem that bad or is it skippable?
I guess the first thing I must stress is that while “Fire Walk With Me” does drop hints about Agent Cooper’s fate, it acts more of a prequel than a follow-up. This is where I think fans got really split over it. With the finale opening so many opportunities, the last thing they would expect is showing the events leading up to the pilot episode. In my opinion, I think its a clever move on Lynch’s part because it does more with the character of Laura Palmer. The show was about the town and its people that are associated with Larua and now its time to see what kind of person she was.
Sheryl Lee from the series returns as the troubled teen as a living Laura as opposed to the corpse we would normally see on the show. Her character as a whole is a really mixed bag. Laura goes through all the things a troubled teen would do like hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing drugs. But on the other hand, its done at an extreme. She goes even further to hang with bar attendants to the point they want to do some hard clubbing if you catch my drift. One of the most strongest scenes that defies her character is hanging out at a sleazy underground brothel but stops when she sees her friend Donna get in on the sin and tries to coax her out of it. Sure Laura is a really trouble girl but she has morals too and know when a line is drawn.
The only criticism I have is that we never see her progression into this mode. It feels like we chimed in right at the midpoint. You could argue its because of her arm length relations with her parents (most notably her father) but it feels like she’s been like this way before then considering the drug stash from Bobby she gets. On the other hand, it shows the breaking down really well. She acts like a normal girl or ties to be when all there is just fragments of an empty soul. Its the main meat of the movie and this is what really saves it from feeling like a twisted weird science experiment.
For those we never watched the TV series might not pick up on all the references it makes and even find themselves confused half the time. Obviously this movie is meant for fans of the show dying to know more about the town but even I fear they might nitpick over the fact that not every favorite character makes a big appearance. Some of the cast members from the TV show do make a return but sadly not everybody. Show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost became very strained during the second season. And when Mark Frost when off to direct his own film, he couldn’t help out Lynch due to the busy involvement on his movie. As a result, most of the cast members were not attainable because of the direction the second season went or were just too busy. Even Kyle MacLachlan almost didn’t reprise his role as Agent Cooper for fear of being typecast and again the decline in quality on the second season of Twin Peaks. As a result, a lot of major characters that made the show great are reduced to cameos or barley even make an appearance. Even the Log Lady gets only one line dialogue and that’s it. I even fear newcomers who feel really attached to Agent Cooper might be disheartened to find out that his scenes are reduced to a cameo like role. Again, this is because MacLachlan requested this and it works out either for the best or the worse. So its kind of a trade off. You either want more Laura Palmer or get frustrated over the little scenes Cooper gets.
Another notable difference between the show and Fire Walk With Me is just how darker it gets. The movie suffers at times from being too surreal with its strange cuts between TV signal lines and close-ups of mouths and weird things. Its adds to the uncomfortable tone but sometimes it can feel like its desperate to be artsy in some way. The most notable are the Red Room and Black Lodge scenes which feel more alien to me than before. In the series, I always thought it was some form of limbo where else the movie states is another realm of evil. Its an aspect that is briefly touched upon in the last episode but here gets greatly expanded on. Without giving too much away, non-fans of the show might not only be confused with the narrative structure but also the disturbing topic of incest. I can’t really talk about it without discussing a huge spoiler from the show but I think it was handled well to an extent. Its uncomfortable but it doesn’t go as far to show graphic details. So I’ll give credit for sticking to the old saying less is more but I can’t say the entire movie is 100 percent perfect.
Fire Walk With Me could have been a really good movie if it was played straight but then again, its your typical David Lynch film. However, it is arguably the darkest one from his filmography. I’ve seen Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man along some of his other works and they feel tame in comparison. The way this movie is shot feels gritty and intense but you never loose much interest. Although, it does drag in the first 30 minutes but that’s main because its setting up an important plot element that comes to play later. I thought at first it was going in a direction to rehash the formula of the show but it picks up after that. On the surface, its strange and out of this world and I’m sure it will turn people off or leave them with something meaningful. There’s a lot of great visuals here but some times they can in the way of the story really easily like during David Bowie’s cameo as a missing agent. I can’t say its a terrible movie as it followed through with the idea of a TV adaption by going out of the comfort zone of the show but maybe it goes out of its box a bit too much. I almost feel like this could have benefited better as a mini-series to allow more screen time for other characters to appear. But as it stands, its not a bad film and I do appreciate the direction it goes in. Sometimes it can get too weird but then again we are talking about a series that has a backwards talking little man and a supernatural giant that gives cryptic hints. So I can’t complain. And before you even bring up “The Missing Pieces,” well…where do I begin…