The Alien (Brad Dourif) is not a happy man, since he travelled light years across the galaxy with his kind in search of a new home, and settled on Planet Earth, but wound up deeply dissatisfied because the mistakes his outer space race made on their world are exactly the same ones that Earthlings were making. In his considered opinion, aliens "suck", and though he can recall when, a hundred years ago, the first of his fellow beings arrived to a great welcome on Earth, all he can see is that they squandered their opportunities to truly make a better experience for both themselves and the denizens of their adopted planet. Therefore he is not happy when the Earthlings decide to leave their homeworld in search of a new one...
The point was that we had acted just as the aliens had done and ruined our environment, and as in a cycle of doom, we were forced to look elsewhere for somewhere to live: the stuff of science fiction, which this was, and all from the mind of Werner Herzog. He had dabbled in science fiction before with quasi-documentaries like Fata Morgana, and this was in that vein, though he used mostly footage drawn from other sources, mainly NASA and Antarctic explorer Henry Kaiser, both of whom were thanked, after a fashion, in the closing credits. It was a more refreshing use of the footage than a straightforward document would have provided, since there was a mildly humorous tone to a lot of what we were served up.
Much of that was down to Dourif, and it makes sense that he would be a space alien, doesn't it? His near-ranting delivery about how furious he was on the subject of people destroying their homes with unthinking enthusiasm was spread out across footage of him in rundown locations around The United States, and for Dourif fans would be a real bonus to see him letting rip in full-on eccentricity. Indeed, the film could have done with more of him, and maybe a feature-length monologue, or at least an essay documentary, would have been even more enjoyable just to see the cult star strut his stuff. He was a perfect match for Herzog, and could have slotted in with the kind of performance you would have seen from one of his previous stars, Bruno S.
But it was not all about Brad D., as there was plenty to be getting on with as we saw a bunch of astronauts going about their day in tasks that would be utterly mundane had they not been carrying them out in zero gravity and in space above the Earth. This appeared to amuse Herzog, and may amuse you as well, though there was a lot of it, and you may find your sense of humour tested after a while. The Kaiser footage consisted of undersea, under the ice clips captured at the bottom of the world, a look at an environment as alien as anything the narrator would have hailed from, and indeed passed off as imagery from his home planet, though it would have stood up on its own terms as visuals from an Earthbound expedition. The message was, as ever with Herzog, that destruction is never far away for humanity, and we have a weirdly ignorant manner of encouraging it to occur instead of taking steps to prevent it. A meditative watch, with a lot of so-called ethnic music (by Ernest Reijseger among others) and science interviews to bring out the cosmic.
Eccentric German writer/director known equally for his brilliant visionary style and tortuous filming techniques. After several years struggling financially to launch himself as a filmmaker, Herzog began his career with the wartime drama Lebenszeichen and surreal comedy Even Dwarfs Started Small. But it was the stunning 1972 jungle adventure Aguirre, Wrath of God that brought him international acclaim and began his tempestuous working relationship with Klaus Kinski. The 1975 period fable Heart of Glass featured an almost entirely hypnotised cast, while other Herzog classics from this era include Stroszek, the gothic horror Nosferatu the Vampyre and the spectacular, notoriously expensive epic Fitzcarraldo.