Maybe I’m missing something. I don’t think I am. But all this adulation for the recently released Senna movie is completely lost on me. I wanted to like it, I really did. I’ve even tried to convince myself that it deserves all the hype it’s receiving, but I can’t.
As a documentary it’s neither innovative, nor is it the most probing you’ll ever see. It’s far too soft and far too biased for my liking. It portrays Ayrton Senna to be almost superhuman and above every single person in Formula One.
It lacks balance and objectivity and, if you didn’t know any better, you would come away thinking that everyone he competed against were either cheating or conspiring against him. Such as the shoddy treatment of probably one of his greatest rivals: Alain Prost.
Prost certainly gets a raw deal and it does appear as though he only won races through intervention by the FIA, more so by Jean-Marie Balestre. His portrayal as the evil villain is unjust and the decision to focus predominately on the intra-team rivalry at McLaren, while important, is a poor one.
There’s next to nothing on his childhood, his formative years in the lower echelons of racing, nor the road to Formula One. And what about some of the epic battles with other drivers? It’s disappointing that with the thousands of hours of footage on offer, what we end up with is a very clipped account of Senna’s career and a fairly superficial understanding of his character.
Considering the quantity of the material that the makers had access to, I genuinely believe that they could have done a better job of showcasing the flawed genius that Senna actually was – 100 minute running time or not. His real character never comes to the fore and there’s too much hero worship for my liking.
Take for example the interview where Jackie Stewart pegs him about his number of crashes compared to previous champions. It seems its inclusion is shown only for Senna’s rebuttal rather than to highlight any issues others had with him.
Ultimately, Senna feels like it’s a YouTube homage on steroids, albeit one with a fantastic soundtrack, excellent presentation and some awesome footage.
But as a documentary it’s severely lacking and doesn’t dig deep enough for me. It barely even scratches the surface and doesn’t tell the audience what made Senna the man he was. Actually interviewing the people he raced with or against – instead of a bunch of journalists who witnessed him doing what he did from the side lines – would have gone some way in doing so.
I can’t help feel Senna is a wasted opportunity. I know full well I’m in the minority by thinking so, but there we go. At least I can be thankful that the once mooted Antonio Banderas Senna flick never got the go ahead. Imagine that.