People have been very excited for the release of the Michael Schumacher documentary as the man was notoriously private and many hoped for a little insight here. You do get some, but the overall package of the documentary is decent, if not a little generic.
Michael Schumacher is arguable one of the best drivers to ever enter Formula One and a documentary on his rise within the sport should have been expected, especially considering Netflix’s success with Formula One content like Drive to Survive. Schumacher fits in very easily with that content but it lacks something – energy.
The documentary does provide audiences with a little more insight into Schumacher’s private life with family footage giving us a peek into Schumacher off the track. That stuff is good and interesting. They are giving us a decent story of the man. The problem comes not so much in the content but the presentation.
For starters, sometimes the editing is weird. A lot of the time the documentary will show photos and just linger on them for a little too long. You could’ve made the argument that it’s just padding to stretch the runtime, but the film is already two hours long so that doesn’t seem like the reason. There might not be another reason other than that it was a weird editing choice. For instance, the filmmakers avoid giving us answers quickly in order to drum up an artificial sense of drama where most documentaries would simply give us the answer and explain them afterwards, the discussion of the topic driving the drama. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about Schumacher, and it is most egregious when discussing Ayrton Senna’s death on the track.
We see the lap and the crash happen in real time and then they cut to an old interview of Schumacher talking about the incident, but they use clips that keep the topic vague until finally they say outright that Senna did indeed die that day. It seems the filmmakers were attempting to evoke the same sense of unawareness and confusion Schumacher felt at the time, but instead it just leaves the audience confused as to what they’re really talking about, Senna’s accident or his death as a result? It just feels muddled. At least when they are vague about Schumacher’s skiing accident and current condition, that’s due to the wishes of the Schumacher family, there’s no such excuse for the Senna incident.
The score is also quite generic and at times laughable for how emotionally driven and overly serious it comes across. The music often feels either out of place or very cliché. It’s understandable to have a more serious tone when it comes to Schumacher’s skiing accident but when he’s winning races and at his peak in his career there’s just no fun. There’s not much fun in the whole documentary. Again, this makes sense due to the tragic nature of the ending but it’s not like Schumacher’s whole life was tragic. They even make a point in the film that Schumacher loved a party when he wasn’t racing, but even those scenes are presented with serious music. The film could definitely have benefited from a little more energy and fun especially in those moments.
What was a real highlight of the film were the other driver’s viewpoints on the same accidents in Schumacher’s career. You get see the incidents where both drivers agree on what happened and the accidents where they totally disagree, it’s incredibly interesting to see the different perspectives and theories as to the reason why certain things occurred. That part was good. Another highlight was Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, who provided the best insight and information on who Schumacher was as a person and why he did the things he did. Go figure his wife knew him best.
Overall, this is a decent documentary for any Formula One or Schumacher fan. But will it convert someone who isn’t really interested in the topic? No. It doesn’t have enough energy to compete with Drive to Survive and has less drama, fabricated or not. The only reason to watch this is if you have an interest in Schumacher, but that’s probably obvious considering the title. The film delivers what it advertised if not in a slightly bland and generic fashion.