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Werner Herzog Thinks 'Pokémon Go' Is Unnecessary and Perplexing

"Do they bite each other's hands? Do they punch each other?"

Illustration by Liz Renstrom

It was inevitable. Somebody asked revered filmmaker Werner Herzog, known for making some of the most daring and fiercely original films and documentaries over the past 40 years, what he thinks about Pokémon Go.

Werner Herzog: When two persons in search of a Pokémon clash at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?

The Verge: They do fight, virtually.
Physically, do they fight?

Do they bite each other's hands? Do they punch each other?

The people or the…
Yes, there must be real people if it's a real encounter with someone else.

Well, it's been interesting because there are all these anecdotes of people who are playing the game, and they've never met their neighbors, for instance. And when they go outside to look for Pokémon they realize they're playing the same game, and start talking to each other.
You'd have to give me a cell phone, which I'm not going to use anyway, and I have no clue what's going on there, but I don't need to play the game.


The acclaimed director was doing press around his forthcoming documentary about the internet, called Lo and Behold. The film explores the origins, possibilities, and abuses of the internet, and includes positively Herzogian lines such as, "Does the internet dream?" and "The corridor here looks repulsive" (said about the computer-engineering wing of the UCLA campus).

It seems unlikely that the 73-year-old Bavarian-born documentarian, who has bragged about not owning a cell phone—OK, only for emergencies, he concedes—has taken such an interest in technology. But in addition to Lo and Behold, Herzog recently launched an online filmmaking course for MasterClass.

When you think about it, perhaps it's not so odd that the director of unforgettable documentaries about the death penalty, ski-jumping, erupting volcanoes, and life at the South Pole, would be into the exploring the role of humanity at the edge of the digital abyss. After all, this is the same glorious man capable of consuming his own shoes, obsessing over WrestleMania, and speaking from the point-of-view of a plastic bag (the short film, a PSA against pollution, is surprisingly affecting).

Could we be in for a Herzog-narrated romp through "augmented reality," flinging Poké Balls and ensnaring Charmanders? In a world littered with Herzog's takes on Curious George and Pokémon Go mash-ups of David Attenborough, it's only a matter of time.

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