Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Everest: I wish I read the book first.

According to history and climbing mythos, George Mallory in 1923 when asked why he climbed Mount Everest replied, "Because it's there." It would seem no one who climbs mountains actually is able to describe why they do so.  In Jon Krakauer's book about his climb of the world's highest peak, Into Thin Air, according to someone I know who has read it, Krakauer agrees that there is no real good reason to climb particularly Everest.  In an interview on Huffington Post, Krakauer stated that it was the worst mistake of his life and that he is still haunted by the events on Everest in 1996.  He is also not happy with the adaptation of his book in the movie Everest.

So with that in mind, I offer you my little review of the movie Everest, based on the book Into Thin Air.  I have not read the book but my wife, who went to the movie with me, has and although she did not know when we went in that it was based on the book, she instantly recognized the movie was an adaptation of Krakauer's book.  My wife liked the movie better than I did.  I liked it okay, but I felt like I was missing something or more aptly somethings.

The movie's photography is breathtaking especially in 3D.  Honestly though, it can only hold attention for so long.  The movie has some moments of tense excitement.  I didn't know who died originally, so I didn't know who would die in the movie.  The issue for me is  that I didn't really become attached to any of the characters save the leader of the group Rob Hall played by Jason Clarke.  I became a little attached to Doug Hansen played by John Hawkes but the rest, I really didn't connect with, and this was despite a stellar cast that included Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightly, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, and Emily Watson.

The problem was that the movie needed to be built around understanding the lives of a couple of characters instead of around the events of the climb.  I also felt like I was missing an understanding of the steps of the climb.  These events were touched on like I should understand the different bases, the different approach, the rope issues, the climatizing issues, the importance of teamwork and why the lead sherpas would care if they worked together or not.  You see all those things are mentioned, but nothing is ever really made clear.  For example, there is a good deal of discussion about where extra oxygen or "o" is stashed.  I have no idea where the south pole is or the distance that the climbers had to go to get to it.  I actually still have no understanding of the distances involved.

What I do know, is that it is dangerous, hard, painful, and many die trying to climb.  My wife liked the movie better than I did for one simple reason.  All those gaps, like the different base camps and their importance, had been filled in by Into Thin Air.  She was revisiting people she had come to know from the book.  She understood them.  She understood what it meant to have climbed all seven summits (it means a climber has reached the summit of the highest peaks on seven continents). She understood the significance of their deaths or survival and the extremity of climbing Everest.  My two hours on the mountain lacked all that information.

I liked the movie for its intensity and astounding vistas.  I was frustrated by its weakness in telling what was and should be a moving and intense story.  It is well worth the watch, but it is not as strong of a  film as it could have been.