By Desaree Haber (Chapel Hill, NC)
When I heard that there was an IMAX 3-D Everest movie coming out, I planned a month in advance to race and see it on opening night. For anyone that knows me, planning a few hour outing more than two weeks in advance, and managing to not let some other pressing matter interfere, is somewhat rare.
“Rising 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level, Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas, the mountain’s summit straddles the border separating China and Nepal.”
I did not research this movie in any way. I did not know who had been cast, and was simply ready to be entertained with a visual extravaganza!! I wanted to virtually climb the mountain and this IMAX 3-D adventure promised to give me the thrill of the climb!
Ok, first the previews for the movies The Martian and Crimson Peak look somewhat enticing. When Everest opens with a scene at the airport with Keira Knightley playing Jan, the lead guide Rob Hall’s pregnant wife, smiling and waving on the other side of traffic, I couldn’t help but secretly wish a car would speed up and hit her as she crossed. I wondered what kind of deal she made with the devil, because for a relatively unattractive woman with extremely crooked teeth, she really is in EVERYTHING. No one is THAT talented. Keira Knightley, alright already.
When the climbers are assembled at a pub on the first night in Nepal, Rob Hall, (the most successful non-Sherpa guide to ever scale Everest, having successfully summated 5 times) begins this exciting adventure with a blood curdling speech. He explains that all along the climb, the extreme height and lack of oxygen along the way causes the brain to swell and the entire body to begin to die a slow painful death.
The entire objective of this event is to scale the beast and return off of the mountain before the body fully succumbs to death with limbs and digits intact. Disorientation confusion and even anger apparently ensue as a result of this attempt. One of the climbers holds up a disfigured mangled foot, sporting bulbous lumps where toes used to be to remind everyone that there is real danger ahead.
He goes on to remind the climbers that it takes months for the body to acclimate to the lack of oxygen and the sheer scale of this beast. The attempt needs to be made in incremental stages with time spent acclimating to the climate and unusual heights. The actually summit attempt itself would not be attempted for 60 days in the future, after months of rigorous training and adapting. Most of the people in this room have scaled other mountains and are in excellent overall mountain climbing physical health. He reminds them that due to all the difficulties, the chances to actually summit before the body fully succumbs to death, are pretty much slim and none.
He goes on to talk about one cardinal rule that is set in stone. Reaching the summit by 2 P.M. is a set fixed rule. No matter how close one is to the top, if one is not at the summit by 2 P.M. a MANDATORY turnaround time is a must, and will be enforced; no exceptions. Everyone here is a seasoned climber, knows this rule, and nods in acknowledgement.
At this early point in the movie, for anyone who values life, you begin this movie thinking, this beast of a mountain is completely inhospitable to humans, and poised to squeeze the breath of life out of me, while inflicting complete disorientation and encephalitis. The objective of this exercise is to come back with my life, limbs and digits intact. After this speech, the only thing on my mind is WTF would make any sane person want to continue at this point?
The film work on this movie is phenomenal and spectacular. Particularly the helicopter scene which flies over the team on the rope bridge at the start of this adventure. It is an extremely breathtaking site to behold. The experience of an avalanche. The relative size of the mountain to humans. The majestic beauty of Everest in all its heavenly glory is breathtakingly beautiful and beyond dispute.
However, the movie itself and the unfolding of the climber’s determination to succeed at any cost boggles the mind as you hold your breath in fear for the climbers at some of the crossings. This horrific journey up the mountain and nightmare chain of events that ensue was not an exciting and adventurous event to witness. It was sickening to realize the pompous arrogant entitled stubbornness and sheer selfish stupidity and reckless disregard for life that some of these folks displayed had my friend literally scream out loud at one point, “these people are NUTS!!”
This movie for me fell flat in all other ways aside from visually. I left feeling only pissed off at the idiocy of the climbers themselves, and nothing else. Not the editing of the movie, or anything about the story, or the way this remake was presented was otherwise memorable.
The expense the IMAX team of producers must have to gone to in the remaking of this tragedy was a complete waste of money and effort. They would have done better to have presented this extraordinary mountain climb as an IMAX 3-D virtual adventure climb with no one else present, except me with the mountain enjoying the climb, while sitting safely in a darkened theater seat, knowing that I am the smartest of all climbers.
Rob Hall: You, my friends, are following in the very footsteps of history, something beyond the power of words to describe.
Rob Hall: Human being aren’t simply built to function at the cruising altitude of a seven-four-seven. Our bodies will be literally dying. So the game is, I’m gonna get you up to the top, down to the bottom, before that happens.