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Shay J. Katz
An international team of climbers ascends Mt. Everest in the spring of 1996. The film depicts their lengthy preparations for the climb, their trek to the summit, and their successful return to Base Camp. It also shows many of the challenges the group faced, including avalanches, lack of oxygen, treacherous ice walls, and a deadly blizzard. Written by
It's not the whole story, but that wasn't its job.
A lot of times I browse through other reviews when contemplating what I want to say about a movie, and never have I been more disturbed than by reading people's reviews of this film. One IMDb reviewer placed a post on the page for Everest (2005) in which he attacked Jon Krakauer, author of the spectacular novel Into Thin Air, not only of selfishly misrepresenting the actions of people on the mountain, but also of sleeping away in his tent while people were stuck outside freezing. Bruce Kirkland, writing for Jam! Movies, stupidly claims that Araceli Sgarra was in the movie simply as sex appeal and, even worse, that 'members of at least one climbing team just crawled back in their tents and ignored the crisis.'
Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal. So a bunch of boneheads completely missed the point and clearly have no idea about what really happened on the mountain, and are just writing reviews pretending like they have some right to criticize events and actions that they don't understand, right? Wrong. First of all, Mr. Kirkland displays a prodigious capacity for ignorance, apparently having managed to sit through this entire film and still not realize that no climber on earth could make it to the top of Everest without massive climbing skills. So much for that ridiculous little 'sex appeal' theory. The first Spanish woman ever to reach the summit of Everest, and this moron can do nothing but call her sex appeal. Please.
Second, there is nothing worse than people making accusations when they clearly have not read Krakauer's book. The IMAX expedition simply coincided with the tragic events that unfolded on Mt. Everest in May of 1996, it is not a documentary of those events. This is why the movie does not go into detail about what happens besides Liam Neeson describing them briefly in the voice-over, and is also why we now have so many people posting scathing reviews about a tragedy that they know nothing about. I would love to see the expression on one of these people's faces if they were asked why May 1996 was the deadliest month in the history of Everest, and yet given the statistics, actually had less deaths than the average year.
The people that 'just crawled back in their tents and ignored the crisis,' a group of people which included Jon Krakauer himself, did so for three reasons. First, because they were literally freezing to death. Frostbite had long since begun to set in, they were in the middle of a high-altitude storm, and the wind-chill was such that it would make short work of warm-blooded humans stuck in it. Second, because they were so exhausted that they could barely move. Please remember that these people, at that altitude, could only take a few steps before having to lean over their ice-axes, panting for breath in the dangerously thin air. It does not require a cognitive workout to realize that for people who can hardly stand up to attempt a rescue effort would do nothing but add themselves to the death toll. Third, and most importantly, they didn't even know that there was a tragedy unfolding outside. It is more than a little difficult, Mr. Kirkland, to 'ignore' events that you don't even know are occurring.
In Into Thin Air, tragedy does not begin to unfold until almost 300 pages into the book, the IMAX movie passes that point in less than 15 minutes. The point was not to document the tragedies that unfolded, but to give viewers an unparalleled look at Mt. Everest itself, a monumental task at which it is hugely successful. I just wish there was more stock footage and less re-enactments, because there were scenes immediately recognizable from the book that were clearly not shot on location or during the actual events, like the conversation with the stranded Rob Hall.
I have no illusions. I'll probably never even set foot in Nepal, and would never make it to the top of Mt. Everest even I did. Director David Breashears not only went to the top, but brought along an IMAX camera so the rest of us could see it, too. In a startling act of heroism, when he and his team learned of the tragic events occurring at higher altitudes, as they were on their way up, they immediately abandoned their $5.5 million IMAX project to participate in the rescue effort, providing their more than 300 pounds of oxygen canisters to whoever needed them. It was not until the rescue effort had saved as many lives as they could that the IMAX team regrouped to decide whether they should still try to salvage their film project.
While I was not able to see Everest at an IMAX theater, I was still impressed with it on the small screen, probably because I had read Into Thin Air literally the day before I watched this film, and was able appreciate what these people went through on their expeditions. There are a lot of reviewers on the IMDb who say the movie is pointless to watch on a small screen, but it is only pointless if your imagination is so small that a smaller presentation is not enough for you to understand the sheer magnitude of the event. I could have done without the Jurassic Park music throughout the film, because it only tries to add to the greatness of the mountain, the expeditions, and the people involved, when no augmentation was necessary. It is not because the screen is small that the music seems trite, but because it's not necessary. Everest's soundtrack could have been nothing but wind across the microphone and it would have been more than sufficient.
Since I had read the book so soon before I watched the movie, I had an unfair expectation to see more coverage of the events that I had read about, because Jon Krakauer goes into stunning detail, covering every aspect of the expedition. It was not until I read some reviews of Everest, particularly on the IMDb, when I really appreciated the quality of the film and was startled by the idiocy of the people writing about it. The film is marketed by its connection with Into Thin Air, but unfortunately its association with that book only detracts from the movie because of its separation from it. Associating it with the book gives the impression that it will cover some of the same events, which it does with unfortunate brevity, and worst of all, the association of the film with Krakauer's book gives some viewers the impression that they know what happened on the mountain just because they have seen this film. No one who has not read Into Thin Air has any right whatsoever to criticize anything that happened on Mt. Everest in May 1996.
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