Making the Grades
While Hollywood imagines what it would be like to climb one of the world's tallest peaks Everest explores the same subject in reality--or at least with only a few re-created scenes.
Filmed in IMAX, and available on VHS and DVD, the documentary features Ed Viesturs who is planning to climb the mountain. More incredible still, he has somehow convinced his newlywed wife Paula to make the Everest trip part of their honeymoon. To build the physical strength Ed will require, the couple ride mountain bikes through some Utah canyons, providing some wonderful photo opportunities.
In other scenic locations around the world, the rest of Ed's team is preparing, including Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the rarely mentioned Sherpa who guided Sir Edmond Hillary to the peak decades earlier. Ironically, this oversight is never really corrected, because of the almost patronizing focus on Ed's desire to reach the peak without any oxygen support. Nor do we see (except for a moment during the credits) the army of Sherpa's who the toted the necessary pounds of equipment and supplies.
While assembled in the shadow of the mountain and waiting through the weeks required for their bodies to acclimatizing to the high altitudes, one of the mountain's greatest disasters occurred. Another team, guided by Ed's friend Rob Hall (from New Zealand) was engulfed by a massive storm near the peak. Ed and Jamling's party were able to assist only some of the stranded climbers. Their most amazing rescue involved Beck Weathers, an American who stumbled blindly back to camp after being left for dead on the mountainside. Still, eight people lost their lives.
The harrowing tales of the casualties and survivors adds a facet to this expedition that wasn't part of the original concept for this film. In the face of the tragedy, Ed and Jamling make the difficult decision to continue with their accent to the summit.
In typical IMAX tradition, the movie is light on information and heavy on huge vistas. And heavy is the key word... although the IMAX camera used weighed about half of the standard 80 pounds, that and the accompanying film stock may account for the minimal amount of Everest scenery actually captured in IMAX format. The rest of the movie is comprised of shots from other locations, or grainy standard film footage (and actually makes this giant-screen production more playable on a normal-sized screen).
One mild expletive and the impending terror of the ill-fated climbers are the only content concerns for parents. So, if you want that IMAX feeling, pull your chair a little closer to the TV.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Everest.
Did this film make you more aware of the time and the dangers involved in mountain climbing? If you were a member of this crew, would you have decided to go on to the top? What are some of the perceived rewards from completing such an adventure? Does this film make you more or less excited about trying something like this?