May 22, 1998 -- "Everest" is a film about an expedition to the top of the highest mountain in the world. What makes this expedition different is that it was filmed using the IMAX (tm) process, resulting in super-sharp and extra large images.
The nearest IMAX theater is at the Denver Museum of Natural History, which is where I saw the film last weekend. IMAX, in addition to using a large 70-millimeter film format and a special sound system, also utilizes a vacuum to press the film tight against the projector lens when each frame is projected. The result is an image of unrivaled clarity.
I mention this only because the sharpness and size of the image are a big part of the experience of watching this film. Since this is a documentary, there are few recognizable names associated with it. One is Liam Neeson, who narrates part of the film. The other name is Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, the first man, who along with Sir Edmund Hillary, first conquered Everest. On this expedition, Norgay became the 10th member of his family to climb Everest.
One of the things I learned in this film was that climbers use ordinary-looking aluminum ladders, tied together with ropes, to climb Everest. They are very handy when crossing crevasses. The cameraman, walking across one of these seemingly bottomless chasms on such a ladder, wearing crampons on his feet, creates a most unsettling visual effect.
The other thing that became apparent during the movie is that there are way too many climbers at a time on Everest. Base camp was like a traffic jam, with climbing groups, many of them ill-prepared, waiting their turn at the mountain. It takes a little of the adventure out of it.
Another thing that takes the adventure out of the film is the sight of a climber struggling toward the top of Everest. Looks hard enough, but then you remember that some guy who is probably a lot tougher than him had to lug all that same equipment, plus a 50-pound camera, up there so we can see this climber struggling to the top of the mountain.
The tragedy referred to above is the decimation of another expedition just before the IMAX team hit the summit. The cameramen dropped their gear, and with a heroic effort, managed to save one of the climbers stranded by a fierce storm. The personal loss is understandable because friends of the IMAX expedition died in that situation, but yet all these people knew that Everest is an extremely dangerous place. Skill and courage will only get you part of the way to the top and back. You need luck, too. This film rates a B.
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