Movie Review: Everest

Universal Pictures brings us to the top of “Everest” in 3-D IMAX movie presentation. The story is of a true disaster that befell several climbers of the formidable mountain in 1996, which has been chronicled in several books, including “After The Wind” by Lou Kasischke, a consultant on the production, and “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. The cast is terrific, including Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, climbing Guru. Others include the lovely Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright and Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer.

On the morning of May 10, 1996, two groups of climbers follow Sherpas on their final approach to the summit of Everest. Suddenly, a fierce ice storm envelops the mountain, throwing inhuman cold wind and danger around them. Few will live to tell the tale.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures Jason Clarke leads alpinists to the peak of hell in "Everest" at the Esquire IMAX.
The 3-D aerial views of the giant mountain are indeed impressive, and it is nice to have so many screen favorites in one picture. The audience at the advance screening applauded at the end. I don’t know if that was because they got in for free or were happy it was finally over.

I was not happy with it for several reasons. First, our famous stars are up on the side of the great mountain in climbing gear, which covers their entire body and most of their face for most of the movie. There is no way of knowing in the medium or long shots if it actually is the actors or doubles playing the parts for the screen.

Second, some medium shots don’t precisely match the long shots in feel, revealing to me that much of the close-up shots and medium shots were sets built against a special effects green screen in Rome’s famous Cinecittà Studios.

Third, much of the footage of the actual mountain top, in fact authentic, was not photographed originally for this movie but borrowed from IMAX’s 1998 movie “Everest” photographed by David Breashears. I’ll add that the 3-D effect in this new movie rarely jumps out at you, but provides depth to the image, which may have actually been achieved in post production, and not actually photographed in 3-D. The movie does not fill the screen from top to bottom, but is in the classic CinemaScope aspect ratio of 2.35: 1. In an IMAX theater, it is still bigger than life, just not as big as IMAX.

The final issue is the running time. The move was cut from a longer running length which might have explained some mysteries one can’t understand in the story line in the now shorter two hour and one minute version in the theater. Having reviewed two weeks ago, a documentary still playing, “Meru”, with real footage of climbers reaching an almost impossible peak in the Himalayas that took my breath away, the studio-bound look and sloppy matching of shots proves “Everest” an editing disaster. If you are IMAX minded this week, the movie to see is “Life in the Age of Airplanes”, which I reviewed last week. That movie is fantastic, and uses the full IMAX screen.

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