First Descent

"OK"

First Descent Review


Someone sitting near me during a First Descent screening leaned over after the film and asked, in mock seriousness, if we can expect a bowling documentary sometime in the near future.

I laughed, but in hindsight they aren't too far off. [In fact, at least one bowling doc has already been produced. -Ed.] A feature-length film detailing the history and cultural significance of snowboarding - a popular yet still evolving sport - seems premature at this point. Even co-directors Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison, who cut their teeth as producers for MTV, are hard-pressed for enlightening material. What's worse, the two even skimp on the requisite hard-hitting soundtrack of rap/rock, which usually is half the fun of watching these extreme-sports excursions.

Curly and Harrison want their slickly produced Descent to pay tribute to snowboarding in much the same way that the similar - but superior - sport docs Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants did for skateboarding and surfing, respectively. They conduct sit-downs with industry pioneers and gather archival footage of early boarders knocking down barriers at posh resorts previously reserved for the ski community. Yet despite its current status as an Olympic event, snowboarding lacks the rich history and colorful characters that contributed to the timelines of its fellow board sports, which helped make made Dogtown and Giants such enjoyable rides.

The bulk of Descent follows five professional snowboarders ranging in age from 18 to 40 as they embark on a two-week trip to Alaska's backcountry to find unconquered terrain. It's a healthy mix of grizzled veterans and the sport's next generation of superstars. Shawn Farmer, 40, and Nick Peralta, 39, could be considered the founding fathers of snowboarding. They're joined by 18-year-old Shaun White, who is described by colleagues as the LeBron James of snowboarding, and the movie certainly shows why.

In between interviews with these likable athletes, Descent mentions milestones in snowboarding history without elaborating on what could have been very interesting topics. We learn that snowboarding is huge in Japan (events look like sold out U2 concerts in the States), but the film doesn't ask what triggered the sport's explosion. We hear about a drug scandal that rocked the first Olympic gold medalist for snowboarding, but the story sputters out in favor of more shots of Farmer and friends trekking down Alaska's treacherous mountains. The photography is breathtaking, but there are only so many times you can show a freestyle snowboarder spinning in the air and waxing philosophic before both get old.

You're doing it the wrong way.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 2nd December 2005

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $739.7 thousand

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 30

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Himself, Hannah Teter as Herself, Shawn Farmer as Himself, Terje Haakonsen as Himself, Travis Rice as Himself, Nick Perata as Himself

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