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Kids on Film

Interest Peaked

'Everest' viewers are left hanging. Still, Imax is fitting format for mountain.

March 12, 1998|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — In the Imax documentary "Everest," a multinational team of climbers reaches the summit of the world's highest mountain in May 1996, just after an unexpected storm took the lives of eight others. (Not rated.)

After assessing the thrills of ice climbing, thundering avalanches and panoramas of frozen peaks under a royal blue sky, 3-year-old Hannah Campbell decided she'd rather chew her foam soft-drink cup.

Despite educational maps and graphics explaining mountain geology and informative details about Buddhist beliefs, her brother Seth, 10, said what he learned most from the documentary is that he will never climb Mt. Everest.

While 14-year-old Ryan Treacy appreciated the herculean and dangerous task of filming an actual Everest trek with large-format Imax equipment, he preferred the recent TV movie "Into Thin Air," based on Jon Krakauer's best-selling account of the tragedy and which re-created the fatal disaster.

The images in "Everest" are breathtaking. No one can sweep a terrain with stomach-churning vistas like MacGillivray Freeman Films, and there's no denying that high adventure on the big--and we mean BIG--screen is cool.

Yet when it ended after a quick 40 minutes, many felt as if the story lacked something that should have hooked them like a well-placed piton.

For some, it was the sense that the movie left out the climber with the most difficult task--filmmaker David Breashears. How did he get those heart-thumping shots--from below--of a spike-booted climber clomping across a crevasse? Or that avalanche crashing right into the camera lens?

"I was thinking, 'How the heck did they do that? With a bungee cord or something? How did the camera survive?' " said Ryan Critchfield, 13, on a visit to Aliso Viejo from his home in Utah.

The movie focused on Ed Viesturs, the United States' leading Himalayan mountaineer; Araceli Segarra, a rock climber from Spain; and Nepalese climber Jamling Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953 on the first successful ascent of Everest.

"It was an interesting, different view," said Ryan Treacy, also visiting from Utah. He had seen the more emotional TV movie about the ill-fated climbers several times.

"Instead of having the interview solely on the people stuck in the windstorm, it's on the people watching the people stuck in the windstorm and what they were going through." Still, he said, "I liked the TV one more because it went with more of the survivors."

The Imax documentary shows Viesturs speaking over a radio with a lost Rob Hall, one of two guides who died in the storm. It also includes a harrowing helicopter rescue of some others through narrow Himalayan valleys. Segarra is shown in tears as she anticipates finding bodies during their postponed climb--scenes the filmmakers excluded.

What did frighten some children were the heights and the music. "I thought if I was on [the climb] it would be really scary because of all the high cliffs," said Seth, who lives in Rancho Santa Margarita.

His friend, 10-year-old Brooks Forrest, from the same city, found the dramatic score a little annoying and the volume a little high. "The avalanche was, like, loud," he said.

He was impressed with how little oxygen exists 5 1/2 miles above sea level. The air is so thin that helicopters can't fly, and climbers must take weeks to acclimatize.

Ryan Critchfield also appreciated the 2-D format. "This movie is big enough. It doesn't need to be 3-D."

*

PARENTS' PERSPECTIVE: "I don't think there's a lot for kids in it," Lori Campbell said. "I don't think it got into enough detail to be an educational film."

"Everest" lacked a realistic view of how much work is required to support such an ambitious endeavor, she said. "They focus on two, three people; that's it. Usually there are 10 Sherpas with them that climb and carry everything."

The largest piece she felt was missing was the most basic--why they did this.

"To have fun? To get in shape? For the challenge? I couldn't see the reasoning," she said. "They're killing themselves."

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