A scene from "Waiting for Lightning." (Handout )
"Waiting for Lightning" is a portrait of the extreme-sports superstar Danny Way, centered on his 2005 effort to leap over the Great Wall of China on a skateboard using an enormous megaramp to accomplish the stunt. Unfortunately, the athlete himself simply isn't much of a presence in this documentary, even as the film aims to celebrate him.
Why it took some seven years to bring this story to screen is unclear. As the film uses the buildup and preparations to the jump as its structuring spine, people speak of Way as if he's already dead, often talking for him when he could be responding for himself (he is still alive and well and interviewed in the film).
At one point, someone mentions that they can't understand what was going on in Way's head, leaving the viewer to wonder why director Jacob Rosenberg doesn't just ask him. When Way does speak, it's only in obliquely upbeat sound bites. If Way prefers to let his board and body do the talking for him, that's one thing, but Rosenberg should have found a better way to directly articulate that, instead of allowing Way to remain such a non-entity in a film designed to showcase him.
Stacy Peralta's recent skateboarding doc "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," which features some of the same faces on-camera, could easily have seemed like self-promotion but through a bracing sense of self-examination became something more. Lacking any such insights, "Waiting for Lightning" ends up as little more than an extended piece of lifestyle merchandising, a long montage for monitors in sporting-goods shops.
"Waiting for Lightning." Rated PG-13 for dangerous sports action, some language and thematic material involving drugs and alcohol. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. At the Laemmle Monica 4-Plex