PG-13 Dir: Baltasar Kormakur | Universal | 2h 1min
Plot: What’s it about?
Everest tells the true story of multiple expeditions attempting to climb Mount Everest in 1996. The film came and went last fall despite featuring a cast of recognizable faces. Of course, in a disaster movie of this sort, the familiar faces can sometimes get lost during the shuffle. It seems to have taken inspiration of the many disaster films of the 1970’s. A big difference here is that these characters all choose to climb the mountain. In turn, this not only gives a slightly different approach, but also makes it harder to emphasize with them entirely. We had another similar film recently with San Andreas. A big difference is none of the characters chose to be in harm’s way. Instead, it simply happened and they were there. Andreas is also a popcorn film first and foremost. While we get many intense scenes in Everest, it tries to add a lot of drama as well. Though the results are often mixed.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) runs a company known as “Adventure Consultants”. He’s basically the guy you talk to if attempting such a task as climbing Everest. Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the chief guide for Mountain Madness, the competitor to Hall’s company. Josh Brolin shows up here too as a Doctor to assist the climbers. There are more than a handful of other characters, but a lot of them feel shortchanged. It takes a while for the film to get to the meat of the story, but when it does there are some admittedly well done effects. Still, I found myself strangely uninvolved through the majority of this film. Characterization is weak and there’s a great deal of repetitiveness after a while.
There are many problems with this film, but the biggest issue may be the central disaster itself. When you’re dealing with a massive blizzard and endless amounts of snow, it’s hard to truly decipher what exactly is going on. The characters might as well be interchangeable since we can hardly recognize their faces. We’re also dealing with a true story (though heavily fictionalized) where we know the basic outcome. That makes it a bit less thrilling when know how it’ll all turn out. That isn’t to say that films that feature predetermined conclusions can’t be enjoyable, but it takes away some of the mystery here. It has its moments, but overall, Everest is a disappointment.
Video: How’s it look?
Having previously watched this film in its 3D offering, I was excited to finally see it in 4K. Universal is going back and retroactively releasing some of their more recent titles in the new format and, suffice it to say, this is custom made for it. The very wide AVC HD image makes use of every inch of the screen. As one might imagine, whites dominate the mountain scenes, though the opening “base” scenes show exceptional detail, color depth and contrast. Detail is magnificent, showing the coarse hairs on the faces, lines in the skin and the rugged terrain that makes up the most death-defying mountain in the world. Universal’s presentation, simply put, has no errors and makes for a wonderful viewing experience. That being said, it’s a toss up between viewing this in 4K or 3D is truly the “better” experience. The 3D version isn’t a part of this set, so I’m willing to bet this is an either/or for the viewer. I will say that no matter which way you go, you’ll be delighted – I was.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The Blu-ray and 3D offering both sported a Dolby Atmos track and this Ultra HD/4K version is no different. It’s the same mix. And as I alluded to before, I’ll likely never know the sound of the wind whistling through my hair at the top of Mt. Everest, so I’ll have to once again rely on the A/V aspects of this film to give me a sense of what it’s like. The included Dolby Atmos track (down sampled to a very robust TrueHD track for those not equipped) rocks (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Vocals are strong and precise, even though some of the muffled layers of clothes the actors wear. What really takes front and center here, pardon the pun, are the surround effects. The wind whipping around, the LFE offering the bass as well as a very immersive experience. It’s quite a unique experience and combined with watching this in 3D is about as close one can come short of being there. This track is flawless.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the supplements from the previously-released Blu-ray are included except the commentary from director Baltasar Kormákur. For whatever reason, that has been removed.
- Race to the Summit: The Making of Everest – A fairly straight-forward look at the shoot on location in Europe as well as Nepal (home of Mt. Everest) with some interviews with the cast and crew.
- Learning to Climb – Lest we forget, these are actors and not professional climbers, so we’re regaled with some talk as to the physical demands for their respective roles.
- A Mountain of Work – Obviously the actors didn’t actually summit the mountain, so we’re treated to some of the production work that re-created the effect.
- Aspiring to Authenticity: The Real Story – I’d say a good supplement to this is to watch the 1999 version of Everest that gives the “real” stories by those that did the climb, but this is a good substitute. We can see the sense of emotion as well as the physical effects of the ill-fated climb.
The Bottom Line
By now we all know the story of Rob Hall and his adventure up the world’s tallest mountain. Granted, the movie has a few flaws, but if you’re in it for the technical specs (and Universal is betting you are), then it’s hard to go wrong with this visually. The lack of the audio commentary that was present on the Blu-ray is a bit disappointing as is the lack of a 3D offering in this set, so it’s a judgment call.