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First Descent (PG-13)

Release Date: December 2nd, 2005 by Universal Pictures.
Directed by Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the evolution of snowboarding.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The most thrilling scenes in First Descent are when the snowboarders slide down the steep mountain trails. Every other scene just feels ho-hum as you get to meet each five professional snowboarders. Hanna Teter is the only female in the group and, unfortunately, there aren’t enough scenes with her. The others include Nick Perata, Terje Haakonsen, Shawn Farmer, and Shaun White who are all interesting, but not as interesting as their snowboarding scene. These very well-shot scenes as they fly into the air and quickly avoid avalanches seem like part of a heart-stopping action movie. Not surprisingly, snowboarding began as an unpopular, small “hobby” which was not even considered to be a sport by critics. With a constant struggle to be publicized and commercialized, it gradually became famous until its peak in the 1990’s. Snowboarders certainly take big risks, especially when they’re the first to descend on a mountain. It is not exactly clear what makes them more significant than skiers or even surfers who also put their life on the line. At a running time of 110 minutes, it does tend to drag a bit. Nonetheless, there are enough intense, breath-taking scenes of snowy mountains against beautiful skies as the snowboarders amazingly reach the bottom in one piece.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Although the five professional snowboarders survive their snowboarding adventures, First Descent fails to shed light on the darker side of snowboarding: those who were injured or lost somebody their loved because of snowboarding. At one point, Hanna Teter rolls down the trail a bit, gives up, and admits that she’s scared, but that’s not deep enough to be profound or moving. The only other commentary from the snowboarders are dull words like “awesome” or “narly”, which one snowboarder repeats over and over like he’s Sean Penn from Fast Times at Ridgemont High .

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough insightful interviews with the snowboarders.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Thrilling snowboarding scenes with beautiful cinematography, but not powerful or insightful enough to bring new fans to the sport.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Fans of snowboarding- Movie Theater (2nd Run)
Everyone else- TV

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