More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 31.58%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 1 rating

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

First Descent
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Wait a minute-people still say 'gnarly'?"
2 stars

Since I know nothing about the world of snowboarding, I went into the new documentary “First Descent” hoping to glean some understanding as to what would drive people to participate in what seems on the surface to be such an incredibly risky and dangerous activity. Two hours later, I walked out having learned absolutely nothing about the subject except for the fact that none of its participants–at least none of the ones captured here by filmmakers Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison–are in the least bit articulate about the sport, themselves or much of anything else for that matter more profound than “Dude-that’s gnarly!”

The central conceit of the film is to gather five top snowboarders from different generations of the sport–Shawn Farmer. Terje Haakonsen, Nick Peralta, Hannah Teter and Shaun White–and send them off to Valdez, Alaska for a couple of weeks to ride the local mountain peaks using their varying methods. While some of the resulting footage is admittedly thrilling and impressive–one sequence shows a rider winding his way through the snow as what appears to be a mini-avalanche threatens to overwhelm him and the climax depicts Haakonsen hurtling his way down from a peak over 7100 feet in the air–their techniques pretty much all look the same here. In between, we are treated to interviews and back-home footage of the quintet that reveal them to be painfully inarticulate people who are unable to describe their favorite pastime in a way that might convince those who aren’t already hard-core fans to give it any consideration. Instead, they merely repeat empty platitudes about the sport representing “freedom” and “self-expression” and the filmmakers are apparently so enraptured with their prattling that they never prod their subjects further.

Speaking of empty platitudes, the most annoying aspect of “First Descent” comes from the occasional digressions by the filmmakers to explain the history and development of snowboarding. Using the kind of hyperbole usually only scene in the biographical films shown by presidential candidates before they accept their nominations, Curly and Harrison go to ridiculous lengths to attempt to convince viewers that snowboarding is not just a legitimate sport (to which I have no argument) but one of the most important social and cultural developments in the history of man. The “humble” beginnings are described in terms usually reserved for the civil rights movement and every subsequent development is something that “forever changed” the sport. Every once in a while, an interesting topic is stumbled upon–mainly the initial resistance to the sport by the skiing industry until they realized how much money they could make from it–but they are too often given short shrift for more footage of snowboarders blathering on about how true and real and authentic the sport is in comparison to . . . well, in comparison to everything.

At one point, a snowboarder pontificates, “Am I selling out the soul of snowboarding?”–presumably to The Man, I suppose. This is the kind of sentiment that I might be able to swallow a little easier is it didn’t appear in a film that, is narrated by Henry Rollins (the former punk star who still tries to pass himself off as a rebel despite appearing in Charlie Sheen films and Gap ads) and contains so many product plugs in the background that when the film goes into slow-motion during some competition footage, I thought it was done just to make sure that we were able to get a good look at the signs advertising Taco Bell and Mountain Dew. In fact, “First Descent” reminds me a lot of a can of Mountain Dew. Sure, it has a flashy surface and it is constantly reminding everyone of just how hip and edgy it is–once you actually get into it, however, it quickly loses its fizz and goes flat long before the end credits roll.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/02/05 15:42:09
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

2/03/06 malcolm interesting, probably a lot more engaging for snowboarders 3 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  02-Dec-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



Directed by
  Kevin Harrison
  Kemp Curley

Written by
  Kevin Harrison

  Shawn Farmer
  Nick Perata
  Terje Haakonsen
  Shaun White
  Hannah Teter

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast