A 3D home theater showcase even if the movie isn’t up to the tech standards

Nature wins as Everest shows, recounting a real world story of middle aged, mountain climbing thrill seekers. The film’s drama unusually avoids the theatrical. Unlike the last major studio mountain movie, the adrenaline-charged Vertical Limit, there is an appreciable calmness to Everest’s danger. People are composed. The camera is composed. What’s not are the location’s conditions.

Soak up most of Everest’s sight-seeing journey while the opportunity is there. In terms of sheer beauty, few have managed to convey the perilous serenity of mountain climbing to this degree. Characters are dwarfed, not only in scale but their development. Everest has tricks – color coordinated jackets, breathing masks/goggles removed for thematically powerful moments – and even still, star power is extinguished. The who’s where and who’s who is difficult to maintain. Slim conflict and fat foreshadowing are the primary story drivers, not character development.

The lack of punctual, well-conceived design comes at a cost of empathy. Everest briefly flashes the question of why these people do what they do. Most are crippled by their own inaction to the question. Josh Brolin’s Beck Weathers uses the climb as an escape from his family, an eye-rolling display of Texas-sized machismo as his wife stays home with their children.

Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall deals with Everest as a business. His reasons for forming an unorthodox career are unexplained. An aging postal worker wishes to empower grade school students by reaching the summit; someone is admirable, at least. Almost all are cast with the same friendly, agreeable exterior. They merely blend as a result.

Everest is afforded rare, even essential breathing room.

Everest is not in a rush. Marketable disaster waits until the second hour. There is time to set-up perils (bridge crossings, rope climbs) and place these comparable personalities – but Everest only chooses to try the latter.

Disaster movies are typically empowering, even motivational regarding heroes. Everest is not that story. Some reach the peak, some don’t. Neither scenario comes to a glamorous, happy tears moment. Reaching the peak doesn’t spur on a spinning, celebratory camera shot with arms raised and deaths are treated as quiet, passive events. People turn into pale thrill seekers while the mountain becomes an imposing monster.

Within its genre, Everest has the benefit of authenticity. Little appears doctored or manipulated for the screen. Patience is key; few movies have enough to hold back their trailer-bound trills. Everest displays a learned discipline, almost in a vintage way. Contemporary blockbusters rush to their thrills. It’s in style, yet Everest is afforded rare, even essential breathing room. Then, spends an hour throwing it away on bland, similar personalities dwarfed by the power of their surroundings. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Everest Blu-ray screen shot 8

Suitable for IMAX screens, Everest may lose a bit of its cinematic punch at home. Smaller screens undoubtedly diminish the scale. Still, this is a fantastic looking movie, brushed with blues if still featuring a multitude of other bright colors. Neon jackets are a must in these conditions.

Punctuated by contrast, snow reflects tremendous sunlight onto the scenery. A slight dimness to the black levels is excusable when compared to the monumental oomph added by the light sources – digital or not. Everest milks its location for striking, beautiful, and stunning views of Nepal. Establishing shots are many and appreciated considering. At times, it’s like watching expertly photographed desktop wallpapers pass by the screen. Most are frame worthy.

More traditional close-ups are resolved and sharpness is tight. Cinematography relishes those fine details. As the cold hits, beards will begin to freeze and collect snow. Skin reacts visibly within the available resolution. Digital cinematography provides superb, unobstructed clarity. Encoding from Universal is flawless.

Better still is an essential 3D presentation. Scale and depth added by this rightly heavy-handed conversion increases a sense of peril. Looking down into a chasm (or up from within one) accentuates the space. Being near the peak of the mountain means looking at hundreds of miles of well considered expanse, and each mile feels layered appropriately.

Aside from the potential for cross-talk during a few nighttime situations, Everest is always keen on keeping 3D in focus. As storms pick up and visibility shrinks, foreground snow maintains its layering effect. Looking through the haze is a spectacular effect.

Consistent application of space is challenged, yet the 3D impresses no matter the circumstances. Even without the action, actors are rendered naturally and their features show sensible dimension. There are no gimmicks – Everest is not dropping things at the lens for effect. It’s a stable 3D showcase which emphasizes reality. [xrr rating=4/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=5/5 label=3D-Video]

A powerhouse TrueHD/Atmos mix will help solidify Everest as this January’s powerhouse disc. While it could be argued the monstrous LFE is too thick – some dialog is swallowed – the effect is such to highlight the intensity of winds. Their speed is believable merely by listening. Peril is heightened by cracking ice and avalanches, brutal in their drop off into the sub. A late helicopter rescue thumps too, capturing the rotor’s force.

This is not all LFE. Mixing uses the full spread of channels to carefully track motion. Climbing equipment pings in each speaker as characters walk off the sides of the frame. Early scenes are peppered with activity in airports and small mountain towns are well populated sonically. Dialog will split into stereos or surrounds as needed. Constant ambiance from winds or whipping snow carries almost the entire runtime. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Extras]

Although it would understandably be emotional, it’s a shame some of the survivors are not given time on the commentary track. Director Baltasar Kormakur thus goes at it alone. Those who were involved are featured in the short (6:47) featurette Aspiring to Authenticity. Character development is richer here than in the film. Race to the Summit serves as the longest bonus (10:59), digging into the logistics of such a location shoot. A Mountain of Work focuses on the interior studio sets built and used, certainly a contrast to those done live in Nepal. The final extra focuses on training the cast to climb, a brief four minute piece. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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