After "Dogtown and Z-Boys" and "Riding Giants" -- documentaries that cover the similar sports / culture territory, "First Descent" arrived at the theatre. As you know, the film is about snowboarding which is getting more and more popular, and as it title suggests, "First Descent" includes the exciting footages about six riders snowboarding in the mountains of Alaska -- Shawn Farmer, Terje Haakonsen, Nick Perata, Travis Rice, Hannah Teter and Shaun White.
The film's topic is interesting even if you're not a snowboarder or a fan of these six athletes interviewed here, but I feel someone else could have made a better film with the same material.
The feature film runs almost 110 minutes and spends its time mostly on two topics: history of snowboarding as sports, and the six athletes' rides in Alaskan mountains. Some part of the former section is fresh and informative; I didn't know snowboarding is so popular in Japan where you can see the riders jumping in packed stadium of Tokyo Dome. The excitement of the place is like the Rolling Stones concert, proving the riders' popularity.
But the film gives me an impression that the treatment is a bit cursory. You hear words like `big' or `huge' many times, but we are not allowed to know how big or huge the snowboarding business has become. We are told that snowboarding progressed with time, but seldom is the film incisive as to how. I am not saying the film should be erudite as textbook; I am only saying that we need more original approach to it, something humorous or human that made "Dowgtown and the Z-Boys" a joyful watch.
The same can be said about the section that follows the six riders in Alaska. They are all likable persons, quite frank about themselves and their snowboard riding is amazing. Which made me wonder - How dangerous is it to snowboard on the mountainside that looks vertical, that conceals crevices here and there? How can they pick up the `line' or safe paths to go while jumping from the snow ledge? One of the riders got almost swallowed up by avalanche, but does that happen all the time?
I asked myself these questions while watching "First Descent," but the film only keeps showing the mountain ride footages which are amazing at first, but soon becomes repetitious. "First Descent" has great material in it, but another way of treating it would have made a better documentary film.