Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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The Climbers

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1star:
Final Score: :3.5stars:


Movies about man vs. nature has always been thrilling, and one of the more exciting stories has always been the trek upwards towards the summit of Mt. Everest. 2016’s Everest was one of my favorite movies of the year, and when I saw the trailer for The Climbers I was instantly intrigued, as the source of the film’s premise was based upon a true story. I guess back in 1960 the Chinese supposedly went to the summit of the giant mountain, but it was criticized by the international community due to the fact that no pictures were taken of the summit. As such, some 15 years later the Chinese went back to the mountain with some of the original participants of the 1960s climb and re-attempted the summit (most likely to assuage the rest of world’s doubts over the validity of their 1960 climb). While The Climbers is a solid thriller, it just doesn’t latch onto the characters and give them a truly emotional resonance with the audience, instead inserting fictional romances and jingoistic nationalism in place of the character development.

According to the film, the 1960s climb was attempted and successfully accomplished, but acting captain (after the expeditions captain died en route) Fang Wuzhou (Jing Wu, aka, Jacky Wu) dropped the camera in order to save the lives of his fellow climbers and climb the final wall just before the summit. Even though their superiors understood the reason for the lack of photographic evidence, Fang Wuzhou and the other two remaining survivors live with the shame of being criticized by the international community due to the lack of tangible evidence. A few later the Chinese Mountaineering group is disbanded completely, leaving the members to live their own life.

However, 15 years later, the Chinese government wants to gain back some of their perceived honor by going up the mountain and officially measuring the altitude from the summit. Bringing back Fang Wuzhou as the official captain of the trip, they set out to once again travel up the face of one of the most treacherous mountains in all of the world. As you would expect, things don’t go as planned, with the weather and the treacherous cliffs throwing curve ball after curve ball at the men as they desperately try to reach the summit before the year’s weather makes it impossible.

Even though the film is jam packed with climbing adventures, I felt that the movie just wasn’t as gripping as I would have hoped for. Maybe because this film is really aimed at Chinese audiences is a factor (the jingoism and blatant emotional appeals to nationalism felt more than a bit heavy handed. Something that is very typical of mainland Chinese films), and the inclusions of the fictional romances was rather inartfully done. Personally, I felt that both the romance between Fang and Xu Ying (Ziyi Zhang) could have been omitted completely, as well as the romance between photographer Li Guoliang and the cleaning girl as well. It took the focus away from the tension of the climb and inserted heavy handed melodrama to a situation that didn’t need it.

Strangely enough, even at 2 hours and 3 minutes (including credits) long, I felt that a lot was left on the cutting room floor. Those romances feel especially grating when I feel that they could have been omitted and replaced with more factual events of the climb itself for a better narrative. Still, the action is pretty intense, and despite some overly obvious CGI sequences, is a visually stunning experience. The true story of the men and women who facilitated one of history’s greatest climbing expeditions is something that definitely should be explored, and while The Climbers never really reached the apex of drama, it is a solidly compelling film nonetheless.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4.5stars:
The film was reputed to have been shot on several variants of the RED digital cameras (up to an 8K source capture) and then mastered down at 2K for the home video release due to the excess of CGI and special effects needed for all of the climbing material. The 2.39:1 framed film is quite exceptional 99% of the time, giving us exquisite close up shots, razor sharp detail levels on the slopes, and only minimal banding to keep it from looking “perfect” (well, that and some obvious CGI, something that the Asians don’t have down as pat as the U.S. does in their blockbusters). The shots outside of the mountain areas tend to look more golden tinged, which sometimes washes out he blacks here and there, but once the climbers get to Everest things take on a cool blue tinge. At the end of the day, this is an excellent looking encode from Well Go USA, and will please everyone as a true demo worthy film.

Audio: :4.5stars:
The 5.1 Mandarin track (no English dubs) is a great mix for this film, giving simple and quiet dialog driven sequences for the precursor to the climb, and once we get up into the mountains it roars with incredible ferocity. The first trip up the mountain where Fang gets injured is amazing, especially during the storm that tears apart their provisions and supplies. The wind whips all around the listener, and the bass shakes you to core with thundering mountain winds and crashing snowfalls. The dialog is always perfectly intelligible at all times and the dynamics are aggressive and spacious.

Extras: :1star:
• Behind the Scenes
• Trailer

Final Score: :3.5stars:

The Climbers is a solid adventure movie, albeit definitely flawed. The climbing portions of the film are visceral and exciting, and the back story to one of history’s more forgotten (at least in the west) Everest climbs is certainly worthy of watching. The movie does suffer from excess melodrama and nationalistic jingoism (some patriotism and nationalism is expected, but the Chinese are typically very heavy handed with their applications), but is overall a fun movie. I did get a chuckle that in western audiences Jackie Chan’s inclusion was heavily hyped, but in reality he only shows up for a moment as an older version of one of the climbers near the end of the film. Ah well. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, has the typical minimalist extras, but still a fun enough watch.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Jing Wu (Jacky Wu), Ziyi Zhang, Boran Jing, Yi Zhang, Ge Hu, Jackie Chan, Long Chen
Directed by: Daniel Lee
Written by: Alai, Daniel Lee, Ying Shang
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 25th, 2020

Recommendation: Solid Watch



AV Addict
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. I agree that the movie Everest was great. I will check this out as well.
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