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First Descent

First Descent
Starring:
Shawn Farmer, Terje Haakonsen, Nick Peralta, Hannah Teter and Shaun Rice


Rated: PG-13
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: December 2, 2005 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.

Those who definitely have a passion for snowboarding will want to seek out First Descent on the largest screen that's playing it. In spite of the calendar, winter has descended on areas where Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison's documentary is being showcased, so the timing is right to see the exhilaration of another extreme sport.

It's a sport that doesn't have the history of skateboarding, but is linked to surfing as well as skiing, and is quite challenging to master as witnessed in some incredible footage. First Descent partially chronicles the evolution (and future) of snowboarding while focusing on Valdez, Alaska's most daunting peaks from seasoned athletes like Shawn Farmer, Norweigan Terje Haakonsen, Nick Peralta, Hannah Teter, and Shaun Rice. And, one won't soon forget Travis Rice's encounter with a gigantic "white crush."

Farmer is considered the pioneer of snowboarding and still has the same intensity near 40 as those nearly a generation younger.

White and Teter are among the most talented in the sport from the U.S. and Peralta is looked up to for his creativity during its relatively short history. Obviously, one must be tough and have a viable sense of humor to get their version of winter nirvana rather than ending up out cold.

If anything, First Descent makes a case for Alaska's outskirts being the most panoramic on the globe as the filmmakers convey this outrageous risk-taking with pristine acumen.

Perhaps the high point may be how the picture gets its name from Haakonsen's ride down a mountain 7601 feet above sea level. Suffice to say, the early portion of it probably makes the world's best rollercoasters seem like child's play.

With the advent of the X-Games and films like Ultimate X, even the recent fictionalized Lords of Dogtown, there's a need to capture more death-defying events. And, Curly and Harrison do so in a way that may invite some skiers to challenge themselves in ways that require supreme agility and balance. Yet, as a film experience for many who are newcomers, the last reel or so overindulges in a way that makes the fun of the boarders just snowy and boring rather than a wild and crazy pleasure.

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First Descent D+     B-       C

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