The cinematography is magnificent in this IMAX documentary about the Extreme Sports games broadcast on the ESPN cable channel. A “You-Are-There” excitement permeates the shots of death-defying cyclists, skaters and other daredevils who put their bodies at risk by indulging in these activities, and the cameramen seem to have taken equal chances in capturing the action. Fans of such stuff should eat it up.
But a couple of things about the picture are disquieting. One is the attitude of the participants, some of whom are interviewed in the course of the film. To be honest, they come across like jerks; a montage in which they gleefully recount all the injuries and surgeries they’ve endured in the course of their “work” is frightening in its foolishness. And the thought that the film might encourage youngsters to mimic such notions, and such behavior, is even more terrifying. The problem with defying death so cavalierly, after all, is that sometimes you lose. In other words, the picture is visually as buffed as the athletes it celebrates, but also as airheaded as most of them seem to be.
Then there’s the issue of corporate crassness. ESPN is affiliated with the Disney conglomerate, and “Ultimate X” is released by Touchstone, yet another arm of the Mouse House. Synergy is theoretically an efficient thing, but in practice it’s often somehow unseemly. This is one of those cases.
Still, there are those great shots, their immediacy enhanced by the big-screen format. If the subject doesn’t give you pause, you may embrace the forty-minute film more than others of us do.