‘The Wildest Dream’ takes Imax audience to Everest because it’s there

  • Thu Aug 26th, 2010 3:11pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

Many quibbles could be launched at the new Imax documentary feature, “The Wildest Dream:” Its large amount of vintage material is somewhat wasted on the large-screen Imax format, as are the talking-heads interviews. It’s got too much music, and some hyped-up drama.

But one factor wipes away the quibbles: Imax cameras at the top of Mount Everest. That clinches the deal, right?

“The Wildest Dream” tells parallel stories. In the here and now, we are following an ascent by veteran climber Conrad Anker—the man who, in a 1999 expedition to Everest, discovered the body of famed mountaineer George Mallory, which had been lying on the side of the mountain since 1924.

Anker, along with director Anthony Geffen and crew, heads back up to Everest to estimate whether it would’ve been possible for Mallory and partner Andrew Irvine to have made it to the top before dying. No one actually knows whether Mallory and Irvine might have been the first to summit the world’s highest peak.

As this tale is being told, Geffen also recounts the life of Mallory, the dashing adventurer and incorrigible wanderer. Even if you don’t know Mallory’s story, you know his most famous line: When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory’s the guy who first replied, “Because it’s there.”

I guess that’s why you make an Imax movie about Everest and why you might feel compelled to climb 29,000 feet above sea level just to prove an arcane point about mountain-climbing history.

The stories (and characters) are given voice by Liam Neeson, the late Natasha Richardson, Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman. Conrad Anker proves an amiable tour guide for the punishing climb.

The Imax images are, as expected, stunning, and the closest most of us will get to being there.

“The Wildest Dream” doesn’t have the built-in drama of the 1998 Imax film “Everest,” which chronicled a disastrous moment in the mountain’s history, but maybe that’s a relief.

It does have the startling sight of Anker pondering Mallory’s corpse, which is weirdly well-preserved as its rests face-down on the ice. And the film gives a harrowing account of what it’s like in the “Death Zone,” the oxygen-starved world above 23,000 feet.

Happily, Imax technology does not extend to replicating the effects of oxygen deprivation. The views are dizzying enough already.

“The Wildest Dream”

Imax cameras go on an Everest ascent to determine whether famed mountaineer George Mallory (who died there in 1924) might have made it to the top. The large-screen format is somewhat wasted on the vintage material and talking-heads interviews, but it sure looks spectacular when you get on the mountain.

Rated: PG for subject matter

Showing: Pacific Science Center Imax theater