Monday, September 13, 2010

Climbing Scenes in Non-Climbing Movies

High budget narrative climbing movies are a genre in and of themselves. There are not very many of them out there and those that do exist tend to be filled with plot holes and ludicrous situations. But what about non-climbing movies that include elements of climbing?

Mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing are generally seen as extreme or eccentric things by filmmakers. The result of this is that they only use climbing for three things.

First and foremost, they use climbing to emphasize a character's bravery or uniqueness. You can see this in the following two clips.

In Mission Impossible II, Tom Cruise does things on desert towers that are completely impossible. This is a perfect example of climbing used for character development to show how "extreme" someone might be. There's a moment in this clip that is supposed to result in a laugh. They make a comment about Tom Cruise being on holiday. The joke of course is the question, who would ever go rock climbing for a vacation?

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Captain James T. Kirk free solos the Nose on El Cap, badly. By the time this film came out we didn't need a lot of character development for Captain Kirk. Instead, this is -- perhaps unintentionally -- designed to reinforce the character's cocky arrogance.

The second use of climbing by filmmakers is simply to show something that is "different." They'll use it more for its novelty than for any other reason. Movies that do this include Axe, The Descent, and Wrong Turn. It's weird that most films that come up on a quick search are horror films...

Here is the opening climbing scene from the very bad horror movie, Wrong Turn:

The third use is when a character is forced to climb. This is an incredibly common thing in film. Movies that have scenes like this include North by Northwest, The Princess Bride, The Good Son, and Deliverance.

Here is the scene from the award winning film Deliverance:

Though they're not all available, there are tons of movies with climbing scenes in them. Check out the female mountain guide hero of Alien vs. Predator or Keanu Reeves as a Himalayan climber in The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm sure there are dozens and dozens more out there that I haven't thought of. I'd be curious to know what they are.

What other non-climbing movies with climbing scenes can you think of?

--Jason D. Martin


Unknown said...

Angelina climbs a bit in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Vin Diesel climbs in Riddick. That's all I can think of at the moment.

Unknown said...

Sly tries to down solo in First Blood. Matt Damon does down solo in The Bourne Identity.

Anonymous said...

also, The Blizzard chapter in Akira Kurosawa's 1990 film Dreams.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember which Bond movie it was, an early one, where Bond is climbing a rope up the side of a cliff to reach a monastery. A bad guy keeps knocking out the anchor pitons. Bond rigs prussiks from his shoe laces and gets to the top split seconds before the bad guy knocks the last piton out. Then he nails the bad guy with a expert throw of a piton if I remember. Excellent scene!

Anonymous said...

The Bucket List has a character that summits Everest, with no effort at all, to scatter his friend's ashes...

Lucasso said...

Wasn't there a small bit of climbing in Red Dawn. I might be thinking of a different movie..