The Asgard Project: Review

17 Jan 2010 12:19

I had been looking forward to watching The Asgard Project, especially after Leo Houlding's excellent lecture at The Climbing Works back in November. We received the DVD earlier on in the week and with a bit of a back injury curtailing all exercise I lied down to watch it this weekend.


Simply put, it's a film of epic proportions. In movie-making terms it is the Avatar of the climbing genre. It has the feel and look of a big production and it doesn't disappoint (unlike Avatar).


For those who know little about The Asgard Project, in summary it revolves around attempting to free climb Mt Asgard on Baffin Island (in the Arctic circle). Delving into the film you get the sense it's the desire and dreams of the main protagonist, Leo Houlding, that drives this expedition. The first 20mins feels like some kind of sick test to put together a team crazy enough to follow his lead, to push the boundaries of not only big wall climbing, but also his other passion for base jumping.


The film really kicks into gear when the team arrive in the already remote port town in the South of Baffin Island. The resulting air drops, sky dives, missing gear, weather conditions and rock fall all help to create an air of surrealism and a feeling of 'whatever could go wrong...'.


The story of the film is much more than a big wall climbing trip and the film really comes alive in the climbers and their camaraderie. The banter, the problems, the internal & external meltdowns, the all round suffering is there for all to see. The whole project could have ended at numerous points, from Leo's knee rupture to the horrific weather, but it seems that no matter what the Norse Gods of Asgard could throw at this team, they pushed on. An impressive feat.


The other really impressive feat of this film is the actual capture of the climbing. Alistair Lee and his team have to be congratulated for getting such amazing shots and for creating a film that makes you feel the coldness and the remoteness, the pain and the good times. On this note, I highly recommend the extras as they give a greater sense to the whole expedition and provide some beautiful shots of Mt Asgard and Baffin Island.


The Asgard Project is not a climbing film in the essence of Progression or Between the Trees. There are no big moves, impossible looking holds and fast action. It's all about the slow progress of movement upwards in a hostile environment on a cold, difficult big wall. It really is the other end of the spectrum from most climbing movies. For this reason alot of people might not enjoy it. This is not a 'psyche' movie. You won't be motivated to go train after watching this. What you will get from this is the feeling for a bit of an adventure, to maybe push your limits in a different way.


As I lied down to watch The Asgard Project I really wasn't sure whether I would enjoy it. Would I already know too much after the lecture? Would I be bored from hearing so much about it beforehand. Watching the final credits I was left wanting more, I wanted to know about the epic reversal of the wall, the walk back out, the return home. This in itself shows how much I enjoyed the movie, wanting more not less. I really like this movie because it is not about hard moves or quick action but a slow tale of a group pushing themselves onwards when it would have been so easy to quit. The film is not perfect, there are flaws but in summary The Asgard Project is a film I would definitely recommend and watch again (unlike Avatar)


Available from The Climbing Works online shop