Everest, released to the general U.S. audience on Sept. 25, has impeccable acting, a stunning story line, excellent cinematography and deft directing. That doesn’t always translate to box office success, and the film, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, did modestly well in U.S. theaters, taking in $7,222,035 over the 9/25 weekend with a release in only 545 theaters – a scant number compared with current blockbuster Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which opened in 3,791 theaters, pulling in $30,316,510 domestically.
Everest, which opened first in a very limited number of IMax theaters, did much better in theaters world wide. The receipts topped $96 million over the weekend. That was more than any other film besides the teen-oriented Maze Runner film and Lost in Hong Kong, which grossed over $100 million.
Everest has immediate appeal from an Oscar awards point of view, especially if impact matters at all. This is a film with a message that follows in the footsteps of Outside magazine writer Jon Krakauer, who reportedly hates the film. Nevertheless, his book Into Thin Air, which chronicled the 1996 climbing season on Everest comes to the same conclusion: Everest is too dangerous to be a tourist attraction.
Everest, the film, is a mountaineer’s version of Jurassic World. Humans are simply no match for the forces of nature, when it comes in the form of carnivores the size of school buses or mountains that reach into the stratosphere.
Is it difficult for that message to land a punch for an audience sitting in comfort at a cinemaplex? Humans haven’t cloned dinosaurs, but we have gone to the moon, to the arctic poles, to the bottom of the ocean and to the top of Everest. But when these places become tourist attractions, you find unprepared humans attempting to buy their way on board.
Meanwhile, Kormakur takes a lesson from director Ron Howard and others, who simply allow a great story to tell itself, as Howard choose to do with Apollo 13 (1995).
This attitude encompasses the film. Perhaps Kormakur found the mountain overwhelming enough. There is little need for dramatic camera angles or a manipulative movie score. This story looks frightening enough without much help. It is evident that Kormakur sensed that.
That said, Dano Marianelli composed music for the film, and if it stayed sensibly in the background, that isn’t a negative concept. The actors: Josh Broslin, Jason Clarke (as Rob Hall), Jake Gyllenhaal (as Scott Fischer), John Hawkes (as Doug Hansen), Sam Worthington (as Guy Cotter), Robin Wright (as Peach Weathers), Keira Knightley (as Jan Arnold) and Emily Watson (as Helen Wilton) work as well together as any director (or audience) could hope to see.
How many stars? A lot. Four solid stars. This is a tough, beautiful, frightening film. And if Krakauer wants every detail to be spot on correct – well, that’s not going to happen. This is Hollywood and sometimes they aim a little higher than that.