I just watched Corran Addison’s movie for the second time. I watched it one night while I was in Mexico – and couldn’t sleep – on my computer, listening with headphones. I didn’t think that was a really fair way to watch it, so I waited to do a review until I had an opportunity to watch it on a TV with decent audio. That happened tonight, so now I’m ready to voice an opinion.
It wasn’t bad –I’m sure I will watch it again (parts of it are damn good) – but as a whole I thought it was a bit difficult to love it completely. Don’t get me wrong – I thought it was damn good kayak porn – I don’t regret the purchase at all. Still…
First let me talk about the stuff I liked:
The pictures – those were good!! Great locations, amazing paddling, and as a feat of technical film making it is genuinely impressive. To have gotten to the places where they got to, and then to have shot the footage that they shot, involves more than luck and a camera. I do production for a living, and someone (I’d guess several folks, actually) did a genuine job of work getting there and getting the shot. Over and over again, all over the world, in the ass end of nowhere – just getting the pictures was a tremendous accomplishment.
The audio wasn’t too bad either… Somewhat to my surprise – I only really know anything about Corran via BT and paddling magazines – I kind of liked his goofy voiceover presence. Maybe it’s just my weakness for HST, but the "Fear and Loathing" stuff was sufficiently out of left field that I didn’t mind it. When Corran talks about the sketchy reasons for the next step in the "End Game" journey, I hear echoes of some of my more dangerous friends giving voice to bad ideas whose times had come. Sometimes you just gotta go do stuff – either you get that, or you don’t – either way, I didn’t mind it. The music was okay – some odd choices, some pretty cool things I hadn’t heard – nothing there I hated, at any rate.
Post production – I have mixed feelings here - there were some choices made in putting the movie together that I don’t necessarily agree with (but don’t forget, it’s not MY movie!!) The one thing I actually HATE was an edit decision – the repeated "thud" sound effect (sounds like a boom mike hitting the ceiling) – seems like it gets increasingly heavy-handed as the movie continues. Sound effects are fine – if they work – but that damn thud really began to bug me. No matter how the rest of the mix was, the thud sounded about the same every time, and it frankly began to bug me early and went on to do so often. It’s a petty criticism I admit – but it broke the mood for me – making it hard to get immersed in the images and sound.
The storytelling was another area where I felt like the editing – or the scripting – might have been stronger. I actually thought it was interesting that the surfing classic "Endless Summer" got compared to "End Game" – I think "Endless Summer" suffered from similar story problems!! It would have been nice if there had been something to balance Corran’s narration with some useful information. The sort of impressionistic "slice of life" view is a bit too disorganized to work for me as it is. We go to amazing places with interesting people, but we get very little in the way of insight or understanding from what they say to us. Often we don’t even know who they are. Maybe it’s just me, but I also have a hard time telling who’s who in the paddling scenes – and the narration rarely helps out. I also hate that there are so few segments where the pictures and the story coincide – I’d love to hear about what was going on in some of those scenes, to get some of the experience reflected by the voices of the participants – but it rarely happens. I kept thinking it might, but mostly it didn’t.
Also under the heading of editing decisions, I didn’t love all the time lapse stuff. Most of the slo-mo I liked, but the jerky handheld look 2x fast forward video treatment just didn’t do much for me. It was okay at first, but it got kind of tired. I also found myself wishing that more of the paddling sequences had been cut so that we got real time views intercut with slow motion – that good "NFL Films" storytelling with images treatment that helps you understand what’s happening inside a chaotic split second. It’s frustrating, because the images are there – editing makes the difference – although as I said at the outset, it isn’t MY movie!!
So, in the final analysis? "End Game" is an amazing accomplishment, in my opinion – well worth the purchase price (specially on DVD) – but it’s not as good as I think it could have been. I’d give it a solid 7.5 out of 10 – it’s got a pretty good beat and you can dance to it – but if you want to see pictures that tell a cohesive story and hear soundbites that give you insight into the pictures, you might come away a bit disappointed. That’s about where I ended up. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.