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BMZ Review: Ultimate X
By Herb Lash

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BMZ Review of Ultimate X
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: May 2002

     

Category: Reviews

Before there were eXtremely cool motocross athletes there was Evel Kneivel. He jumped Vegas fountains, lived large and threw fistfuls of money at his fans. He partied and broke a lot of bones and made money all the while. Evel was the Original Gangster of extreme sporting. The Big Movie ULTIMATE X smoothes out the rough edges of Evel's bad boy tradition and delivers a film that keeps mom and dad in on the cool - Disney with a little flava. By comparison, MTV's wild child JACK ASS and more than a decade's worth of punkish skate videos make ULTIMATE X seem unnaturally constrained - a little like Huckleberry Finn squeezed into his Sunday best. Still, Huckleberry is always good for a good time. If you know anything about ESPN's X Games you will get great new images of the totally expected. If you've never heard of Tony Hawk and have no idea what it means to pull off a double peg grind - this Giant Screen film will provide you with more than a few wows.

The movie highlights the culturally related sports of freestyle motocross, halfpipe skateboarding, BMX racing/freestyle and street luge. A handful of the top pros in the business are seen streaking, tumbling and soaring across the screen. Relaxed, on-camera interviews provide faces and personalities to go along with the eXtreme feats. ULTIMATE X gives a nutshell history of the evolution of the X-Games, but spectacle is the thing here - the filmmakers never stray too far away from eXtremers doing their thing. A relentless Top 40 soundtrack and some colorful fan commentary help break the monotony of the clip/interview/clip/interview formula. The vaulting motocross jumps light up and use the entire six-story screen - the immersive magic takes hold and you have a stadium seat. But because it was shot for television, the blow up of Tony Hawk's seemingly impossible 900 vert ramp rotation comes across looking only slightly impressive. The blown up original fills only 1/3 the Giant Screen - a continuation of an ugly trend in Large Format filmmaking. If a Big Movie can't be made without a large dose of footage and interviews not shot with the Giant Screen in mind - it might be worth asking if the subject is worthy of the LF treatment. EVEREST got away with digital video blowups (of interview segments) because of the immense drama captured on tape - not because of the images. The vintage photographs in SHACKLETON'S ANTARCTIC ADVENTURE are intrinsically powerful at any size. But using digital blow-ups to create narrative structure denies the audience what they came for - SIZE. Granted, the enormous, six story-tall talking head interview is problematic - but the 1/3 screen digital blow-up looks bad and seems the least creative solution.

For the core Large Format film fan and anybody who knows how to land an ollie, ULTIMATE X celebrates extreme cajones without really exhibiting any. The film takes no risks and has about as much street credibility as a street luger (not much). Just like it was meant to be, the film is good, clean family fun - but the cool kids will probably stick to JACK ASS and old clips of Evel Kneivel jumping the Snake River in a rocket ship.

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