Showing this month at Science Museum Oklahoma, “Extreme” is not so much about extreme sports as it is a quick introduction to the type of person who participates in them. It’s not that they can’t play well with others “ it’s that they don’t want to.
Yes, rock climbers Lynn Hill and Nancy Feagin talk some about the joy of making a climb in concert with a partner, but it’s clear that at its core, the pleasure and challenge is a singular one.
I found it fascinating that none of the athletes who narrate the documentary talk about “conquering” the mountain or ocean, but becoming part of it. What they do is not compete with nature for dominance, but assimilate with it for peaceful coexistence.
The other extreme sports showcased are mountain climbing, surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding and skiing, and if you think skiing isn’t extreme, you should try doing it a yard or two in front of an avalanche. Apparently, in the mountains of Alaska “ in the midst of which you can see nothing but the mountains of Alaska (not even Russia) “ the snow is so fresh and dry, you can start a slide just by skiing over it. As you pick up speed, the snow you’ve loosened picks up more snow, and soon, you’re zipping along to stay in front.
The one sport illustrated by “Extreme” that looks like fun to me is windsurfing. Of course, in the shape I’m in, channel surfing is an extreme sport, but the combination of surfing and short-distance flying “ not to mention the ability to shift directions in an instant “ looks tremendously liberating. The rock climbers say that clinging to a rock face makes them feel free, but it looks, oddly enough, claustrophobic to me. You’re stuck in one spot and can move only inches at a time, and then at the whim of gravity and the rock.
If you’re interested only in those extreme sports that require machinery “ motorcycles, fast cars, pin-setting machines (just kidding) “ this is not the documentary for you. These are people who have a natural, spiritual relationship with the earth. Yes, they have to rely on their equipment, but essentially, it’s all about them and the elements.
The film was initially released in 1999. Directed by Jon Long, the picture is still making the rounds of IMAX and IMAX-like theaters around the world. When you visit Science Museum Oklahoma’s Dome Theater, pick that sweet spot in the center of the seating. This assures you that the screen wraps above your head and around both sides so you get the full effect. Note that this is the only theater in Oklahoma City capable of showing real IMAX productions. It’s not just large-screen digital projection.
Also screening at the theater now is “Everest.” Apparently, it’s about a mountain. Note that the two movies are not a double feature, so each requires an admission charge. Either would be a terrific way to end a visit to the museum. “Doug Bentin