This mountaineers review of the two 2015 mountaineering movies


Here are my thoughts on two mountaineering movies that are in theatres now; Meru and Everest. I liked both movies.

Here’s a comparison chart that I put together.

movie comparison

I recommend that most people see Meru

It might surprise you which movie I recommend that you see Meru. I recommend that all adventurers see Meru, and that only Himalayan climbers see Everest. Everest is too dark to motivate. Meru educates and motivates; it’s more uplifting and understandable by the average audience than Everest. Everest is about pushing beyond the edge and dying because of it. Everest is a phenomenal story of life/death, but the ending of Everest is so dark that I recommend seeing other stories such as Gattaca if you want to explore the topic of ‘edging’.

What I loved

Meru: Jimmy’s character

Everest: Seeing the summit of Everest in 3D, for the second time for me, and this time with a diet

What I didn’t love

Meru: I didn’t like the character development of Renan Ozturk, who is portrayed as the third wheel to Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker. I didn’t get an emotional response from the way his injury was told. I’m unsure why I felt dead-pan because Renan’s life threatening accident and miraculous recovery are objectively amazing and should have felt that way. His portrayal isn’t compelling.

Everest: It’s a sad story that ends poorly. I’ve read the book Into Thin Air, and climbed Everest to the summit. The movie felt like a painfully slow telling of the tragedy, and didn’t leave me feeling anything more than I felt before the movie. I appreciated seeing the summit for the second time–that was rad. But it was a huge price to pay for 2 hours of watching 8 people die in slow motion.

Are the movies technically accurate? Yes.

Yes–Meru. I’m not a big wall rock climber, so I can’t attest 100% to Meru’s accuracy, but I can attest to most of it, and it was incredibly accurate. All the on-site footage is real, not reenactments. It’s a true documentary. Jimmy and Conrad are two of the best climbers in the world, who I’ve had the good fortune of meeting personally. Meru is legit.

Yes–Everest. I climbed Everest in 2005, and I can attest that the Everest movie was accurate. All the footage is reenacted, and done so very well. Everest was shot in Nepal and high in the Italian Dolomites. I’ve read that the actors in Everest were surprised how harsh altitude is on the body. You feel like you’re there. Like your face has frostbite. I felt literally cold during the movie. It’s gripping.

In summary

Meru: Meru Film is made by a fellow Minnesota and is about big wall rock and ice climbing at high-altitude. Meru is technically more difficult in every way than Everest, except altitude. The route the team of three climbed in the movie had never been climbed before–if successful they’d have a first ascent in the Himalayas, which is an incredible feat. The movie was edge of your seat captivating. I went at 8pm after a long day of playing outside and i felt more invigorated after i walked out than when I walked into the theatre. I recommend that anyone see this movie.

Everest: Everest 2015 is about the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest, which is less recent and killed fewer people than the more recent 2014 and 2015 tragedies on Mount Everest. If you’ve climbed Everest before and want to remind yourself about the experience with the benefit of a warm and windless sea-level theatre, then I recommend seeing this movie. If you haven’t climbed in the Himalaya I’d recommend seeing Meru instead. Everest is depressing. As for the human interest story that surrounds the character of any of the climbers who lived and died on the mountain in 1996, I cannot comment because I wasn’t there and don’t know any of the climbers personally. There’s a lot of drama about whether to believe the 1996 tragedy retelling in the book “Into Thin Air” vs. “The Clymb”. I don’t know anything more than you can read in the books, but I will say that the Jon’s blanket statement that the movie is not a fair depiction is most certainly biased and it’s not cool of him to use the publicity to sell more books.

The winter climbing season is coming. Let’s stay warm up there. Berg heil.

Published by Neal Mueller