Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More Bikes, Less Babbling: A Review of Life Cycles

Life Cycles OFFICIAL Trailer from Life Cycles on Vimeo.

Before I get on to yammering about whatever else I am going to yammer about this week, I have to do a brief review of the film Life Cycles, have to.

My first impression of Life Cycles was "Wow, that was short. I think I paid the same amount of money to see Inception, and that was over three times as long and in IMAX...what a rip off." But, in the realm of cycling films in general and mountain bike films in particular, brevity is usually a good thing. About forty minutes into the average free-ride, huckin' type film, I start getting anxious and bored, there's only so much watching of dudes doing things I can't or won't do I can take (which is why I usually only watch Jason Statham movies, because I can do that shit). The problem with those films is that they focus everything on the riding and nothing else. That, and they usually have horrible soundtracks (Ya, I'm looking at You Kranked 4), which Life Cycles doesn't; it's got kind of a subdued, semi-palatable score. The guys at Stance Films, the makers of Life Cycles, give the impression that they aren't actually bike people at all, that they are focused more on the general aesthetics and cinematography than the riding, which is refreshing for a while...then it gets all annoying. Like a splash of cold water in the face that keeps hitting you throughout your day with little to no warning, often at entirely inopportune moments...like when you're trying to light your crack pipe.

This Statham tribute is set to Metallica's version of the Misfits' "Die, Die, Die My Darling." Somebody out there gets it.

There's the shot before the first riding sequence that goes on forever — this dude is driving his vintage pick up out of the city into the woods to ride and we are beaten over the head with the juxtaposition of the urban environment with the natural environment until we are like "Hey, film makers...stop beating us over the head with this juxtaposition, we get it already!" I mean, the film work is amazing, just gorgeous stuff, but it's all over the place and nowhere at all at the same time.

The title of the film Life Cycles, refers to this alleged cycle that a bicycle goes through from it's birth to its death, but I really only saw it as a four step process, not a cycle:

  1. The bike gets made in a factory surrounded by lush, green, jungle in Taiwan or western China or somewhere. Inside there's lots of molten metal flying everywhere, and it resembles Isengard, Saruman's hangout in Lord of The Rings.

  2. The bike gets ridden in slow motion off of dirt jumps and cliffs as the seasons change via hokey computer generated effects.

  3. The bike gets serviced, because apparently riding through a computer-generated change of seasons wreaks havoc on suspension pivots and fork seals.

  4. The bike dies — it is left broken at the bottom the trail.

It was nice to see the bike maintenance scene mentioned in step 3. I gave an audible "damn" when the dude taps open his shaft bolt and suspension oil begins spilling into a tub containing HUNDREDS of spent fork seals. So I liked that bit.

I didn't like the overbearing change of seasons (you'll see it at least once in the trailer) thing. It looks OK in a couple scenes, but a little threadbare in others, and it ends up being repeated over and over until we're like "If you show another rider going down a trail in the summer as the leaves change around him, I swear to god I am going to burn this theater down like that chick in Inglourious Basterds did that time."

And it's not just the CGI stuff that gets repetitive: in one scene we see a lovely wheat field, and then BAM! Cam McCaul (I think) comes blasting out of nowhere, airing out way over the field (in slow-mo of course). Throughout the sequence, we never see the jumps that are allowing him to roost so high above the field...it's spectacular, it's dream-like, but it goes on WAY TOO FREAKIN' LONG.

The whole "life cycle" concept in Life Cycles is really driven by the cheesy narration. It sounds like stuff a bad Yoga instructor says at the end of class: "Your breath is not from the east, it is not from the west...it is not Christian, it is not Muslim...it is not chocolate, it is not peanut butter..." I had a hard time with it and it definitely took away from the overwhelming visual beauty of the film, and I don't feel that the whole cycle idea got at all wrapped up in the end.

And speaking of wrapped up in the end...have you ever seen a Mummy's ass?

Sorry, that sounds like a joke to me right now. I think I need more coffee.

What I meant to say was: And speaking of wrapped up, I have to wrap this up, so I'll just say that despite my bitching, Life Cycles is actually an incredible thing to watch, even with the sound on (except for when the narrator's talking). And I'll go on to say that maybe the whole "cycle" thing would have been driven home a little better if a kid from some (hi, I am Thom P. and I am wicked ignorant) tribe near that Isengard-lookin' factory came wandering up at the end of the film, picked up one of the broken bike frames, fashioned it into a hatchet, busted into the factory that made the bike, screamed "Hey! Stop fucking up my forest with your industrial bullshit you dicks!" and butchered everyone in the place.

Stance Films, I am awaiting your call, you know you want me to direct Life Cycles 2: The Wrath of Some Pissed Off Kid With a Hatchet Made Out of A Bike Frame.


gewilli said...

best fucking review of a film eveh

Kicker Films said...

Well said!

In case you missed it, you can pick up the Life Cycles DVD at Kicker Films -


zencycle said...

send me an email, I need to ask you something (I don't your address)

Anonymous said...

Great Review...a bit harsh but realistic if your a cynic.

I saw it in SF las night. unfortunately my obsession with bikes rendered me able only to say things like "best bike film ever" and "I just jizzed my pants". The best compliment the film could have gotten in my opinion was from my brother who hasn't touched a bike in 12 years: he said "wow dude....now I get it"