In recent years there have been a few films about mountain climbing, especially rock climbing, most notably Free Solo in 2018, about Alex Honnold. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019. It was a very good documentary. Earlier this year, another documentary came out called The Alpinist, about Marc André Leclerc. The Summit of the Gods is the latest film about this dangerous sport of rock climbing.
Japanese photojournalist Fukamachi is sitting in a bar contemplating his next job when a stranger comes up to him with an offer to buy a camera belonging to legendary climber George Mallory, who passed away in 1924 climbing on Mount Everest. Before Fukamachi could make the deal, another stranger accosts the first stranger and takes the camera from him, which leads Fukamachi on a mission to discover who has the camera is and why they need it.
The Summit of the Gods is adapted from a Japanese manga of the same name from Jiro Taniguchi, who wrote and illustrated it, itself based on a 1998 novel by Baku Yumemakura. Patrick Imbert turned this story into an animated film on Netflix. It is a very harrowing tale of life and death and has a bit of a documentary feel to it as well.
The animation is a bit simple when compared to the likes of Pixar, Disney, and Illumination, but it is very effective in getting the story across. It’s not awful, but not great either. The background plates of cityscapes and various mountain ranges are very detailed and gorgeous, though. The animation isn’t the point of the film, it’s the story and that was very good indeed. It was full of thrills and spills alike.
Another film out very recently, Flee, has some similar things in it as The Summit of the Gods. The interview portion adds a lot to the story. Using investigative techniques, Fukamachi finds and interviews various people the second stranger comes across in his life. This adds context to the story which also drives the story forward. It breaks up all the mountain climbing scenes, creating a stronger narrative.
The Summit of the Gods is a very good film! The animation is solid if not great, but that’s not the point of this film. It’s a means to an end because of the medium it was adapted from. The story and the adventure involved is the point of this film. It is full of action and investigative journalism that makes it one of the best animated films of the year. The voiceover work is solid as well. I recommend everyone seek out this film on Netflix.
Dan Skip Allen