I went into this screening with high hopes — in part because Ride the Divide was pretty damned good, and in part because the trailer for this film was filled enticingly with shots of fat-bikes on Alaska beaches and other mountain bikes riding in the mountains and moors.
But ultimately, it was a disappointment. And this disappointment only grew as we talked about it after the film, and over the rest of the weekend.
Reveal the Path is deeply flawed, for two reasons:
- They indulge in endless amounts of lame, speak-to-the-camera philosophizing about revealing the path and other nonsense. It was tiresome and artless. Show me, don’t tell me, dammit. This made it all clear that there wasn’t really a story and that the film was just an occasion for a bunch of guys (except for the two Alaskan women, who live there and are only in that segment) to travel around, riding their bikes, and talking bullshit.
- There simply wasn’t enough cycling footage. For all of interesting places they went — Scotland, Switzerland, Morocco, Nepal, Alaska — there simply wasn’t enough footage of people riding bikes. The available time was taken up with people talking at the camera, badly.
And, there were three other things that bothered me, though they are so integral to a film like this that it’s hard to call them flaws as such.
- The Salsa product placement was just a little too obvious. I know it had to be there, but there are also less obvious ways pleasing one’s sponsors than by lingering, shallow depth-of-field shots of head badges on titanium head tubes.
- There were too many locations for the 36 days of travel involved in making the film. With travel days, that effectively means that they were spending 4-6 days in each place, which means that, to my way of thinking, they weren’t really traveling so much as vacationing in those places. It’s just too shallow (though that matched the philosophizing, I guess).
- At times — specifically, when they were in Nepal and Morocco — it was discomfortingly clear that they were just privileged Westerners adventure-vacationing in the less-developed world. This led to even more blather about travel, and other cultures, and how special it was. In the end, they would have been better served by avoiding Nepal and Morocco altogether — which would have also allowed them to spend more time in the other locations.
The bottom line
Reveal the Path isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a good one either. And it’s nowhere near as good as Ride the Divide (which, for comparison, I watched again last night). Where Ride the Divide tells an inspirational (even for someone like me who’s unlikely to actually ride the Great Divide Route) story that’s sometimes funny and sometimes sad but always interesting, Reveal the Path is simply hackneyed and aimless.
Someone — anyone — should have done Mike Dion a service somewhere along the line and told him that there were at least three words that he was absolutely forbidden from using in the film: reveal the path.