If someone were to tell me in 2003 that legendary filmmaker Mike Hatchett would be bringing freshness to the feed in 2023 by dusting off what was at the time the standard Standard Films formula, a-list riders combined with straightforward and stoic cinematography in epic locales, backed by divisive music I would call that person crazy, yet here we are and TGR’s Flying High Again is just that. Rather than relying on trendy camera settings and auteur angles focused on a tight new crew of up-and-comers, Mike Hatchett and Teton Gravity Research have made a film for the masses, complete with cheesy skits, an at times uninspired soundtrack and perhaps a bit too much run time, but this is the cinematic experience that the greater snowboarding populace has been missing ever since Travis Rice and Brainfarm broke up the band.
Snowboarding needs passion projects. Snowboarding needs angsty crews eager to put their stamp on the culture. Snowboarding needs filmmakers who take the latest skate video tropes to the snow. Yet snowboarding needs all that and more. This is where someone skilled in making a film for the big screen has their place. With Flying High Again there is something in store for everyone. Take Bode Merrill for instance. Bode has emerged as one of the greatest all-around riders of the 21st century. Arguably, there isn’t any aspect of snowboarding that Bode can’t accel at whether it be in the streets or big mountains or park. It just so happens that Bode’s best attribute may be his showmanship and his agro antics are so gnarly that he transcends the “circus trick” stigma into the surreal. Yet, in his 2-song Flying High Again opener Bode does a plethora of staple tricks, albeit bigger and cleaner than most. Most notable are his double lines and mid-trick branch-banging bonks. Nonetheless, his butter and back slide stunts steal the show and when you watch this film in a crowd you really understand why they are called “crowd pleasers.”
One look at The Flying High Again roster and you realize what Mike and TGR are going for. The marquee is stacked with populist pros like Danny Davis, Elena Hight, Jeremy Jones, Pat Moore, Jason Robinson, Tim Humphries, and Kevin Jones with each of them delivering action that is easily discernable and relatable in an aspirational sort of way. Then there are newcomers like Keegan Hosefros, Mia Jones, Sean Fitzsimons, Dusty Henricksen, and Denver Orr whose styles ooze from the screen. For the shralpinism sect, Nick Russel and Anti Autti flirt with the fall line up by the Arctic Circle challenging the archetype of Scandinavian slopes being small. Similarly, Ryland Bell descends AK in truly dramatic fashion tackling spines at speed in a largely self-filmed segment.
Despite Brandon Davis being ascendant, his ATV approach of blending urban and alpine is a throwback to a time when a rider's merits were based on how well-rounded they were. Admittedly this segment is a “best of” part pulled from his latest web series but that is a good thing in that each hit, hits. Brandon’s BC jib barrage is only bested by his pillaging of pillows in the interior and the result is proof that Davis is one of the most versatile riders of his era.
Two decades ago Standard Films opened White Balance with a bleach-blond teenager, equally proficient at park jibbing as he was at sending it off wedges into pow. That fresh-faced phenom was John Jackson and in 2023 he scored a 2-song ender in Flying High Again. The surfer boy coif has been replaced by a mop of natty dreads while the jibs and jumps that once peppered his parts have been swapped out for natty takeoffs. John lives in Lake Tahoe and the winter of 2023 was all time in his back yard and it shows. A 2-song part is a once in a career achievement and John earns every moment of the timeline with deep sends, double lines, and a style refined over more than twenty years of chasing the clip high.
Ultimately, this review of Flying High Again, with its grandiose descriptions, surface-level assessments, and gratuitous superlatives is an apt metaphor for the film itself. This film is meant to make you want to go ride regardless of whether you are young or old, like urban or alpine, or are goofy or regular. It is meant to make you want to strap in and see where the snow takes you. While you may not ever know what it is like to make a first descent in the last frontier you can appreciate it and more importantly, be inspired by it. And at the risk of ending this review in cheesier fashion than a Tim Humphrey’s one-wheel skit, here’s to hoping that they all keep flying higher and higher, again and again.