My First Honest Impression of the 4th Phase
By Paul Bourdon
The Fourth Phase premiered last night on Red Bull TV, and I was excited – genuinely excited. It had been five years since the last Travis Rice film (The Art of Flight / 2011) and for the last year or so the hype surrounding the latest effort from the world’s most talented snowboarder and most gifted film crew was ever-present on nearly all snowboard related media, and rightfully so. This op-ed is going to make me sound like a hater and I really don’t want that. I have a tremendous amount of respect not only for Travis but for everyone else associated with this production… except for maybe Red Bull, but I’ll save that for another discussion. Let’s face it: Travis Rice is the best rider in snowboarding today. Hands down, end of discussion. No, he doesn’t have several olympic medals hanging around his neck, but is that really the metric we want to use to quantify who is “the best” at this artform we all love? I don’t know Travis personally, but from what I’ve heard about him, from the people who do, he’s a really good guy. He’s not one to wear cheetah printed spandex, or have rock star fantasies; he’s just a ripper from Jackson Hole, who through hard work and a level of dedication unlike anyone else’s has happened to find himself in the mainstream spotlight. I can’t really say anything bad about the guy. He’s not sending poo porn to female friends of his, and I feel like he’s a great dude to have at the forefront of snowboarding. What he and the other world-class riders in this film are capable of is nothing short of jaw dropping, but I still couldn’t make it more than 10 minutes into this film last night without my eyelids getting heavy, and my brain getting bored, ultimately forcing me to turn off the live feed and go back to watching a documentary on happiness on Netflix for the second time. And therein lies the rub….
Maybe it was the 4+ years of hype, maybe it was that Red Bull broke the internet last night (how you couldn’t allocate the appropriate amount of server space to handle the amount of hits you KNEW you were going to get on this is beyond me), maybe it’s because I’m not 16 anymore, and watching dudes throw variations on double and triple corks doesn’t really inspire me, but I was bored by the Fourth Phase before it even got started. I talked to Jens Heig from Snowboardmag about this, and even talked to Brooke about it too. Jens assured me the movie gets better and that I should give it a second chance, which I will; I plan on buying it and fast forwarding through the opening Wyoming segment with high hopes that the story that unfolds after the first ten minutes of gymnastiboarding and holds me for the duration of the movie. I want to like Fourth Phase; I really do. But, and I’m saying this with tremendous respect, the film just fell short for me last night. I was let down. I was disappointed. After talking to a couple other friends, I wasn’t the only one. It begs the question: Does every pow turn and landing really need supplemented audio? Do we really need to spend 4 years and millions of dollars making a snowboard film? I get that I’m not really who this movie is intended for; I get that this movie is intended for more of a mainstream audience and mass consumption. I realize that this movie is for the kid who wants to show his parents and grandparents snowboarding so they can say “WOW!!!! THAT IS AMAZING!!! THAT IS EXTREME!!! THAT IS DANGEROUS!!!” but is that where we’re at in snowboarding these days?
I blame Red Bull mostly. Lets face it, at the end of the day this is a multi-million dollar marketing piece for an energy drink company that sells poison to kids, dudes who vote for Trump, and drive teched out diesel trucks who like to ‘roll coal’ on cyclists and people who might have a world view wider than about six inches. And I can hear the people flaming me already, “But Red Bull has done sooo much for action sports!!!!” and you’re right, they have. I can’t deny Red Bull and other corporate sponsors have helped bring our lifestyle into the mainstream spotlight, but at what cost? We have an industry that for years has over produced product on the bet that more people will get involved after seeing films like this. The reality is, that just hasn’t happened.
Films like the Fourth Phase are amazing visual journeys no doubt, but the problem is, they aren’t accessible. I don’t know that many people travelling the world and making a living from snowboarding. Yes, there are some exceptions, but lets face it, it’s not 2003 anymore. I guess I just prefer films and edits that are more accessible. Stuff like Liam Gallagher’s ‘Search for a Cool Place’, Warp Wave’s ‘A Place Called Kookabunga’, Work Shirt’s ‘Close to Home’, and the all girls film ‘Full Moon’ and of course the classic Robot Food trilogy do way more to make me actually want to go snowboarding with my friends and speak to what I think this lifestyle is all about than any offering from Red Bull or another larger production company ever has. But hell, that’s just like my opinion….man.