Life Cycles: Review

Last week on Friday I finally got my copy of the new mountain biking film ‘Life Cycles’ in the post all the way from Canada. The trailer promised some outstanding footage, and understandably I couldn’t wait to get home and watch it. I’ve been sans computer for the past 2 weeks while Apple have been trying to figure out what’s wrong with it, and since my partner and I don’t own a television, we watched it on her computer instead. I was fairly confident that given the various articles I’d read in the lead up to the film being released, that even to a non-cycling fan, this film would be entertaining enough to hold her interest. After all, a couple of years ago when I brought Seasons home and started watching it, within five minutes she too couldn’t pull her eyes away from the screen.

The focus of Life Cycles is quite different from Roam, Seasons, and Follow Me though. These are the only other MTB films I own and thus the basis for my comparison. In Life Cycles, it really is all about the bike. In theory, that sounds like a great idea. We all love bikes, lets get right in there and tell the story of a bike – any bike really – and it’s journey from creation in the factory furnace to ultimate destruction, however that might come about. And along the way we’ll weave a story of how the bicycle is the most noble of all human inventions and allows us to explore, destroy, create and ultimately gain better knowledge of ourselves and our surroundings.

It’s no surprise watching Life Cycles that the directors, at least one of them, is taking his first step into film making, coming from a photography background. The cinematography is breathtaking, that is undeniable. As I understand it, the film was made with the lowest budget possible, and to me, especially working with the format of film making, I find that the result is staggering – they say they spent time not money, waiting long periods of time to acquire borrowed Red cameras to get the quality of shot they desired. And the time spent filming is also evident – especially in one sequence which marks the changing of the seasons through one section of single track – as the rider weaves his way through the woods amongst bright green ferns and foliage, the autumn is right behind him. Fall leaves litter the same trail and the shot morphs from greens to browns in his wake.

Watching this film with Meg, I became slightly uncomfortable as the time ticked on. Beautiful as it was to watch, the story – helped along sporadically by a series of voiceovers by one man, was not enough to really hold our attention. Ultimately, what Life Cycles lacks, is something personal. You can fill the screen with shot after shot of incredible slow motion cinematography, but a film is not a photo album. It needs more. The bicycle itself is inanimate – its the rider that drives it to become something more, and not once having a rider take his helmet off and just share something of the joy of riding was a mistake I think. But I can see that that is not what they set out to do, they have created a masterpiece of sorts – a long series of mountain biking sequences which look amazing, but left me wanting more – or in fact any – interaction with the riders.

I also felt that the slow motion shots outnumbered and overpowered the real-times shots, which I’ve always felt were more entertaining to watch. Sure, get some slow motion in there because it gives you a chance to really appreciate what the rider just did – but Life Cycles uses slow motion far too much, and the over all result is that a film already lacking in a personal human touch, also has no pace and starts to feel very, very slow.

Overall, I’d say watch it for the beauty, but don’t expect it to deliver much else.

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  1. #1 by Jon on May 3, 2011 - 12:01 pm

    Good, unbiased review… however one thing i’ve noticed is that the people who are un-inspired by this movie are those who really aren’t that passionate about riding. Personally, I get misty eyed every time I watch this flick. I can literally smell the pine in the scene where they are trail building. I can smell the oil in the ‘maintenance’ scene.

    For me at least, it’s extremely personal. I own plenty of mountain bike movies… i’ve seen them all, from NWD to Kranked and everything in between… this is the only movie that truly inspires me. It’s the only movie that captures WHY, it captures the beauty and passion of the sport. Every time I watch it I want to go out and ride just because I love to ride.

    Maybe that’s it’s undoing. To someone who is truly passionate about the sport, this is the greatest masterpiece… ever. But to the average weekend warrior, it’s nothing more than some pretty pictures and the occasional cool stunt.

    It’s not Transformers like the NWD series tries to be. It takes it’s time. It focuses on the details. But clearly, it’s not for the shock/awe crowd.

    • #2 by Sera on May 3, 2011 - 12:26 pm

      It’s probably time I watched this film again to give it another chance. I would definitely call myself a bike fanatic and passionate about the sport but for me, Seasons inspired me more than Life Cycles. It had me captivated start to finish, and I’ve seen it so many times now but it still puts a lump in my throat and reminds me why I love to ride. An I’m not even a mountain biker! Road to Roubaix does the same. I just get more inspired when there’s more interaction with the riders, it makes it more personal for me. But like I say, I’ll give it another watch and I might decide my initial review was a touch harsh!
      Happy riding :)

      • #3 by Jon on May 3, 2011 - 3:26 pm

        I’ve never actually seen seasons… i’ll have to have a gander.

    • #4 by Sera on May 4, 2011 - 6:23 am

      Definitely watch Seasons. Incredible cinematography, landscapes, riders, tricks, music, atmosphere, and some impossible shots. Much more free-flowing than Life Cycles but not like a gratuitous Red Bull promo. I also really enjoyed ROAM and Follow Me, also by The Collective / Anthill Films, but I preferred Seasons.

  2. #5 by Michael on May 3, 2011 - 12:12 pm

    “Greatest masterpiece…ever”? Really? And anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t really that passionate about riding? Excellent. Spot-on. Thanks for stopping by and sharing that with us.

    • #6 by Jon on May 3, 2011 - 3:25 pm

      Alright… full disclosure: I was born in Rossland, and lived there riding for the first 18 years of my life (excluding the years I couldn’t walk yet).

      So, seeing as a good portion of the flick was filmed in Rossland… there might be some personal connection there.

      All that notwithstanding… I’ve shown this particular movie to a whole bunch of people I know… big city and small town types. The only people who gave me a “meh, nothing special” review are people who don’t really ‘get’ biking culture. They are the weekend warrior types who may ride, but aren’t passionate about it as others are.

      What i’m trying to say is, this movie is not for everyone, by any stretch. If mountain biking is a quick fix for you, or a occasional pastime, or only get off on endless in your face action (The NWD / Red Bull crowd), then i can’t imagine this movie would hold much interest.

      I’m not saying anyone is “Wrong” for not liking this movie, i’m saying that it’s quite likely those who don’t like this film are not the people this film was made for.

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