Film review: ‘The Fourth Phase’ distorts the essence of snowboarding

Four years after the release of The Art of Flight, one of the most well-known collaborations between professional snowboarder Travis Rice and Red Bull Media House, fans experienced their next project in cinematic excellence.

With the addition of Brain Farm. The Fourth Phase premiered to a full house at the Boulder Theater in early October. After the popularity and success of The Art of Flight, The Fourth Phase was set to be another huge success. But did it live up to expectations?

It would be wrong to say that The Fourth Phase was not incredible cinematography, or that it didn’t stoke people out. In fact, a lot of people loved it.

“The Fourth Phase embodied the true passion behind snowboarding,” CU student Cooper Branham said at the premier. “It shows every step of the process and the work that goes into planning a trip to areas that have never been ridden before.”

On the flip side, there is another circle within the snowboard community that disapproved of, and were even disgusted by, this film. Criticism ranged from it being boring and slow, to claiming that there was not enough snowboarding. Some even thought that The Fourth Phase was disheartening, rendering the sport less raw. Many say it doesn’t inspire either—snowboarders didn’t feel like any of the tricks were achievable.

In other words, The Fourth Phase did not encapsulate what filming snowboard movies should be about.

What this part of the community wanted is to see some real snowboarding. There was some damn good snowboarding in this film, but it was concealed between walls of sailing shots, dramatic voice-overs and clips of snowflakes.

The variety of reactions to The Fourth Phase stem from a division within the snowboarding community itself. Polarized opinions are rooted within deeply different aspects of the culture—the very reasons why people fell in love with snowboarding in the first place.

Personally, I found The Fourth Phase unrelatable and stale. The only people in the world who can spend four years making a snowboard movie, where they fly to any country they desire, to ride some of the steepest and sketchiest lines in the world, are the dudes in that movie. While the final product of this effort is (cinematically) awesome, it makes snowboarding seem like an untouchable, unreachable performance to be observed rather than emulated.

In reality, snowboarding is just the opposite. All you need is a board, some boots and the cooperation of nature to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring culture that is snowboarding.

Now, The Fourth Phase appealed to a mass audience, so membership in snowboarding culture wasn’t a prerequisite to enjoying this film. As good and lovely as that is, it makes a statement about the snowboard community: As tricks progress, contests extend, and the number of riders grows, snowboarding will becomes less of an art and more of a sport. That’s exactly what its core participants want to avoid.

Snowboarding is about creative freedom, self-expression and simply having fun. It’s never had the elitist flavor of other sports. This raw style is being lost with every competition solely based on the number of flips and spins a rider can complete, and movies like The Fourth Phase are not helping. If we leave snowboarding to the pros, there would be nothing left for the rest of us.

Contact CU Independent Writer Julia Spadaro at julia.spadaro@colorado.edu.

Julia Spadaro

Julia is a Journalism major. She likes to draw, snowboard, listen to music, and hang out with her friends.

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