First Run Features // 2012 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // March 16th, 2013
An epic journey. An impossible dream. The birth of a legend.
I grew up in a small town in Florida on five prime acres of that state's sandy grass. I was a handful of miles from the beach, but I was never interested in surfing. Instead, I thought that skateboarding was the coolest thing in the world in the late '80s and early '90s. Of course, living on grass in the middle of nowhere meant my skateboarding dreams were never to materialize. One of the reasons skateboarding was so fascinating to me then was that it was dangerous and considered subversive somehow, and it didn't take long for "no skateboarding or rollerblading" signs to proliferate in nearby shopping plazas. That was a couple of decades ago. While the signs are still up, skateboarding has made huge strides towards the mainstream. If you'd told most people then that skateboarding could be a way out of crime and poverty rather than a sure route to it, they would have laughed at you. Now, though, we have Waiting for Lightning, a documentary that follows the rise of Danny Way, a skateboarder who comes from a life of poverty and violence to become a world-class skateboarder. It's a compelling documentary for fans of the sport, whose story of overcoming difficulty will resonate far beyond those who've skateboarded.
Danny Way lost his father at a young age, and this sent his mother into a lifestyle that was no particularly conducive to the health of the family. There was violence and instability at home, and Danny found solace as a skateboarder. The film combines interviews and footage of Danny on the ramps. The major structuring device of the film is Danny's 2005 attempt to be the first person to jump over the Great Wall of China on a skateboard.
Waiting for Lightning is a film in two parts. The first part is about Danny Way's difficult childhood. We learn about his difficult situation through interviews with him and his family and friends. These moments paint a bleak portrait of a child growing up in a broken home. We also learn that being on a skateboard was his ticket out of that life of difficulty.
The second part of the film is interwoven with the first, as Danny Way attempts to be the first person to jump a skateboard over the Great Wall of China. We see footage of his preparation, as well as his time in China. Of course his success was a big news item back in 2005, so it's not like there's a lot of suspense, but that doesn't mean you can sell the effort short. It's still a bit breathtaking in moments as Way braves a massive ramp to achieve his flight.
Waiting for Lightning (Blu-ray) gets a solid release from First Run. Like many skateboard-oriented features, the source material for Waiting for Lightning is catch-as-catch-can for this 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer. Some of the newer material looks like great HD material, with solid detail and clean, bright colors. Some of the older footage shows its age, as standard-def cameras captured Way's early years. The mix-and-match material isn't the greatest in terms of absolute quality, but it serves the film well and isn't the least bit distracting. The audio options are 5.1 surround 2.0 stereo tracks, and both are fine. The 5.1 track is clean and clear with interviews and narration. Some may lament the lack of a lossless option and the relative lack of surround activity, but what's here is good enough.
Extras kick off with an hour of bonus videos and featurettes, all in 1080p. They cover everything from the X Games to info on the Megaramp featured in the film. We also get a 12-minute interview with director Jacob Rosenberg, who does a fine job discussing how the project came together. Finally, there are six deleted scenes and the film's theatrical trailer. A DVD version of the film is also included.
If you don't care a thing for skateboarding, then this is perhaps not the film for you. It's a solid documentary of the hardships Danny Way goes through, but considering the overwhelming role that skateboarding plays in his life, there's no lack of footage of him on a board throughout the film. The lack of a lossless audio option might turn some viewers off as well; they're pretty much standard these days with Blu-ray releases.
Waiting for Lightning is a great documentary for skateboarding fans, and a good story of overcoming adversity for those of us who don't ride. It's certainly worth a rental for fans of the sport, and the solid Waiting for Lightning (Blu-ray) release makes a purchase easy to recommend as well.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1088p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy