J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

14 Minutes from Earth: The Google Executive Who Fell to Earth

Ironically, Republic Studios’ “Zombies of the Stratosphere” spent more time underwater than within the second layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, probably because it was easier to get and stay beneath the ocean. Few people have logged any time to speak of in the stratosphere, thereby giving it a certain cachet among daredevils. However, only a google executive could afford the sort technological breakthroughs required to set a new stratospheric skydive record and be lucid enough to appreciate doing it. Alan Eustace’s team will pull some long hours to send him up and bring him back down safely in Adam “Tex” Davis, Jerry Kolber, Trey Nelson & Erich Sturm’s 14 Minutes from Earth (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Just in case you did not make the connection, Eustace’s colleagues remind you his scientifically significant feat of daring reflects google values. Does that mean he let China censor his team’s websites? Regardless, Eustace had a notion to break Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting skydive, utilizing a hot air balloon to take him higher into the stratosphere.

Eustace and others argue there is much to be learned observing the stratosphere in the flesh, but it is never made clear what discoveries Eustace made during his climatic dive, if any. However, it seems pretty clear the spill-over benefits of the technology developed for the endeavor are considerable. For instance, Eustace commissioned the first redesigned American-made space suit in decades.

If Eustace’s stratospheric jump represented a mid-life crisis, at least it employed a lot of people and contributed to our nearly comatose space program. However, the four-man battery of co-directors have crafted a blandly pedestrian work of cinema. Frankly, the film looks like cobbled together cable news channel reports, using a generic radio announcer voice to glue it all together. The self-serving google shout-outs also get old quickly. Granted, Davis, etc., etc., had tremendous access that allowed them to capture some very scary near-disasters on film. Yet, they are presented in a frustratingly dull fashion.

If in the future, we’re all living in floating apartment buildings in the stratosphere, Eustace will be one of the people we have to thank. However, very few people will remember his vanilla documentary. It is just too easy to believe the doc was produced by a committee of cooks. Only recommended for voracious extreme skydiving fans, 14 Minutes from Earth is now available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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