When The Collective came out back in 2004 it had a huge impact, changing mountain bike films forever. In place of the normal punk/metal soundtrack and the same tired old camera angles came a fresh approach, with innovative cinematography, atmospheric music, artfully composed shots, cameras on zip-lines through the forest and a real ‘riding with buddies’ feeling.
Follow Me, the first film from Anthill Films – a new crew that includes key members of the Collective – sets out to recreate this vibe, while updating it for 2010. And it very nearly succeeds. Ultimately, however, it suffers the same fate as Collective follow-ups Roam and Seasons, falling short of the, admittedly stellar, heights of the first film despite some great sections.
As the intro fades out and the action starts, there’s a feeling of deja vu as Collective favourite Matt Hunter drops in. This continues until a couple of minutes in when, in quick succession, he shoots down a cliff at warp speed, effortlessly flies off a hipped drop and – in the most jaw-dropping moment of the film – soars off a huge booter to land in a cliff wallride, which has to be seen to be believed. Yes, the riders have stepped things up once again.
The next segment is just as good, with a succession of riders ripping down assorted bikepark trails to music from punk band Rise Against, bringing back memories of the Whistler sections in Roam and Seasons, and with a real ‘riding with your mates’ feel. These first too sections are excellent. Too good, in fact – with the bar set so high, it’s almost inevitable that the rest of the film will suffer in comparison.
The first dirt jumping section slows thing down, giving a fresh perspective through use of black and white film with colourised highlights – think Sin City or the girl in the red dress in Schindler’s List – while the stunts in Brad’s Yard look amazing, and the section featuring Thomas Vanderham and Sam Hill riding Vancouver’s North Shore is excellent while it lasts. However, with Hill, unarguably one of the best riders in the world, getting just two minutes of screen time, this feels like a wasted opportunity – albeit one scuppered by poor weather, as the film explains.
Other sections feature Brandon Semenuk and Steve Smith ripping up the Sunshine Coast, and Geoff Gulevich, Matt Hunter and Cam McCaul living la vida loca in Baja California. The film finishes with Gee Atherton and Smith ragging it through some epic scenery in New Zealand – which looks like amazing fun and must have been a nightmare to film, but just doesn’t have the same impact as some of the earlier sections and ends rather abruptly.
At just 40 minutes long (plus extras including behind-the-scenes footage and slideshows), Follow Me doesn’t outstay its welcome and contains some amazing footage. There are no duff sections, but it lacks the spark and camaraderie of The Collective, plus the narration seems a little desultory. Having said that, it’s still the best bike flick we’ve seen this year.