Earthed 3 is exactly what the title suggests – the third instalment in Dirt magazine’s Alex Rankin-produced film series. Rankin’s been doing bike films for approximately ever, and it really shows here. There’s lots of lovely camera work, interesting (but never gimmicky) angles and sharp editing. The main thing, though, is a real appreciation of what makes mountain biking great.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. You want to know what’s actually in it. We had to laugh at the opener, which involves Rob Warner propelling himself through town, out along the roads and through the woods by means of, well, a large propellor on his back. It’s amusing stuff but we don’t mind admitting that it didn’t really set the tone for the rest of the film, which is pretty much wall-to-wall serious riding. There’s a lot less of the larking about that we never felt really added much to the earlier films.
Downhill racing is at the core of Earthed 3, with the theme being Europe. You won’t find any Canada or Japan or other far-flung locations here, but we don’t object to that at all – it just seems to make it all more accessible and relevant. You could go to the places shown without too much trouble or expense. There’s coverage of World Cup rounds in Spain, Italy and of course Scotland, but it’s as much about who’s riding most stylishly as about who won. Those things often coincide, of course, but the emphasis is on great bits of riding. We particularly like the cunningly-deployed burst of slow-motion to highlight really tidy riding that might otherwise go unnoticed.
There’s plenty of other stuff, though. Plenty of dirt jumping, some ludicrous trials action from Chris Akrigg that looks as if it must be the result of camera trickery but isn’t, lots of “recreational” downhill and a big Megavalanche section that’s really good. The mass-start downhill race is a pretty spectacular thing, and a load of helicopter footage really shows it to best advantage. Including a particularly alarming crash where the rider bails upslope while his bike tumbles downslope. And tumbles, and tumbles, and tumbles…
The almost-finale allows the viewer to relive the glorious moment when Steve Peat finally won a UK round of the World Cup in Fort William in 2005. If you were there it’ll be ample reminder of what it was like, and if you weren’t you’ll find out. There’s a message from Steve himself after that, and then a gentle wind-down with a bit of mellow riding in Wharncliffe woods.
“Eclectic” is probably the best word to describe the soundtrack, with tunes from acts as diverse as the Chemical Brothers, The Fall, Hawkwind and, er, Bananarama. It all works a treat, though. There’s also a worthwhile selection of extras, with extra footage from the UK National Points series and an extensive interview with Dirt’s Steve Jones on the subject of racing the Megavalanche – as the refreshingly honest caption reads, it’s “dull, but could save your life”.
Is there anything we don’t like about it? No, not really. It’s entirely free of in-jokes, there’s no flab, everything’s there for a reason and there’s never a dull moment. The only thing that niggles is the typos in the captions – it’s surely not that hard to spell “Les Gets”. But that really is just a niggle. Earthed 3 is great.