Waiting For Lightning is a documentary that pursues the crusade of pro skater Danny Way as he aims to accomplish one of the most insane stunts of all time: to jump the Great Wall of China on a skateboard using the biggest ramp ever constructed. As the movie heads towards the inevitable climactic few seconds of the jump, the narrative follows the trials and ordeals of Way from childhood to adulthood, as well as the immediate lead up and planning for the Great Wall stunt.
While the focus of the documentary leads into the China jump, for all intents and purposes, Waiting For Lightning is a biography. It documents how Danny Way rose into pro skateboarding at such a young age, propelling from a difficult and tumultuous home upbringing, dealing with the death of his father, and then the loss of his stepfather through divorce. As his mother fell into a pattern of self-medicating with drug use, and abusive relationships; Danny escaped into skating, becoming one of the most memorable pro skaters of all time.
Way enters his mid-teens by following the guidance of Mike Ternasky, who takes him under his wing and sponsors him in events. As he rises to major success, he participates in Mike Ternasky’s Plan B brand, a sort-of dream team of pro skaters; and their relationship develops into a place where Ternasky becomes a father figure to Danny”¦ only to fall into further tragedy as he has to mourn the loss of another father figure when Ternasky is killed in a car wreck.
As the tale progresses, we follow Danny’s rise from these losses and trials, deals with further challenges and innovating in the realm of the sport and the craft. The story is a "rise above" film by this point, showing as he moved into zoning in on breaking records and taking on sketchy feats, showcasing his ability to devise elements, tricks, and stunts that had never been done before.
Overall, while the focus is the ultimate stunt in China, the documentary seeks to inspire, highlighting that no matter the odds, you can overcome whatever life throws at you – and that Danny Way is proof of this.
Through the course of the film, the story is comprised of archived footage, interviews with Danny and his family, and discussions with other pro skaters, including Tony Hawk.
The contemporary footage is impeccably shot, and the interviews are beautifully filmed as well. The highlight of the movie is most certainly the editing, which is just as significant as the filming quality, seamlessly tying together the historical story with the Great Wall stunt tale.
The movie has very little to be disparaged for. The narrative grabs your attention, it goes deep into where Danny came from, but also is bolstered by the flawless filming and editing. The storytelling sucks you into the anticipation for the stunt, baiting with 1-second and 2-second shots of Way starting the jump here and there through the film.
And, I might add, this movie isn’t just for skate fans either. I’ve never been big into skating, and while I admire the skill and dedication of the pros (and the young amateurs!) out there, it just never resonated with me for some reason. Despite this, I was completely engrossed by Waiting For Lightning, from start to finish, and became not so much a skating film, but more of a film to inspire with a crazy stunt at the end.
Waiting For Lightning is a great film, and definitely worth watching. There are some who might find it difficult to get into – documentaries are not for everybody, and sport documentaries in particular don’t resonate with some folks. I advise putting those prejudices to the side for this one – and add it to your queue to check out.