Daredevils – The Human Spider Returns Review: Climbing On A Monumental Scale

October 11, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

tv-stars-4DAREDEVILS – THE HUMAN SPIDER RETURNS: Channel 4, Monday 12th October, 9pm Alert Me

People will do anything to get a thrill.

This accounts for the popularity of such adrenaline-pulsing activities like rollercoasters and bungee jumping. But whilst each of these is potentially heart attack-inducing, they’re at least done with a great deal of concern for safety.

Alain Robert has no such compunction. He’s a free solo climber that specialises in climbing architectural mega-structures – skyscrapers, bridges, you name it, he’s probably climbed it.

The Human Spider Returns follows Alain in the run up to his biggest ever challenge – to scale the 450m Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a feat which has ended in failure two times previously with his arrest and capture at the first balcony.

It quickly becomes apparent how insane this man is. He’s climbing the sheer glass walls of skyscrapers and the cable support wires of bridges – feats of tremendous physical endurance but also of mental fortitude (or just plain instability). Watching him do so is awe inspiring; most of us have trouble climbing an escalator staircase in the morning, this is a man who’s superglue-ing himself to window panes all over the world. As the camera pans out each time to show exactly how far up he is, you can’t help but feel a thrill yourself.

The documentary also features interviews with his family, including his extremely understanding and tolerant wife of 25 years, Nicole, who almost single-handedly raises his two sons because he’s virtually never at home. Their relationship is actually very touching – she understands that it’s the one thing he’s really passionate about and doesn’t attempt to dissuade him from what he’s doing. His younger son is accepting but still obviously fearful of what his father does – the thought of knowing that your dad might not come home after a day at the office is clearly a great strain.

Oddly, he’s actually sponsored and paid by companies to climb buildings illegally, usually carrying some kind of corporate banner. Unsurprisingly, his travel itineraries usually include a brief stint in a local prison somewhere.

But just when you think Alain’s invincible, it is revealed that he is mortal after all. In 1982 he fell 15 metres, breaking his hip, his wrist and ending up in a coma. So severe were his injuries that he suffers bouts of epilepsy for which he still needs to take medication. Despite this, he still continues to climb. In fact, what comes across the most in this documentary is his relentless optimism and love for life. “When you’re playing with your life, you don’t take anything for granted,? he says. In a world where most people are afraid to step outside of their comfort zone, here’s a guy willing to grab it with both hands. And not let go.

If you work in a tall office building, have a brief glance outside once in a while, you might get a cheery wave from deranged Frenchman.

Jez Sands