Long Way Down Series Disappointed Me

I just finished watching the 6 episodes of “Long Way Down”. Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s second documented motorcycle journey. They started from the northern tip of the UK and traveled 15,000 miles to Cape Town on the southern tip of South Africa. I enjoyed their first trip around the world called “Long Way Round” and felt that the “Long Way Down” series lacked a lot. Perhaps it was an amazing journey for Charley and Ewan and even better than their first, but it didn’t come through in the documentary.

I thought the actual filming of the experience was much better than the previous. The angles and the shots taken were really great. Claudio was a 3rd motorcyclist that traveled with them to film. I think Claudio learned a thing or two from the first series and got more creative with the filming and it really showed. There seemed to be more first person video perspectives from the helmet cams which I liked too. It was very similar to the kind of video logs that I do when I’m on the road, which gives you a raw look at the road.

Now onto the bad. The first half of the trip seemed to be very rushed. It was more about the destinations than the journey, which was admitted at certain points. I think poor scheduling hurt the first half of the trip. In the beginning of each episode they explain how the filming experience works. There are two cars that act as support crews and then there is Charley and Ewan on their motorcycles that Claudio follows to document their ride. It is always emphasized (as in the first series) that the motorcycles are essentially on their own. It seemed like they were meeting up with the support crew more often than usual. Perhaps it was the shots they chose to use that gave this impression. It didn’t look like they were “out on their own” and perhaps the dangers in Africa made them travel closer together.

One thing that bugged me about the first series was the focus on Ewan over Charley, and this only got worse in this series. I understand that Ewan is more popular. I never heard of Charley Boorman until I saw “Long Way Round,” but he seems to get short changed even more in “Long Way Down.” I got sick of hearing Ewan shouting “WOO HOO!” every 10 minutes about something. Charley didn’t get enough camera time, and I understand why. Everyone wants to see Ewan rather that Charley. It’s ironic that this happened because Charley is obviously more passionate about motorcycles. The low point of the series was when Ewan’s wife met them in the middle of the trip and rode with them for a week. She had ridden a motorcycle for the first time only a couple of months ago. I found the decision to let her join the trip to be careless and detrimental to the spirit of the journey.

If a book came out I would probably buy it to see if I could catch a glimpse of what differed from the original trip, just out of curiosity. I think there was something missing that didn’t make this trip as special as the last. If I’m right then a book wont be published and I’ll have my answer. I’m playing Monday morning motorcyclist, so I can’t tell what really went on.

On the bright side, while researching more about Charley I just realized that a series was made about his experience in the Dakar rally called Race to Dakar. I will be heading back home to Chicago next week for vacation. I will have time to watch this series and will post my review when I am done.

  • Jason

    Your post title got me fuming because I love both series. But, you know what? I agree with your assessment, every point you made. Too much Ewan, too much support crew, and Eve should not have gone. I’m going to keep watching them, though. Until I start having my own adventures.

  • http://www.atlasrider.com Atlas

    I really liked the first half, but the second half went downhill and that’s when the adventure seemed to just begin, ya know? I will keep watching them as well. Hell, I will probably buy this series to support them and continue these journeys being documented.

  • Jonathan

    I came across “Long Way Down” through the TopDocumentaryFilms website and started watching it before I knew about the previous “Long Way Around”. I never had a negative opinion on the productions before I read this post. Now, I do agree totally with the points of criticism made on this thread but in some respect, it must be said that although there is room for legitimate criticism; travelers, motorcycle enthusiasts, adventurers of all kinds should allow themselves to put aside any errors, misjudgments or oversights on behalf of the planners, the crew, the filmmakers or the stars and just enjoy the adventures the films share with us. In the end, no matter how much is captured, what we see on screen will always pale in comparison to the real experience no matter how perfectly balanced it is filmed or produced. I came away from both films with a newfound respect for the entire crew as well as for Charlie and Ewan. And I felt sincerely sad at the end of each film because my own sjaring in their journey was coming to an end. Any production that does that to a viewer is a very good production.

  • http://www.atlasrider.com AtlasRider

    That’s a fair point Jonathan.

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