Since the age of eight Jeff Johnson has loved surfing and climbing, especially since discovering the epic 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia. These two men became his heroes and Patagonia his aim. The film begins with Johnson showing footage of Choinard and Tompkins’ trip to Patagonia. They made this trek in a VW van, down dirt roads – and they decided they were going two weeks before. Johnson’s method differs in that he is acting as crew on a ship to get to Chile, and he’s definitely not acting on impulse, his journey appears to have been years in the making. Once in Chile, he’ll then journey to Patagonia to meet with his heroes and attempt to climb an extremely special peak.
On his way to his destination, the journey of course is where the lessons are learned. The climber’s story is one of the Holy Grail, whereas the journey proves to be the worth. The extreme zen attitude kept by the elders of the ’68 journey is spread and joined with the locals and gauchos, they all focus on conserving natural lands and ecosystems. The elders have been buying up the land since they fell in love with Patagonia, they did this so that the energy companies couldn’t.
Johnson also gives us a glimpse of Rapanui or Easter Island where civilization over-exceeded itself and was doomed, first to cannibalism. Johnson suggests this happens because of the people’s obsession with building stone statues, then dividing into warring tribes are trying to outdo eachother with the amount of statues they could put up, depleting the island’s timber, using it to transport the stone.
“Conquerors of the Useless” is a pretty accurate title, but you’ll for sure take something away from it. It’s stress on big open spaces and the adventure in it is extremely inspirational.