Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"U2 3D" -- * * *

Saddled with a G rating and equipped with the same chunky headgear as "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl," Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington's "U2 3D" may be the least hardcore/badass rock concert film ever made, but it also embeds us into the heightened, exciting concert-going atmosphere like few other films I've ever seen. While it could be argued that any band/concert shot in 3-D and projected on an IMAX screen could have much the same effect, that doesn't make this one any less of a fun, brisk, awesome sensory experience. It is worth noting however that, like any concert film, if you don't enjoy the music/band in question, no amount of bells and whistles is going to make the movie an easy sit. Thankfully, I like U2.

Directors Pellington ("Arlington Road," "The Mothman Prophecies") and Owens have patched together performances from U2's 'Vertigo' Tour shows in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Santiago and Sao Paulo seamlessly to make it seem like it's all one consistent concert in front of the same 100,000 fans. There's some interesting decisions made here, most notably that there's much more directorial emphasis on The Edge than enigmatic frontman Bono, who has a tendency to hog the spotlight. Drummer Larry Mullen and infinitely creepy guitarist Adam Clayton get plenty of facetime too, but The Edge's presence seems to dominate every song performance, and the decision seems intentional, if unexplained. There's also a surplus of Bono/U2's politics interspersed into the staging and introduction of a few songs, and the one break in performance is for Bono to recite the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. While it's mildly disappointing that the band's angry leftism has mellowed into vague "Yay Peace and Unity" speechifying, at least they make more of an attempt to get some sort of message out within their shows than most bands.

This is a concert film that's all about the performances from beginning to end, with no interviews, backstage antics, or behind-the-scenes footage, and the stripped-down approach allows for a much more streamlined, in-and-out, sit-back-and-enjoy experience (the movie runs a scant 85 minutes). Filled with seemingly inexplicable energy-- though Bono's borderline-embarrassing dancing at the outset thankfully tapers off as the show goes on-- the band plays strictly their hits and keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, while likely causing an irritating number of feet in your theater to tap away. While I was just happy to see a band with boundless enthusiasm and not going on auto-pilot, the performances of these songs might be a little too "perfect" and polished for die-hard fans of the band, with little of their days-of-yore spontaneity and improvisation. Also, it was maybe a poor choice structure-wise to have all the slower songs bunched together in the middle rather than interspersed, but I doubt it'll deaden many pulses. In terms of sheer performance level, the highlights for me were their anti-Reagan-turned-anti-war "Bullet the Blue Sky" and the always exhilarating "Pride." For those curious, the set list featured in the film is as follows:

1. Vertigo
2. Beautiful Day
3. New Year's Day
4. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
5. Love and Peace
6. Sunday Bloody Sunday
7. Bullet the Blue Sky
8. Miss Sarajevo
--. U.N. Declaration of Human Rights--
9. Pride (In the Name of Love)
10. Where the Streets Have No Name
11. One
12. The Fly
13. With or Without You
14. Yahweh

The 3-D effect is simply wondrous, and I'll be highly surprised if other bands don't follow U2's lead, and film their concerts in this format. While the 3-D generally just makes the experience more immersive and sweep over you, rather than cheap theatrics like throwing shit at the camera, there are moments throughout that take advantage of the gimmickry of the medium in rather effective ways. During "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Bono's arm stretches right over the audience, seemingly as a hand reaching out for peace and solidarity, and while the band performs "One," the background displays a collage of South American flags. U2 has always been a band that embraced the idea of 'putting on a show' when performing, with jumbo video screens and various texts and animations, and that approach has made them a seemingly ideal match with the process utilized here.

Giving you an experience that's on par with a front-row seat at a U2 concert for the price of a movie ticket, "U2 3D" is a relative bargain, not to mention a technical marvel. The concept itself seemed like a can't miss, and Owens and Pellington have done right by it, delivering a unique, very entertaining concert-going experience via IMAX and "3ality Digital" technology. It goes without saying that the movie is a must-see for U2 fans, but even those with just a passing familiarity with their music would be hard-pressed to not have a good time here. According to producer/distributor National Geographic Entertainment, there's no DVD release planned for "U2 3D," and who would want to see it that way anyway? Worthy of your money and (minimal) time, this one-time theatrical opportunity delivers on whatever expectations one might have from the title alone.

"U2 3D" opens today exclusively in IMAX theaters until February 14th, when it will move off of IMAX screens and into conventional theaters nationwide in Digital 3-D.


Post a Comment

<< Home