When U2 3D started, I did think I was in the wrong theater. The film is being presented by National Geographic, which I though was only interested in nature and history not the wild and woolly world of rock and roll. But National Geographic is indeed presenting U2's concert in teh 3D technolgy known as 3ality. As the film began I did wonder what 3D could bring to a concert films. Early on, the film provides lens flares in 3D and sprays water from the crowd for a 3D effect. All the opening credits get a WOW 3D look as well. Then the concert begins. The stage is a huge hi-tech set with video screens towering over the performers. The venue (mostly Buenos Aires but the end credits imply some footage might have been shot at Melbourne and Santiago as well) is strikingly large and clean in a glossy sort of manner. The venue provides for nice sweeping shots of crowds and plenty of room for the performers to walk around. I was about to complain about the person in front of me waving their arms and then I realized that was part of the 3D effect. Every now and then the camera is placed in the crowd and you feel like your behind that guy whose girlfriend has climbed up on his shoulders. Fortunately, this use of 3D is kept to a minimum but it works nicely to place you at the event so you can enjoy the vibes from the crowd.
The concert stage used in U2 3D (National Geographic Cinema Ventures)
Every now and then Bono self-consciously reaches out to the audience or points a mike stand at them. At these moments we become overly conscious of the 3D as a gimmick. But when the filmmakers just let the concert play out, with the band members just seeming to pop out from the background in graceful sweeping shots, the film is quite hypnotic. It works less well with rapid, MTV-style cuts and superimposed imagery. It is at its best when the filmmakers hang back and enjoy the show.
But as the set plays out, you do come to realize that U2's older material is far superior to anything new they have done. If the concert had been only their latest work, not even the 3D would have made this worth sitting through. But with a mix of old and new, and a conscious effort to impart some kind of political message and plea for peace, U2 3D ends up providing a highly enjoyable 90 minutes.
The crowd becomes almost a character in the film as they cheer and sing along. You get the feeling that if there was some way to harass all that energy, love and good will, you might just be able to make a difference in the world. But alas all that energy and enthusiasm probably disapates as the crowd leaves the venue. But it is nice to see a popular band still try to impart some kind of social consciousness on its fans. &
U2 3D performing in the new concert film (National Geographic Cinema Ventures)
U2 3D (rated G) may not be the best use of 3D technology but Owens and Pellington have fun with it and deliver a crisp, beautiful film. Even the sound feels like it's in 3D, I'm not sure what that means but it just sounded clear, rich and dimentsional. Now if they could just pipe in the smell of sweat, pot and beer, it would be exactly like going to a concert. But it would be easier to get to the bathrooms and out of the parking lot. This film will be best enjoyed by U2 fans but anyone who enjoys a good concert film should check it out as well. It's an entertaining experience and suggests how this kind of technology may be used more in the future.
Companion viewing: Rattle and Hum, The Last Waltz, Sympathy for the Devil