Saturday, 23 February 2008

U2 3D - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Catherine Owens & Mark Pellington
Running Time: 85 mins
Certificate: U
Release Date: February 22nd

Filmed using eight state of the art 3D cameras, which required five operators per camera at all times, across eight gigs in five cities in Latin America, U2 3D is the first live action film made with digital 3D. Fifty years after early versions of the technology brought us Creature for the Black Lagoon, it returned last October to save cinema from the YouTube generation with only Ray Winstone’s CGI toned arse to show for it’s efforts. So, before the first wave of live action 3D feature films hit later this year, the tech is being used to chronicle the further adventures of Bono, Edge, Tinky Winky and Po.

Yes, honesty is the best policy; I’m a U2 cynic. However, the opening of this concert film enthralled me in a way I could not have expected. As the stadium lights burst into life the sheer depth of vision created by the polarized 3D specs was astounding. With the crowd bobbing away holding aloft their mobile phones at the bottom of my field of vision, the various stage levels, all captured in crisp digital coupled with a blistering sound mix, for the first two or three tracks I was amazed. Quickly however I realised it was the technology and not the band that was the real star here. With limitless potential for audio-visual excitement, it’s a shame that much of what occurs is expected: guitars swing into your face. It might have got the Parisian audience in 1895, but no one was ducking from this modern day version of the locomotive trick.

The fact that sections of the film were recorded in an empty stadium is irritatingly obvious, and given what shots they managed to achieve, they might as well not have bothered. Bono reaching out at your face as he wails “wipe those tears away” during Sunday Bloody Sunday was truly a buzz killing moment. Only a knock out rendition of The Fly piques interest as the ‘gig’ progresses, utilising the 3D to full effect, throwing media slogans in your face and sending lyrics cascading down into your lap. As an aside, the concert really does expose the inherent flaw with the band. They flit between songs, adopting the tired poses of the track’s particular era, be it Joshua Tree’s American mythmakers or Achtung Baby’s media savvy satirists, with no sense of where they are now as musicians.

A concert film carved from their multimedia extravaganza ZooTV may have been visually interesting, had the digital 3D tech been available then. Instead we have to settle for the Vertigo ’06 tour, a banal stadium rock affair, based on their most auto pilot album yet, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The relatively short set list is peppered with some real stinkers, such as the uber-subtle Love And Peace Or Else and Miss Sarajevo, with Bono trying to do the Pavarotti vocals. And, of course, even with a running time of only 85 mins, they still manage to cram in some whining political sentiment, which mostly involves Bono writhing around the floor with a Star of David blind fold on and reading the bill of Human Rights. Yet, when they simply bash out the signature anthems such as Pride and Where The Streets Have No Name, you can see why they were chosen for this project. The technology shines, and it’s worth seeing just to get excited about what it will do in the future. As a concert film though it’s a little Rattle and Ho Hum, someone should have made the call to Arcade Fire.

Comedian Bill Bailey illustrates the ultimate U2 critique:

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