I’m not the world’s biggest U2 fan. They come under the heading of bands I won’t push the button to get off the radio, but neither would I actually buy one of their albums. I know most of their more popular songs less out of a desire to than out of sheer ubiquity. However, being old-fashioned enough to prefer songs that have actual tunes, I suppose I like them well enough. My problem is, I think, that Bono’s constant political posturing gets on my nerves. I liked him well enough in Across the Universe, and thought his cover of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was spectacularly good (far better than his cover of “Children of the Revolution” in Moulin Rouge!), but there’s something a little off-putting about him—like he’s a little too pleased with being Bono.
At the same time, I’m still trying to figure out how the powers that be determined that the U2 concert film, U2 3D, was only worth $10.50 a pop, while Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in 3-D commands $18 a ticket. Surely, U2 is more important than Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. Possibly someone had to pay for all that excessive verbiage in the title of the latter. More likely, the Disney brand name (behind the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus franchise) commands more hard cash than National Geographic (responsible for U2 3D).
Whatever the case, U2 3D is not only of somewhat greater artistic import, but it represents what is far and away the most impressive use of 3-D I’ve ever seen. Directors Catherine Owens (her first film) and Mark Pellington (a video and documentary director—including U2: Achtung Baby—with a few theatrical credits like The Mothman Prophecies) have taken the medium of 3-D places it’s never been.
Unlike Hannah Montana with its 2-D backstage footage, this is essentially a 3-D distillation of the U2 Vertigo concert tour—and as a concert film, it’s pretty much a stunner. Plus, as a few people have already noted, it’s better in some ways than actually attending a concert. I certainly didn’t mind not having a drunk try to throw up on my shoe, which isn’t something I can say about a Rolling Stones concert I attended back in 1998. But it’s the 3-D that’s the kicker in it all.
The cameras glide and swoop around the performers and the audience, but somehow keep everything in sharp 3-D detail all the while. Earlier digital 3-D, like Meet the Robinsons (2007), had moments where the action was too fast to register in the medium. Not so here. This is simply jaw-dropping—and sometimes disconcerting in the crowd shots where it actually affords the illusion that the film audience and the theater audience are one. Whether 3-D ever becomes anything more than a novelty—or even ever creates anything to equal that classic liver-on-the-end-of-a-spear effect in Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)—remains to be seen, but this is definitely the pinnacle of the format at this time. Rated G.