It's been nearly thirty years since Joan Baez first endorsed Irish rock band U2 as modern heir to her brand of progressive politics. Formed in 1976, the Dublin foursome have consistently championed human rights and social justice on their way to sold out football stadiums, super star status, a record number of Grammy Awards, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Having seen U2 live in the spring of 2005 during its memorable Vertigo tour, I was primed to relive the experience through U2 3D at the local IMAX.
Although nothing can top the vibes that an actual live performance creates (even from the nosebleed seats), the National Geographic Entertainment release doesn't disappoint. The landmark film sets the initial standard in 3D technology, giving us a point of view that doesn't require $300 tickets to gain front row access to the band's heart shaped stage. Early on the camera swirls and pans frenetically to put us right on top of Larry Mullen's drum set and next to The Edge's guitar licks before settling in among the enthusiastic Argentina throng waving their arms and perpetually snapping photos with their cell phones.
We also get close-up views of bassist Adam Clayton strutting his stuff and Bono reaching out to the crowd, but some of the best moments come from we're thrust into the crowd just behind young fans sitting on top of their companion's shoulders—just like the real deal for the times we've scored ground floor tickets.
Too many 3D movies attempt to wow us with moments specifically designed to startle the audience, but not so here. Very few times do directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington go for the obvious 3D thrusting effects, instead going for camera movement and a variety of angles akin to Scorsese's The Last Waltz. A wise decision since U2 supplies content strong enough to stand on its own, and finally other members of the quartet get more time in the spotlight—generally fans have a difficult time taking eyes off charismatic hard-working lead Bono during a live performance.
The film allows us to get alongside Bono's companions unlike ever before, giving indications of how this technology can best be utilized. That only makes me anticipate the next Scorsese concert film featuring the Rolling Stones. A big fan of Goodfellas and The Departed, the only way Scorsese could fall short would be to omit "Gimme Shelter" from their set list. Concert films shot by directors comfortable with creative angles and movement appear to be a natural for hi definition technology.
3D movies have come a long way from the 1950s that required red and green lens on clunky eyewear. Huge clear lightweight eyewear afford easy viewing of the high definition photography that should translate well when issued on Blu-ray down the road for home viewing. U2 fans have a great deal to savor in this 85-minute film, and film buffs will cite this film for historic reasons, as a groundbreaking film that effectively uses hi definition to capture the concert experience—3D technology that matches the real life tears forming when U2 launches into "Pride in the Name of Love."