U2-3D (2008) dir. Catherine Owens, Mark Pellington
This film is difficult to review, because though the music, showmanship and cinema-treatment of U2’s massive Buenos Aires performance is magnificent on Imax 3-D I can’t help make this review a personal commentary on the 3-D medium which is becoming increasing popular.
The U2 3D concert film which made a big splash in Sundance is now available in many cities equipped with Imax screens. It’s a traditional concert film made thoroughly satisfying because of the fine selection of U2 songs played and performed brilliantly by the Irish super rockers. Choosing the South American Buenos Aires concert on the Vertigo tour was a great decision. The Argentinians are never sitting down, hands never in their pockets – instead they keep up an intense level of crowd appreciation for the entire 90mins.
3-D has always been marred as a gimmick of cinema, but now with 3-D versions of mainstream releases such as “Beowulf” and “Polar Express” and many films incorporating 3-D sequences into their films – “Superman Returns” and “Harry Potter” - the medium is on the cusp finally breaking out. Exclusively 3-D drama films are just around the corner and it seems James Cameron’s secret project will be the first.
Unfortunately I am still not completely satisfied with the results – including its use in the U2 film. My main problem with the viewing experience is the double-image or 'ghosting' which the process still hasn’t cracked. If you watch the film without the glasses on the image appears doubled or superimposed on top of each other. With the glasses on your two eyes are supposed to work together to create the 3-D image. But of all the 3-D films I’ve seen, I’ve never seen a truly sharp and pristine picture. Hopefully James Cameron has solved this problem, because in a concert the illusion is bearable, but as a dramatic feature it doesn't measure up.
The filmmakers tools will change as well. Wide-angle shots are enhanced by the 3-D process, while compressed long-lens shots appear flat. With the double-image problem dissolves can confuse the frame. In fact, in the U2 film directors Pellington and Owen rarely, if ever, use a straight cut in their film. This is a common technique for concerts films, but in the 3-D, it’s an unnecessary distraction. Ironically the best visual moments in U2-3D are when the cameras are pointed at the crowd. The depth created by the fans in the foreground against the thousands of people in the background create the most awesome images in the film.
U2 fans and fans of music in general should see the film for the fantastic music and new point-of-view into the concert experience. Movie fans should experience it to see the progression of the technology and where the future of big screen filmmaking is going – warts and all. Enjoy.