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‘U2 3D’ Film Review: A concert experience for the price of an IMAX ticket

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“U2 3D” is a spectacular, musically and visually superb experience simulating a front-row view and beyond of a U2 concert, probably the closest a big group can collectively get to the real thing, up close and personal.

This rockumentary features cutting-edge technology that establishes an uncommonly intimate and occasionally surreal bond between the legendary band and the audience.

Every development in the history of cinema has always been about making the experience more fun and amazing. For over a quarter-century, U2 has been recognized not only for their musical innovation, but for their incomparable gift on reaching to millions of fans through new technology; while keeping up with the band’s decades-spanning catalog of great music.

As the next best thing to attending a real concert with a ticket costing about ten or even a hundred times less, this 85 minutes of closely replicating the feeling of a live gig through 3D glory makes a solid rock experience that’s still relatively new to the general film audience of 2008. Now, if you could just pipe in the smell of sweat, cigarette, pot, and beer, it would then be like going to a real concert with the bonus of meeting and seeing Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and The Edge performing up front. You even go behind them or on top of them at the most impossible angles.

From the breathtaking close-ups and panoramas to the convincing nature of the latest 3D technology, you get to watch the band members playing from a vantage point 4 feet above their heads. You get to see them face to face while reaching out to the crowd. You get to see a wave of rocking concert-goers moving in unison inside a massive stadium lit by thousands of cellphones. Add up the 3D shots of multiple band members at the same frame with the final cut with as many as five 3D layers: this dazzling music film exudes the true spirit of a U2 show.

The 3D visuals and multi-layering effects envelop you with a drift that fuses with the band’s surround-sound rapture. With a sound quality that is no less than impeccable, it creates a full-scale sensory high with the pleasure of its showmanship.

The marvel of the music and sound mix are electrifying. Truly, it transforms a great rock spectacle into something intimate as you become similarly immersed like the crowds filling the South American stadiums of U2’s 2007 Vertigo Tour, as they go absolutely mad for U2’s music. Their wildly infectious enthusiasm is very much apparent with their hands waving to every beat. Indeed, marrying advanced 3D imagery and 5.1 Surround Sound with the unique excitement of a live U2 concert makes “U2 3D” such an incredible performance captured in a medium that attains unique aesthetics of immediacy and humanity from the powerful rock quartet. Perhaps, all these make this 3D offering the next best thing to actually being in a live concert as of today.

Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, “U2 3D” makes the project more than just a nifty 3D experiment. It elevates itself into a rock solid redefinition of 3D live-action filmmaking. For now, it captures the premier band’s live shows in a way that no other medium could. It shows the undubbed and purely live-recorded performances of one of the greatest rock bands in music history, together with several of the greatest rock audiences of the world.

Shot on a number of stage acts of U2 shows mainly in Latin America, the production employs the greatest number of 3D cameras ever used for a single project. It is the first digital 3D, multi-camera, and real-time production reflecting the band’s longstanding embrace to technology. Produced by 3ality Digital Entertainment, the film comprises footage from seven different concert performances. A massive undertaking, the filmmakers create live-motion collages emphasizing constant, overlapping, and evanescent dissolves as the curving runways allow Bono, Adam, Larry, and The Edge to move far out into the crowd and make more accessible angles for their various movements.

The 3D effects, inclusive of the new trick of layering the visuals to simulate shifting your focus from foreground to background, finds success in making you feel that Bono and the crew are within arm’s reach by a hundred thousand stoked fans. While also offering plenty of shots of the rapturous crowd, you get so close that you swoop towards Bono’s face and his outstretched hand surging through the screen and seizing your own. To keep the 3D engagement for more than an hour of fun movie experience, the filmmakers also feature animated versions of U2’s backdrop videos, while capturing the ecstatic joy of a massive rock show (most notably a series of icons suggesting that the world’s major religions are one and presenting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

In some ways, this 3D concert film becomes considerably superior to a real concert. What mainly makes this a better option is how the sound gets perfected in post-production that what you hear from your seat is the best surround sound you can really get. Moreover, you get even closer to the band and even get on stage and beyond as the 3D images bring you to the most challenging angles and the best view of the performers — something that even the most pricey concert ticket wouldn’t be able to provide. Furthermore, you don’t have to put up with the rowdy drunks who may block your view or you can simply avoid hysterically sweaty and smoking crowds. For those safety points, there would also be less probability of mobs, stampedes, fights, and annoying crowd members in dope and alcohol. Amidst all these, “U2 3D” makes you feel like you’re there in the crowd. At the same time, you’re as close as you can get to being on stage with the band.

Personally, the strangers on my left while watching the film at IMAX were really enjoying the concert experience with their waving hands holding on to their lit toys and cellphones. They were standing and moving to every beat while the visuals allow every person watching to see the band floating above the fans and riding their energy. I found myself singing and shouting like I would probably do in a concert as well.

“U2 3D” is a world-class live act in its finest as of its release. Taking viewers in an extraordinary cinematic journey beyond the traditional concert film experience, it has a top potential in revolutionizing digital 3D technology. The 3D format may go a long way just like how technology has developed the 2D film as of today. With the living legend U2 pioneering this new kind of film encounter with its patrons, the epic nature of the songs and the stage acts blend them perfectly with this larger-than-life treatment for a band composed of masterful rock performers in their top form.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a freelance production artist working as a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.
https://www.riannehillsoriano.com
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