Tuesday, March 18, 2008


(I was going to post this yesterday, appropriately on St. Patrick's Day, but never got around to it. Such is the nature of this blog.)

I saw the U2 3D movie at the local IMAX Theater over the weekend, billed as the first live-action 3D concert movie ever made. In a word, it was phenomenal. The combination of the stunning 3D effects, the incredible sound, and the massive IMAX screen made it a totally immersing experience. Add to this the uncanny ability of a band like U2 to make even the most massive stadium feel intimate, and they've created an incredibly enjoyable concert movie that is a visual and a technological masterpiece.

I've seen U2 in concert six times (more than any other band) dating back to the 1985 Unforgettable Fire and 1987 Joshua Tree tours, and as recently as the 2005 Vertigo tour, and they have never failed to put on a fantastic show. It was during three shows on the South American leg of the latter that this concert footage was shot, and the high definition film (nicely transferred to IMAX format) contains 90 minutes of highlights of the band performing on stage with zero filler. Smoothly interspersing shots of U2 and the enthusiastic crowd, it gives the viewer a sense of what attending an actual U2 concert is like, and you've got better than the best seats in the house.

THE 3D EFFECTS. I'm not sure exactly how the stereoscopic cameras used by the 3ality Digital team work, but when the finished product is viewed (using giant, dorky glasses that even Bono's "The Fly" character would reject) the result is stunning. The members of U2 really do jump off the screen and seem to extend beyond its borders during the concert. And I know it sounds corny, but when the camera angle is placed right above the shoulders of the concertgoers, you actually feel like you're sitting in the crowd. Overall the 3D effect gives a remarkable illusion of depth, especially as the crowd bounces, waves their arms, and holds their cameras up in the air.

THE SOUND. The IMAX theater quite possibly has the best sound system of any theater I've ever been in. You feel the bass thump before you even enter the room, the music and ambient crowd noise is dynamically reproduced, and the way the directional speakers are mixed to follow the action on the screen is very affecting. At one point during "Sunday Bloody Sunday", the crowd sound is completely removed, focusing on just the band and Bono's vocals in the front speakers (as he walks towards the viewer) and Edge's vocals in the rear--the result is chill inducing. They even isolate some audience members' reactions and singing in spots to add a personal touch.

THE VISUALS. The compiled concert footage is shot from every conceivable angle: from right in front of the performers, numerous positions in the crowd, above Larry's drum kit, at the end of Adam's bass guitar neck, right in Bono's face. But it never feels gimmicky, and is edited to flow rather well with each song, unlike most headache-inducing jump-cut music videos. During "The Fly" they even added some of the words and graphics that appear on the video screens in the stadium to the visual mix, and they pop dazzingly before your eyes. I'll say one more thing: for a band that's 30 years into its career, the four members are remarkably well preserved and don't look bad at all (in other words, the opposite of the Stones).

Even if you're not a U2 fan I think you should check out this thrilling, first-of-its-kind live-action 3D film experience, as it doesn't miss a note. (Really, you have to go see it, I hear it's not doing well.) It actually made me want to go to another concert--as long as it's taking place in the comfort of a theater, that is. I have a feeling that a lot more concert films are going to be made this way.

Songlist: "Vertigo", "Beautiful Day", "New Year's Day", "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own", "Love And Peace Or Else", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Bullet The Blue Sky", "Miss Sarajevo", "Pride (In The Name Of Love)", "Where The Streets Have No Name", "One", "The Fly", "With Or Without You" (end credits - "Yahweh").

U3 in 2D: Kerry, Jeff and Jen sporting some really dorky 3D glasses

Fan reviews on official U2 site

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