April 16, 2008

Review: “U2 3D”

Posted in Film Reviews tagged , , , , , at 6:39 pm by Nick Plowman

In the glowing aftermath of seeing U2 3D, the idea that it was the best concert film I had ever seen got into my head. Upon further examination and intense analysis, I have come to realize that it is nothing more than a gimmicky, once in a lifetime souvenir. Sure U2 are one of the biggest rock bands in the world and I actually prefer their music to the Rolling Stone’s but there was not much more to this film than state of the art capturing and unforgettable performances of songs that are bound to be classics someday that were recorded in superb surround sound. For normal people, that would be enough. I thought the appeal of rock was because it is not superficial.

U2 3D was shot using 3D technology during the South American leg of the band’s “Vertigo” tour back in 2005/6 and offers the most accessible experience a fan could ask for, if they were unable to make it to the concert of course. I have never seen anything like it before, it was captivating from the start to finish and that is where it ended. Where Shine a Light was small and intimate, U2 3D is the kind of concert film in the state of the art arena that Mick Jagger would have loved to be involved with and lucky Scorsese talked him out of it. Unlike Shine a Light, U2 3D features no exclusive interviews or archive footage and, in retrospect, if it had any, the pace and energy of the film might not have been as thrilling.

One thing remains true, U2 belong on stage, it is their environment and has been for years now. Do not get me wrong, the illusion of close proximity to the band is a treat and they have never been better. Bono is his usual theatrical self, stumbling all over the stage behaving like a lost prophet with an exuberant manner of never putting on anything less than a good show, especially during the rendition of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” Their humanitarian messages come across onscreen and through the songs performed and the entire show is so spine-tinglingly enthralling that it comes across as powerfully true to context rather than disruptive or distracting.

Directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington cleverly side step playing the flashy 3D card too often and the mixture of images on the gigantic-screens and the powerhouse performances is experimental but stimulating rather than overwhelming. They are successful in creating a balanced atmosphere, one where the audience and the band are not separate entities but rather intertwined to reinforce the band’s long standing “unity” belief. It engulfs you in a true sensory-high rather than a sensory-overload, and it took skill to create that kind of simplicity when things could have gone seriously over the top.

As the film fades from memory soon after leaving the cinema, you are certain that the concert was monumentally impressive even if you cannot remember the details. That is U2 for you, monumental in every way. A new standard for the concert film has been set this year so it will be interesting to see how the genre continues to evolve as technology only gets better. A must-see for U2 fans. For everyone else, maybe not.

Fatac Rating: ***½

U2 3D. Directed by Catherine Owens & Mark Pellington. Performed by U2 {Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr.}. Editing by Oliver Wicki. Cinematography by Tom Krueger. 3D photography by Peter Anderson. Running Time: 85 minutes. Age Restriction: All. USA 2008. Rating out of five stars.


  1. Interesting take Nick. I thought for sure you’d like this one better than the Stones. I was busy loving the Stones when U2 first hit it big, but I like them ok. Maybe I should check it out.

    Was the 3D pretty cool?

  2. Nick Plowman said,

    I would have thought so too, but alas, all the 3D in the world couldn’t match what I saw in Shine a Light.

    I think you might enjoy it, it is one hell of a show, and the 3D was indeed cool. It just missed something, I am not even sure exactly what it is because it didn’t seem to phase anyone else, it just feels all so empty looking back. I don’t know what I expected but to a certain point I got it.

    If and when you see it, I would love to hear your thoughts.

  3. Excellent review, baby boy.

    Though I adore these guys, I’ve never seen them live. Perhaps it’s just as well. Unless they do intimate little club gigs here and there on tour just to unwind, U2 is one of the few acts around (like The Stones, of course) that can pack stadiums. So, of course, if they’re capable of pulling in that many people, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

    Everyone knows that stadium shows are a joke. The acoustics are usually horrible (they aren’t the ideal venue at all – it’s simply that they can shove enough people in there) and, if you don’t get premium seats (and who does?) you might as well be sitting a million miles away.

    I have seen RATTLE AND HUM and I thought that was fabulous. I don’t find the 3D thing particularly appealing. Doubt that I’ll see this. But I just wanted to share my two cents and compliment you on yet another compelling, exceptionally well written review.

    As per usual.

  4. Nick Plowman said,

    Thanks ;)

    The crowds in this film were unbelievable, so many people that would have appeared to be insects or something if the image capturing in the film was not as good. I totally agree about stadium shows, I have only been to maybe one o two but they suck, the stadiums U2 got for the tour in this film were great though. Wish I could have been there live, even if I would have just got lost in the shuffle.

    I have not seen Rattle and Hum, which makes me a loser of the highest order. Trust me, the “wow” effect of the 3D wears off after a while and then the show is almost like any other I have seen, concerts on screen that is. It is better than average when I waned it to be exceptional.

    Haha, thanks for the visit too!

  5. I think you’re right too about the Stones movie benefiting from Scorsese’s idea to film it in a small theater, Nick. Even on a big screen up close, there’s something different about the performance when they’re playing for 50,000 instead of 1,000 or 2,000. There was a whole different engergy that was really cool.

  6. I wasn’t that interested in seeing this before reading your review but now I may seek it out…although I don’t think it’s playing anywhere around me.

    I still haven’t seen “Shine a Light,” and doubt I’ll get the chance to take the trip down to see it before it leaves theaters. School gets in the way of making too many long trips to see films that don’t open near me. Oh well, only a couple more weeks and that won’t be a problem anymore.

    Well done, Nicky. You’ve sold me on the movie. :-)

  7. Nick Plowman said,

    I loved the small venue in Shine a Light too, the energy was so awesome. I never felt bored and always felt involved with the performances onscreen. Very cool indeed Craig.

    That is cool Matt, it is a very enjoyable experience if nothing else. I know what you mean about school and long trips, for example, I can only see Ho She Move is I drive {or be driven rather} all the way out of my area and it is always a problem. Will be for a while….

    How come it won’t be a problem soon for you?

  8. “I have not seen Rattle And Hum, which makes me a loser of the highest order.”

    Uh…NO. You’re the coolest kid in SA.

    When you’re a big time director, don’t ever forget I told you that.

  9. Because my last day of school for the summer is in two weeks! :-D

  10. Nick Plowman said,

    :) Miranda, I will never forget.

    Matt, you lucky bastard, so freaking lucky! That, my friend, is awesome.

  11. Kucky bastard? I’ve been called many things in my life but that’s the first time I’ve been called a ‘kucky’ anything. :-P ;-)

  12. Nick Plowman said,

    Hahaha, yeah well, I corrected it to read “lucky” you certainly are not “kucky.” At all. My hands are really cold right now, hard to move, hard to type :)

  13. Now you just made my comment look crazy. :-P

  14. Nick Plowman said,

    I know what you mean, and that is all that counts. I totally changed it before I saw your next comment, lol.

  15. If you’re online why aren’t you on AIM talking to me? :-P

  16. Nick Plowman said,

    Because I came online while eating breakfast, for like twenty minutes.

  17. Daniel said,

    Excellent points about the size of the venue and the 3D effect wearing off after a bit, but it really all comes down to your last line. Anyone who considers themself a fan should see it, but it won’t make any new fans of U2, and we don’t get any of the background info like the Shine a Light. Still, I loved hearing the songs and I liked seeing footage from shows outside of the U.S.

  18. Nick Plowman said,

    I agree Danny, I still had a good time, I sill loved all the songs and the show was really entertaining and spectacular, and then it was over and I slowly forgot about it.

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