January 7, 2008 / 3:58 AM / 10 years ago

U2 larger than life in new 3D concert film

<p>U2 singer Bono performs during arrivals for a gala screening of Irish director Catherine Owens and U.S. director Mark Pellington's film "U2 3D" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival in this file photo from May 19, 2007. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When U2 returned to South America in 2006 after eight years, the Irish rockers decided to bring along some high-tech goodies to mark the occasion.

The resulting souvenir, “U2 3D,” takes the well-traveled concert film genre to exhilarating new heights.

Billed as the first digital 3-D, multicamera, real-time production, this feature-length feast for the eyes and ears (thanks to the all-enveloping 5.1 Surround Sound), re-creates the U2 live experience without interruptions by the intrusive, talky backstage filler that seems to have become obligatory in the recorded “live” genre.

Instead, the documentary serves up prime U2 in a startlingly rendered, state-of-the-art arena that truly raises the bar for headache-free 3-D technology.

Previewed last year at Cannes in a version that was about a half-hour shorter, the finished edition will ensure both the fans of the band and the high-tech geeks will find what they are looking for when it follows its January 19 Sundance screening with a limited release through National Geographic Entertainment starting January 23, exclusively in 3-D digital and Imax theaters.

From the opening one-two punch of “Vertigo” and “Beautiful Day,” both the band and directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington effectively set the elevating tone.

Blending performances from Vertigo Tour stops in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo as well as Mexico City and Santiago, the filmmakers rip down that wall between and stage and the audience, and, in the process, create a team atmosphere that’s perfectly in keeping with the band’s “we’re all in this together” philosophy.

Even with those sky-high Jumbotron screens and those fully dimensional mike stands that appear to take on a life of their own here, the mood is remarkably intimate.

Pellington (who previously helmed U2’s “One” video) and Owens are careful not to overplay the 3-D card -- utilizing advanced technology developed by 3ality Digital -- too early in the game.

They reserve the best effect for what is arguably the film’s centerpiece, in which the band’s early hit, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” becomes an impassioned prayer for world peace with Bono (in fine vocal form) extending an outstretched arm over the crowd and, seemingly, through the screen, hovering right in front of the theater viewer in a plea for Christians, Jews and Muslims to put aside their differences.

In lesser hands, what might have come across as overly theatrical, packs a quietly potent impact.

Somehow, after experiencing “U2 3D,” the old iPod starts looking a little yellow around the edges.

Directors: Catherine Owens, Mark Pellington; Producers: Jon Shapiro, Peter Shapiro, John Modell, Catherine Owens; Executive producers: Sandy Climan, Michael Peyser, David Modell; Director of photography: Tom Krueger; Director of 3D photography: Peter Anderson; Editor: Oliver Wicki.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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