Four stars (G)
Two and a half stars (PG-13)
Two films this week that are intended to be experienced as much as watched. U2 3D gives you the best seat in the world for a stadium rock concert, while Cloverfield offers a “you are there” take on a monster invasion of Manhattan.
U2 3D, which opens today at the IMAX theater downtown in White River Park, zooms and careens through the air as it documents a massive U2 concert in South America, shot during the second leg of the legendary Irish band’s Vertigo tour. Why U2? A stadium rock concert is a creature unto itself and there are only three masters of the form right now – U2, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones. The Stones are certainly worthy, but they’ve been documented a lot, and truthfully, at this stage of their lives, do you really want to see Mick Jagger or Keith Richards in high definition on a six-story movie screen? Springsteen and the band are equally deserving, but the length of their concerts would have surpassed the limits of the massive reels of IMAX film.
U2 can be easily taken in smaller doses, and besides, they love high tech stuff. At an hour and 25 minutes, the concert is just long enough to get in a reasonable sampling of their hits. The band is in fine form, with Bono and Adam Clayton providing most of the movement while the Edge and Larry Mullen Jr. stay in place and work their magic. Bono’s sweeping dramatic gestures are well-suited to 3D and the special effects are engaging. At first, U2 3D is all about the 3D and the spectacle of it all, but the music soon becomes dominant, which is why the band can fill such vast arenas.
Cloverfield, described by me and about a thousand other writers as “The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla,” has been dubbed “the first movie for the YouTube generation.” I must not be in that generation, as I had to double check to see if there was a space between the “You” and the “Tube.” In this case, cutting edge now-a-go-go filmmaking consists of the invasion of NYC by a giant monster as seen solely through the lens of a camcorder (are they still called camcorders? Is there a more modern term? Oh man, I feel so old!).
The story follows a group of Soho twentysomethings that end up smack in the middle of the insanity when some giant creature, along with lots of nasty little critters, starts shredding the Big Apple. The promotional campaign for the movie was masterful. The actual film holds your attention for its brief 73 minute running time (padded to 85 minutes with the closing credits) and there are some exciting moments, but after it was over, my primary reaction was, “Eh.” Cloverfield briefly stirs up memories of the Sept. 11 attacks with scenes of smoke billowing through the streets, then spends the rest of the time jerking the camera around as the cast does one astoundingly stupid thing after another. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a routine movie trussed up in trendy trappings. Eh."