Three dimensions seem scarcely enough to contain the messianic impulses of the world's hardest-rocking humanitarian aid project, and in this concert extravaganza U2 finally get a format scaled to their ambitions: the four-story IMAX screen, with 3-D technology tossed in to boot. Except for the eerie moment when Bono pleads, "Wipe your tears away," directly into the camera—an unsettling gesture of simulated intimacy—directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington seldom use 3-D to create the illusion of physical proximity: the filmmaking rarely syncs up with the innate tension and release in the songs. (One reason: The directors favor dissolves, which look more impressive than cuts in 3-D but dissipate excitement.) But the performances, culled from seven shows on the "Vertigo" tour from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, burn with the old unforgettable fire. The supernova choruses of "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" can still stand your hair on end, and the band—guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and their ramparts-storming frontman—proves it doesn't need a giant lemon to dominate a stage. Oddly, the Hubbell Telescoping of the IMAX 3-D somewhat diminishes the group's visual presence, as the format forces them to share the spotlight with every dust speck and heightened detail. (Hey, Mullen's drumming—whoa, is that a Kleenex box?) The crowd scenes, though, are astonishing, even moving, in their egalitarian pinpoint clarity. Here band and audience are indivisible—with visual proof that cell phones have officially replaced the lofted lighter.
Bloody ell, Edge, were bigger than Ireland!
Opens at Pacific Science Center IMAX Theater, Wed., Jan. 23. Rated G. 85 minutes.