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'U2 3D' awesome 4U 2C

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'U2 3D' awesome 4U 2C



It may be even better than the real thing.

U2 3D is no less than an electrifying, immersive marvel of music, showmanship and spectacle.

Think arena-rock concert films are creakier than Robert Plant's ankles? So does U2, apparently. Two years in the making, this production reboots the genre and hardwires enraptured audience members into never-ventured terrain: The heart of the stage and the soul of the band.

At the movie's world premiere at this week's Sundance Film Festival, audience members -- Al Gore and Robert Redford among them -- were so spellbound, they fired up their cellphones and held them high: A 21st-century Version 2.0 take on the decades-old practice of flicking your Bic lighter in the darkness of a live show.

U2 3D -- more than recent films that continue to straddle the 2D and 3D worlds -- underlines just how this state-of-the-art digital technology will transform the movie-going experience. The

acuity is exquisite -- Bono's eyelashes are big as life -- and the results near-hallucinatory as when the singer's hand appears to float right out of the screen. Slap on the oversized plastic spectacles. You're not simply witnessing the future, you're suddenly thrust into it.

Shot during several concerts on their Vertigo tour -- in stadiums in Argentina and Mexico City -- U2 3D doesn't waste a nanosecond of time on narrative threads or the off-stage interludes that typically populate concert flicks -- even U2's own Rattle and Hum.

Instead, directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington -- the former a visual graphics artist who has worked with the band for 15 years, the latter a director of such films as The Mothman Prophecies -- dispense with everything but the bare-bones obvious, namely, the band and its music.

Owens and Pellington may be conspiring to obliterate and confound your senses with seamless eye-popping 3D effects ("knitting," Bono referred to it at the premiere, and you have to see the film to understand what he means), but their focus never wavers. What better way to reflect, and characterize, a group that has flirted with trends -- at times to its detriment (remember Lemon?) -- and technology (the iPod), but always remained tethered to the basics of song and stagecraft.

Things kick off with the ecstatic Vertigo, then musically weave back and forth through the band's history. Yet U2 3D never feels like it's succumbed to greatest-hits syndrome. Maybe that's because while the songs are the same, the times are not. And rather than behave as if they're performing pop from a political time capsule, U2 find parallels through which such anti-Reagan-era anthems as Bullet the Blue Sky resonate now.

Say what you will about the band's activism -- never as evident as when the UN Declaration of Human Rights is read onstage -- but middle age has leavened their youthful Irish anger.

Rather than attack, they now seek to embrace, uplift and include.

What better time, then, to see them like this, with brilliant, better-than-front-row seats?

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