I always knew that just about anyone in this world has access to a video camera. What I didn’t realize what how many of those people also had access to a studio and the funds to crank out a pseudo-documentary. The biggest subject these wannabe documentarians seem to tackle is a musician or rock band. I have to wonder if they woke up one morning and it just sort of popped into their head “Hey, I should make U2 the subject of my film cause I really like them.”
The U2 Phenomenon is another one of those “independent reviews” where the filmmaker gathers music industry professionals and critics to talk about the group. However, I found that rather than focusing on the critics being presumptuous in talking about the band’s music, The U2 Phenomenon focused on the story of the band, including both their history and music.
That made this a step up from many of the other productions out there. In addition, it’s refreshing to see that they use actual footage and music of the band, rather than improvising with sound-alike music because the producers couldn’t get the rights to the songs.
The U2 Phenomenon is divided into two parts. Part One covers from their inception through 1989 and Part Two covers 1990 to 2005.
There’s a lot to enjoy in that early footage, such as the band making an appearance on The Late Show in England back in 1980. Their sound really seemed more post-punk then. Right from the beginning, they seemed to be embracing the underdog and those who weren’t being served in the current societal structure. At the same time, Bono wanted to shy away from being involved in politics.
Coming from Dublin, where there was so much religious controversy as they broke out, they represented the future as the background of the band members crossed the religious lines that were fighting in Ireland at the time.
The band was unusual due to their “Democratic” process in the band where they all were entitled to an equal share of the revenue. This structure probably went a long way to keep them working together for all these years, rather than splitting apart due to arguments over who did what and deserved a bigger cut of the royalties.
Unfortunately, when it breaks to Part Two, it seems as if there either wasn’t as much to work with or somehow the production itself broke down. Much of the band’s activity from 1990 on is glossed over and there’s no real depth given to this time of their history.
The way the DVD is structured isn’t the best either. Instead of letting the footage play and having the narration in the background, the footage is shown split-screen. So as many of these great performances are being shown, such as the footage from Live Aid and the early days of MTV (you know, when they actually played music videos…), we are treated to a half-screen of that with someone no one has ever heard of talking on the other side. Although what they say is interesting and I found it to be informative even having lived through the time they are talking about, I would have rather had a full screen of the performances and clips.
There’s also a problem with the filmmakers having already jumped around during the earlier part, which also takes away from the overall composition. Instead of diving it into two parts, each less than an hour-long, they should have just let it be one long production.
While The U2 Phenomenon has good points, it’s not something I would recommend buying. There are parts that are interesting and the footage used in it is pretty awesome, but I’d rather try to get the footage independently and do it without the talking heads telling me why they think the band is great. I mean, I already think this or why else would I want to watch it?
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