MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In February and March of 2006, the Irish rock band U2 visited Latin America on the final leg of its "Vertigo" tour.

The band played stadiums sitting up to 80,000 fans. Also in attendance were more than a dozen 3D camera rigs. The result is a film that opens today on IMAX screens across the nation. It's title should fit easily on theater marquees, just four characters: "U2 3D."

According to our critic, Bob Mondello, that title says it all. It's somehow not nearly enough.

BOB MONDELLO: The opening shot is of the stage in a giant stadium, an image familiar from dozens of concert films but it doesn't look familiar because hanging in the air seemingly 10 feet out in front of your screen is the film's title.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of cheering)

MONDELLO: When the band takes the stage, the camera swoops around the stadium, giving the movie audience some real-life vertigo. It flies from the nosebleed seats in the second tier at Buenos Aires' River Plate Stadium to a sprawling stage where it zips behind Bono's microphone, pass The Edge on guitar to circle Adam Clayton's bass and then hover over drummer Larry Mullen's (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: A process called three-ality(ph) was used for filming "U2 3D." It's digital and high-def using double cameras and lots of them, you still need glasses to watch it but they're quite an advance over those flimsy cardboard things with red and blue lenses that gave people headaches at House of Wax screenings in the 1950s. These are more like sunglasses - polarized, comfortable but you'll still be slipping them off to see what's real and what isn't, especially during shots were stadium crowds blend with the movie theater crowd.

At one point, I was about to tap the shoulder of the guy in front of me to get them to stop waving his arms in the air when I realized they weren't his arms. Seriously cool.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Now, this 3D thing is a gimmick and at first, the film just plays with it. U2's stage has two curbing runways that put Bono out in the middle of the crowd, giving the cameras plenty of depth to exploit and the filmmakers have fun soaring away from the sky-high Jumbotron that backs the band and poking microphones out into the movie theater. And wait until you see what happens when the directors do a dissolve(ph) in three-dimensions and can materialize one band member inside another band member. After the 3D parameters are established, though, the camera settled down a bit and let U2's music take flight on its own.

(Soundbite of song "One")

BONO (Vocalist, U2): (Singing) You gave me nothing now it's all I got we're one, but we're not the same, well, we hurt each other then we do it again, you say love is a temple…

MONDELLO: It helps that U2 has a social conscience to go with its musicianship. International anti-hunger appeals and stance on peace and justice have long given their shows depth of a sort that has nothing to do with 3D. They deliver a pretty mesmerizing show complete in "U2 3D" with IMAX sound. No three-hour parking mess at the stadium and the feeling that you'd barely have to stretch out your arm to high-five Bono from your theater seat. Better than a rock concert? Well, I let you decide on that. But let me tell you, it's close.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of song "Vertigo")

BONO: (Singing) Uno, dos, tres, catorce. Lights go down, it's dark, the jungle is your head, can't rule your heart, I'm feeling so much stronger than I thought your eyes are wide, and though your soul, it can't be bought, your mind can wander. Hello, hello…

Unidentified Group: Hola.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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