Once in a great while, I have a dream in which I can fly like Superman. When it happens, it’s extremely vivid. I feel wind, gravity, and a fearless thrill of soaring high over the city and then swooping down to tease the rooftops or the treetops or the surface of the ocean.

Nothing in my waking life creates quite the same feeling.

Well… it hasn’t until now.

I’ve never been interested in, or impressed by 3D. The technique has never impressed me. It’s felt so… artificial. And layered.

But this… this is exhilarating.

U2 3D is Mark Pellington’s 3D movie of U2 playing a concert before 80,000 fans in Latin America. Seeing it last night on an IMAX screen six¬†stories tall gave me a charge I’ve only felt once or twice in a theater… that sense that I am seeing the world of moviemaking transformed, and nothing will ever be the same. I staggered out dizzy and breathless. And, because it was a U2 concert: uplifted, inspired, full of joy.

Captain Eo this is not.

Floating suspended over this vast and enthusiastic crowd of Latin American concergoers, I understand what it must feel like for a seagull to soar over a turbulent ocean during a lightning storm. Descending onto the stage in between Bono and the Edge, I can now say I know a little about what it’s like to be up there performing with the best band in the world. Soaring up through the light and the fog, I felt like I was caught up in a once-in-a-lifetime dream. This isn’t just a breakthrough concert film. It’s the liberation of the moviegoer into a whole new freedom. Instead of merely focusing on anything at the director’s whim, we’re placed in a vast environment, exquisitely detailed, lifelike. And our attention can roam freely. Having been in the front row of a U2 show (Elevation 2001), I can say, without exaggeration, that it feels like being there again… except that this time you can rise up from the crowd and fly around the stadium.

Even during my dream-come-true concert experience, I didn’t have the freedom to get up and walk around on the stage study the drum kit, chase Bono around, or look over Adam Clayton’s shoulder into the surging waves of fans. In fact, this is better in other ways too. The sound is perfectly mixed. The band sounds fantastic, and the crowd noise is an effective part of¬†the immersive, convincing experience without getting in the way of Edge’s searing guitar solos.

I can hardly wait to see what a Pixar movie will be like when they get behind the wheel of this technology.

And yet it frightens me to think that James Cameron’s playing with the same powers for his next sci-fi epic. Like any advance in technology, there are as many dangers here as delights. Most breakthroughs in media technologies are very quickly employed to indulged our baser appetities in ever more intense ways. And I suspect that we’re going to see this technology employed for the elevation of spectacle over substance in 99 out of 100 cases.

Thus I’m grateful… overjoyed… to have my first encounter with this technique be in the context of U2’s joyous, spirited, Christ-centered* rock-and-roll. And I’m thrilled that there is finally something like this to convey some of the incredible power and joy of their live shows for generations to come. No band deserves this treatment more.

If you plan to skip this movie becasue you aren’t a U2 fan, you’re missing out. I doubt that Greg Wright celebrated the recent anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree the way I did, but check out his review.

I wonder if I’ll have a more exciting big screen experience this year. I doubt it.

*And before anybody starts complaining about Bono’s mantra from this concert — “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true…” — please don’t jump to conclusions. He’s not saying that all paths to God are equal. Listen closely. He then says, “All sons of Abraham.” He’s saying we’re all part of one family, and we must learn to live together as in brotherly love. There’s nothing there that conflicts with the Gospel. So before the comments thread turns into another ludicrous “they’ve fallen away from the faith” lament, pick up the recent book of interviews called “Bono in Conversation.” You’ll find him fearlessly spelling out the gospel, as he does through his songwriting and through his tireless conscience-driven work.

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