As regular followers of the Den Of Geek Twitter feed know, we owe the world a 3000 word piece on the One Direction movie. Ahead of that, we’ve seen the film, and thought it right we should post a review. The 3000 word feature is done, and will be posted in the next day or two.
A bit of business first: if you’re a One Direction fan, of a non-geeky persuasion, who just wants to know if the film is any good, two things. Number one: welcome. Number two: you’ll like it. You’re very welcome to stay, but no hard feelings if you don’t.
For everyone else? Inevitably, this is 90 minutes of cinema that’s targeted firmly at existing fans of the group. And why wouldn’t it be? Given the enormity of One Direction’s fan base, there’s little point straying from safe ground, and the film very rarely does. There’s no score at the bottom of the review, because it doesn’t really need one.
As such, what you get here is a documentary of sorts, that follows the One Direction band members as they embark on a world tour. The film does try and give you a flavour of the areas of the world that they travel, but for the most part – save for the odd excursion out – we’re treated to what the band are treated to. They go from hotel to gig to bus to plane to hotel to gig and so on. Along the way there are lots of screaming people, that we’ll come to in a minute, and some concert performances. Pretty much, that’s your lot.
The film does, in its early stages, tell the story of the formation of One Direction, which has two consequences. Firstly, it slows things down for those who know the story all too well (even non-One Direction fans are likely to be familiar with the reality show roots of the band). And secondly, we get Simon Cowell, the crown prince of bullying television programmes, on a cinema screen, in 3D. You can watch as many horror movies as you like all year, but there’s little more terrifying you’ll see on the silver screen that that.
The concert footage , to be fair, look the business. Lots of cameras are employed, 3D tricks are deployed well, and you see some of the show from the band’s perspective, particularly early on. The film is careful to not over-egg any particular song, but watching them as they perform in different gigs does pull back the curtain on just how mechanical parts of it are. Whilst there’s much time spent on how One Direction avoid the usual traps of the boyband, pulling in the editor of NME to explain, it’s clear that, for the most part, they do as they’re told. They hate dancing, a choreographer makes them dance. They react with awe when they see the stage set for the first time, as if it’s a surprise to them. And even the moves in the concert that look like they may be spontaneous generally happen more than once, to wash that particular sheen off.
Furthermore, given that this is an official movie, you get access, but you don’t get much depth. The band answer questions that you could pick up from any bland magazine Q&A, and they talk a lot about how much they all mean to each other. It all seems very genuine, but also, none of that seems new.
The bits where the film veers away from the concert footage and large crowds are where it’s at its most interesting. Having a member of the band in disguise as an usher is actually really funny, whilst the moments we spend with the families are insightful, and genuinely interesting. The mournful father who misses his son is a surprisingly touching moment, and just as with the surprisingly decent Justin Bieber movie, it’s when the camera digs a little deeper that the film becomes better.
Furthermore, whilst director Morgan Spurlock doesn’t get to add many quirks, primarily efficiently presenting what he needs to present, where he does have fun, the film lifts again. He brings in a bit of a scientific explanation out of the blue at one stage, and then by the end, his presentation of the concert material shows signs that he’s watched his Scott Pilgrim DVD more than once. On top of that, he shows genuinely interesting behind the scenes moments, including the one where Martin Scorsese pops up out of the blue.
Yet for the most part, this is a film on a very firm track, that never leaves it. In fact, it doesn’t even really finish per se. On pops One Direction’s biggest song, and the credits then roll (although it’s worth sitting through them). By that stage, the film’s outstayed its brief welcome by a good ten minutes anyway.
Furthermore, it’s also firmly proven that oestrogen, which seems to have been injected with a special screaming serum for the purposes of this movie, is a strange chemical. Pretty much every One Direction fan is either crying or screaming or jumping or shouting, doing just what they’re told on cue. From Japan to Mexico (and the scale of the Mexican audience is jaw-dropping) and the UK to Scandanavia, One Direction: This Is Us proves the unquestionable ability for young females to scream at young males who sing songs. Loudly. Even louder than Man Of Steel loudly.
A competent, predictable, enjoyable enough movie then, that throws very few surprises in, yet does a professional job of delivering what it promised. 3D Simon Cowell is not to be approached lightly, though.
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