I actually went on record saying that 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' was a well put together documentary that achieved the goal it set out to accomplish. While I may still be missing my Man Card for such a claim, I do stand by what I said. That movie was actually a well-crafted doc without all the usual promo fluff that you'd expect to find. 'Taylor Swift Journey to Fearless' on the other hand is completely the opposite.
This movie, well several different episodes really, is over two hours of a commercial. It lacks any of the heart or thoughtfulness that went into 'Never Say Never.' The entire time you're watching it you feel like you're witnessing a two hour-long commercial about America's newest pop star. It's excruciating.
The whole thing is just so staged. So phony. Swift sits in a room on a piano bench and recounts what events in her life brought her to this point. She discusses the teasing in school (which I find hard to believe because she looks and acts like all the clichéd popular high school girls). She talks about her love for the guitar, her many failed relationships that were made into songs, and how she rose up through the ranks of the music industry. Essentially a giant back-patting session for her and all involved.
To her credit, she writes her own songs, which is something that can't be said for most pop artists out there. However, they all sound exactly alike. Most are about teenage love gone bad and naïve adolescence run amok. Young girls lap it all up, "She writes songs about me!" one concert goer exclaims. Yes, but she also writes songs that get stuck to your brain like a lyrical leech that is almost impossible to dislodge.
During this agonizingly long documentary we're shown bits and pieces of one of her concerts from her Fearless Tour. Each song somehow represents or embodies the subject that they're talking about.
Of course they trot her parents out so they can fawn over how proud they are of her. They get testimonials from her best friends talking about how she's just a regular girl. Swift even tries to convince us that she's just another gal from the neighborhood. The problem, though, is that the movie is so unabashedly one-sided. Everything Swift does is golden. She can do no wrong. Following her dream. Making it big. Rising up from humble beginnings. Playing right into America's lottery-obsessed public who all feel like they have a chance at making it big, too.
I'll give it to Swift, though, she's the quintessential pop star. Decent voice, good stage presence, and cute as a button. If you were to draw up a stereotypical pop star outline, that would just about cover it.
I think the real problem with 'Fearless' is that it feels like you bought the special features and somehow the movie was left out. The entire thing feels like an extended EPK behind-the-scenes special feature. The movie has no substance. We don't really get to know the girl behind the celebrity, because so much time is spent discussing her celebrity. Too much time is spent talking about how awesome her concerts are because of all the "unique" things she does for her fans. Seriously, how many people do I need to see her hug before I'm supposed to understand that she's probably a bit more caring than say Kanye West?
I failed to find a point of this two-hour extravaganza, other than the fact that it acts as a giant billboard for Taylor Swift. An advertisement for her brand, which need I remind you, you must purchase.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Taylor Swift Journey to Fearless' is a Shout Factory release. There's only one 50-GB Blu-ray Disc in the set. It comes in a standard keepcase with a slipcover showing the same cover art as the case. The playlist of songs that you get to see performed from her tour are: "You Belong With Me," "Tim McGraw," "Fifteen," "Teardrops On My Guitar," "Our Song," "Today Was A Fairytale," "Love Story," "Hey Stephan," "Tell Me Why," "Fearless," "Forever & Always," "Picture To Burn," and "Should've Said No."
'Taylor Swift Fearless' is presented in 1080i. Being a documentary it contains a variety of different footage recorded from varied devices. The principle photography of the concert should be what we tackle first. Concerts are a tricky beast when it comes to visually presenting them on a television. The LED displays usually don't turn out as well as they would if you were seeing the show in person. Such is the case here. The Vegas-style video screens that adorn Swift's stage are constantly dealing with rainbow bands circling through them while the camera pans across the stage. Aliasing is pretty bad here, too. You can see aliasing lines on the tight grate that makes up part of the stage floor. Darker shots in the concert are full of noise like most night vision shots are. There are concert Blu-rays that can pull this stuff off well, but this isn't one of them. Up-close shots of Swift and the band do make up for it a bit. They have a good amount of detail, and it's easy to see the intricacies of her costumes and the make-up that's been applied to her before the show.
The documentary footage is varied in quality. Everything from very old home videos to blocky cell phone footage is used in the movie. It's almost impossible to correctly critique it just because the sources of all this footage were simply limited in nature. I don't fault the movie for using old footage, but simply the concert footage should have stepped up its game. That really could've been demo material, but sadly it isn't.
While the audio really isn't demo material, either, it does present a noticeable upgrade from the troubled video. Swift's melodic tunes are pumped through your sound system with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation.
Up front are her lyrics which are belted out with a slight country twang to them. The lyrics are always clear and intelligible. Her accompanying band – guitars, drums, fiddles, and backup singer – are given plenty of room to show off their talents. The instrumental sounds bleed into the rear speakers while the deep bass of the drums thumps out of the sub. The screaming fans are amply represented in the rear speakers whenever the camera focuses its attention on the stage.
Everything works right in the audio department, but it lacks just that little bit more oomph to push it over the top.
There are no special features provided.
If you'd like to own a two-hour commercial for Taylor Swift's brand and wouldn't mind paying for it then I guess you're what I'd call a hardcore fan. That's all who will be interested in this release. I would say to avoid this one if possible, but it's meant for such a niche audience anyway that the people who want it will definitely buy it and the others will not even know it existed.