It was only a matter of time before someone made a concert film about One Direction, but I never would have guessed it would be Morgan Spurlock, the guy who gave us the Oscar-nominated documentary 'Supersize Me' and the FX cable series '30 Days'. When I asked Spurlock about his career and why, out of all the musicians and performers in the world, he chose to film 'One Direction', he simply explained, “I wanted to tell a story on a band that was nothing a year or two ago, but is now at the top of the charts.” I get where Spurlock is coming from, but he must have had studio execs hovering over him at all times, because this feels more like promo spot for the band than a documentary.
Unfortunately, I imagine that 'One Direction: This Is Us' will make loads of money, due to the boy band's rabid fan base. I'd never even heard of One Direction before I saw the movie, but come to find out, Simon Cowell is to blame. In his short interview, Cowell takes full credit for the band doing so well.
The film takes us on a 100-city worldwide tour. We go backstage with the guys, and even back to their hometowns. Professional concert footage is interspersed throughout. The movie really offers no insight behind the scenes at all. It seems to only consist of the boys clowning around, pulling pranks and talking to the press. Some of the kids’ parents are interviewed occasionally to tell us about their humble beginnings, and how they’re still down to earth even though they’re superstars now. Other segments show the band interacting with fans by standing on their hotel balconies and waving at the gigantic crowds of insane girls below. Somebody thought it would be funny to have some of the bandmates get made up to look like roadies and go out on the concert floor before the show starts, yelling “One Direction sucks!” It feels completely staged, as if everyone is reading from a script.
The music couldn’t be worse. It’s cheesy and sappy, with no real message. Sure, the boys might be able to carry a note from time to time, but none play instruments, with the exception of one who attempts a few guitar chords that my six-year-old cousin could play just as well. Their dance choreography is dull and uninspired, and half the time doesn’t sync up with the rest of the show. It might have been nice to see the actual musicians playing their music on-screen, but they’re left out here.
Spurlock injects some 3D effects into the concert footage that might excite the type of people who will rush out to see this band, but other than that, don’t expect spectacular 3D. I can only assume that Spurlock wanted to make a different movie entirely, and was shut down by managers and execs. Hopefully ‘One Direction: This is Us’ will make enough cash to pave the way for Spurlock to make more meaningful films, as he’s done before. There are two versions of the film you can choose from here. One is six minutes longer and doesn't feature anything worth seeing.
'One Direction: This Is Us' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Unlike the film itself, the video presentation is actually quite good. The detail is very sharp as we switch back and forth from a professional style concert film to a handheld documentary approach with some talking head interviews. No matter the format here, there are well-defined closeups that show the singer's well coiffed individual hairs, makeup blemishes, and stitching in their costumes.
During the concert footage portion of the film, the depth is amazing, giving us a sense of just how big the O2 arena in London is. The colors are well-balanced and pop off the screen nicely. There are a lot of blues and reds during the concert footage that are very well saturated and bright. The skin tones are always natural here too with the black levels running deep and inky. Of course the documentary style portion is a little softer than the concert side of things, but it isn't that noticeable. There are no compression issues to speak of here.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and it sounds great. The dialogue and lyrics are always well balanced, crystal clear, and easy to understand, even with their accents. This is mostly a front heavy audio track, but when the concert footage plays on the screen, it's very robust with a wide dynamic range.
There are no pops, cracks, or hissing here. The bass is well adjusted here and never overly loud. The documentary portion is all dialogue with very few instances of ambient noises. And when that happens, it consists mostly of girls screaming. But when the concert footage hits us, it's a great sound. If anything, it could have been a little louder.
'One Direction: This Is Us' isn't exactly a great documentary, it's more of a concert film of music that only young girls would like, it also shows the band members goofing off behind stage and hitting up their hometowns. There is really no substance here. I really wish director Morgan Spurlock had a bigger presence in this film or at least pushed the boundaries a little bit like he usually does. The video and audio are very good with the extras all acting like deleted scenes, but done separately. This is for fans.