U2 VidWorks – Magnificent

Last week, we looked at the video for “Get On Your Boots,” a wonderful, complex video for what is probably the least-loved song in all of U2’s catalog. This week, in direct contrast, I am critiquing the video for “Magnificent,” a fantastic cracker-jack of a song with, in my opinion, a ho-hum, overly-simple video.
The video begins with a man dancing in the sunlight, interspersed with clips of the city of Morocco covered in sheets. The sheets billow in the wind and the birds fly over-head and I always get fooled into thinking “this might be interesting.” At this point, footage of the band performing the song in a riad is added to the mix. Undoubtedly, these shots of U2 playing are the high point of the video. They contain some genuine charisma and camaraderie and are fun to view, some of the reasons that millions of people have paid good money over the last forty years to see U2 perform live. In time, the sheets covering the city lift off and fly away, revealing the living, bustling city beneath. The members of U2 walk through these city streets a little bit, and that’s the video.
I can see how the video was supposed to be uplifting, but it just falls flat. It’s not awful, but it is boring. The footage of the sheets, the foundation of the video, its visual hook, is too simple and repetitive to hold my interest for four-and-a-half minutes. There simply isn’t enough going on in this video to make it work. That’s a shame, too, because what is here, especially the CGI, is gorgeous. I swear that on my first viewing I wondered for a moment if they really covered the city with those sheets. Then I got to thinking about how large the sheets would have to be and the other logistics of such an act, and I came to my senses. That’s indicative, though, of how good the graphics-work in this video is. It looks absolutely real. If someone said to me that this was their favorite video, and they cited one of the many images of sheets flying in the wind over the city, I couldn’t criticize them for it. The problem is just that it feels like that footage is repeated over and over for the duration of the video. My personal favorite shot, aside from the superlative footage of the band playing, comes at about two minutes and fifteen seconds into the video. We see a bird flying above an alley between two buildings, with the tail-end of one of the sheets whipping in the breeze beside it.
This video represents the first time that Alex Courtes, the director, has disappointed. I hope that for whatever project the band unveils next, they return to him and give him a chance to redeem himself. As for me and my weekly journey through U2’s promo videos, our next stop is the first video for “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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