A Breathtaking Stage Spectacle Rendered Slightly Less Spectacular On Film

Stretched across nearly three hours and about 40 songs, “The Eras Tour” clusters songs from her albums out of chronological order, but just about every number receives its own unique production element, from costume changes to large set pieces to — at one point — a group of backup dancers riding “TRON”-style light cycles. The stage features a gigantic screen at one end and the seemingly endless thrust of the stage is like a screen unto itself. Then there’s Swift herself, usually donned in a leotard covered in the most sequins you have ever seen, strutting and skipping all around the stage in complete command of her thousands upon thousands of screaming fans. In the room (or the massive stadium), it must have been a truly breathtaking experience.

On the big screen, however, something gets a little lost. The film was directed by Sam Wrench, whose directorial career mostly consists of filmed concert performances, and although that may be his background, I don’t feel he does this show a ton of favors. Very few of the shots in “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” come across as carefully designed. Instead, most of the time it feels like they packed SoFi Stadium to the gills with cameras to shoot a ton of footage and hoped they would find the look in the editing process, which just so happened to feature six different editors to accommodate the two-month turnaround time from these shows being performed to the release of the film.

The result is that the majority of the movie is a medium single on Swift from several different angles. You get glimpses of the lavish spectacle in some rapid cuts, but a shot rarely lasts long enough for you to fully take it in. Even less served by how it’s shot and cut are the troupe of talented dancers. Partly this has to do with the frequent refusal to show us their full bodies in motion for any significant period of time, as they too often end up in medium shots as well, and it feels like they don’t want the attention to ever be away from Swift for too long. When the dancers do get their due, it is when the number requires a lot of interaction between them and the star, such as the joyous rendition of “22” or when the show’s band get to come on the main stage to play with Swift during the “Fearless” era.

It’s when the show gets more intimate that the translation becomes much more successful. When she’s seated behind a moss-covered piano for “Champagne Problems” or straps on a guitar for the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” there’s a focus in the production that Wrench and his editors can seize on and make the most of. A particular high point is “Tolerate It,” featuring Swift setting a long dining room table for dinner that she then crawls across in anger, swiping off each glass, dish, and vase in her path playing a woman trying to get through to her inattentive partner (played by dancer Raphael Thomas). Yes, it’s spectacle, but it’s enormously focused spectacle.

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