This discussion of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour will be an unusual review. The concert film as a genre has no story, dialogue, plot, characters, or anything that typically resembles the term “cinema.” Nevertheless, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is now a cinematic event.
The Eras Tour is what fans are expecting. It’s a highly polished concert movie that takes the audience through every “era” of Taylor Swift’s catalog.
In a way, it’s like the best possible Spotify playlist of Taylor Swift’s music, only performed for a crowd of thousands.
There are grievances here, but for the most part, Swifties will get precisely what they came for.
The concert does not play all the albums in order. In fact, the performance kicks off with the 2019 album Lover, with songs such as Cruel Summer. It’s an impressive opening that shows how much of a powerhouse Swift has become.
The opening is playful and demonstrates how much control she has as a performer. For example, she points her finger around the sold-out audience at SoFi Stadium (in Los Angeles), and the venue makes noise in a wavelike manner as she points and spins around the room. For someone at 33, Swift wields a lot of power with just one finger.
A dazzling stage show
The set pieces are dazzling, with lots of uses of video screens and unique wardrobe styles. The stage has a visualizer; at one point, it looks like the ground is ocean water, and she pretends to dive into the floor. The stage opens for the musician, and we see a red silhouette in the video projection, making it seem like she is swimming underneath the stage.
The overall production design does not disappoint. One song showcased a Broadway-style aesthetic, with a stage-like play atmosphere of a dinner leading to an argument. Swift has been a proud storyteller in her music and videos, and The Eras Tour concert film is no different. Another fun number involves Tron-like bicycles and golf clubs that glow like lightsabers.
The wardrobe changes are so quick in execution that one may envision a NASCAR pit crew helping her with the switch as fast as possible. Glitter is a common theme, with sparkling outfits of various varieties. If memory serves correctly, during the Reputation era, the Ready For It singer wore a body suit with one of the legs cut out and one of the arms.
In another performance, Swift sports a silver and sparkly nighttime t-shirt as a dress, hiding another outfit underneath for the following arrangements of songs like Vigilante S**t. It was an impressively stylish show, but this should not surprise anyone who has followed her career.
The concert film is directed by Sam Wrench, a filmmaker mostly known for music videos and Jennifer Lopez’s Netflix special Halftime. If there is any criticism to give the movie, it feels like one long halftime show (albeit a very well-done one).
An impersonal but well-crafted halftime show
The experience is shot like a halftime show, with lots of low-angle dolly footage and overhead shots of the crowd and stage. Various humorous B-roll shots of the audience are shown, such as a middle-aged man who looks like John Cena singing along. The intimate close framing of Swift is solid and never feels like a steady cam.
But unlike Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never, The Eras Tour concert film is not interested in inviting anyone into her world. There are never moments of intimacy for us to see what is happening backstage between songs or cutaways to see how she feels before, during, or after the show.
And this is fine. It’s a concert film, and as long as viewers are okay with it being just an alternative method of seeing the show, then the impersonal nature of the experience should be worth the investment.
Of all the movies we have reviewed here, The Eras Tour was undoubtedly the strangest theater experience in recent memory. Upon entering, this writer was prepared for atypical scenarios such as singing. After all, it’s a concert movie.
What was unexpected was the unconventional behavior at the screening. For example, one isolated attendee acted like they were at the stadium, clapping intensely to a fault, startling others in the auditorium. The same individual took out their cell phone, kicked the light on, and swayed back and forth to the songs. It would be fine if the other attendees were participating, but they were not.
Still, this is not the fault of Taylor Swift. She has no control over a movie theater crowd.
Should Taylor Swift fans see the movie?
Overall, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film is a solid substitute for those dying to see the intensely sold-out tour. Never having seen Taylor Swift live, seeing the talent on display was impressive.
At one point, the Grammy-winning singer goes fully unplugged, with only a guitar and her voice. SoFi Stadium seats over 70,000 people, and to see the Shake It Off singer exercise raw vocals in an audience that size and with such control demonstrates why people adore her.
It’s disappointing that the movie didn’t fully utilize the opportunity to take advantage of the movie format. The filmmakers could have given the fans an inside look into what it’s like for Swift to perform and welcome them into her mindset, as Beyoncé did with her upcoming concert movie. Despite this, Swifties will still be satisfied with the experience.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is now in theaters.