Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour
Whether or not you're a Swiftie, the cinema version of the 'Shake It Off' singer's 'Eras' world tour is an enchanting big-screen spectacle.
October 13, 2023
Just like a great music documentary, an excellent concert film isn't solely about existing fans. That's still true when a movie arrives in a sea of friendship bracelets, focuses on one of the biggest current singers in the world, and perhaps the largest and most devoted fandom there is can be seen screaming, dancing and crying joyfully in its frames in a 70,000-plus drove. As the shows that it lenses were, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour was a financial success before any Swifties experienced their version of heaven. Swift's onstage journey through 17 years of tunes sparked ticketing mayhem both as a concert and a cinema release that captures close to every moment. The Eras tour is a billion-dollar entity, with the self-produced film that's spreading it further than packed stadiums a box-office bonanza since it was announced. The 169-minute-long movie is also a dazzling spectacle that neither dedicated Swifties nor casual viewers will be able to easily shake off.
When Swift told the world that she never misses a beat and she's lightning on her feet in possibly her best-known pop song, everyone should've believed her. Long before 2014 earworm 'Shake It Off' gets a spin in the 1989 segment of The Eras Tour, she's proven those words true in an indefatigable onstage effort. "Can't stop, won't stop moving" describes her efforts and the film, which is as energetically directed by Sam Wrench (Billie Eilish Live at the O2) and edited by a six-person team (with Max Richter's Sleep's Dom Whitworth as its lead) as it is performed. And, for anyone that's sat through Valentine's Day and Cats and found them hardly purring, it gives Swift the cinema presence that she's been trying to amass here and there — The Giver and Amsterdam are also on her resume — for over than a decade. Watching The Eras Tour doesn't just feel like watching a concert, but a musical spectacular in its vast grandeur, complete with the lead to match.
Filmed over three concerts at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium in August — closing out the first US leg on a global excursion that'll have notched up nearly two years of performances when it finishes in Toronto in November 2024 — The Eras Tour goes for both scale and intimacy, the holy duo of the genre. Concert flicks can't just passively watch on. One of their biggest aims: gifting audiences perspectives on the show that they can't see in-person, including spanning far and wide plus near and close. So, this one takes in the massive crowd and the just-as-enormous stage design from above. It also gives Swift's dancers and band their due. And, it, sees the star herself get sweaty, and the changing gleam in her eye depending on what which track calls for. As bouncily spliced together, each image reinforces an inescapable takeaway: everything about this tour is huge, from the cast and crystal-clad costumes to the sets and setlist, and also Swift's own stamina and chameleonic showmanship.
Live and as recorded for posterity, nine of the singer's ten studio albums earn their own era (the one that doesn't, her 2006 self-titled debut, receives a track during the late acoustic section). Cue pinballing between records and styles, appearances and themes, and ballads and pop. Accordingly, songs from 2019's bright Lover sung in a bejewelled bodysuit give way to gold fringing to go all country-pop with 2008's Fearless, then orange cottagecore and witchy black cloaks for 2020's Evermore, a one-legged and snake-clad black-and-red catsuit for 2017's Reputation, and so on. Eras onstage has been exhaustively documented since opening in Arizona in March, making knowing which tracks Swift will sing, outfits she'll wear, moss-covered cabins she'll sit atop and glistening pools she'll seem to dive into scarcely a surprise not only to the Swiftiest of Swifties, but to anyone who hasn't been able to avoid the tour coverage — but in a production this immense and evolving, a "what'll happen next?" vibe still pulsates.
Sans accompanying footage — interviews, behind-the-scenes glimpses and commentary are absent, with just snippets of bloopers dotted through the closing credits — The Eras Tour lets the show and tunes do the talking, plus Swift's chatter when she addresses the adoring crowd. By the time that she mentions how fun it is to segue through sounds and looks, and how it's made possible due to her fans (so: popularity and sales), the film has already made that plain, too. An ode to reinvention sits at the centre of Eras onstage and on-screen, and to longevity as well. When 'Look What You Made Me Do' enlists Swift's dancers in clear boxes, each decked out like various versions of the superstar across the years, the Barbie nods aren't subtle. 2023 is clearly the year of cinema celebrating women being everything that they want to be, which thrums at the heart of two key Swift details: why she's kept striking a chord, including with her youngest aficionados who see her as an array of role models, and her savvy knack for transformation.
To the delight of The Bear's Cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, No Hard Feelings), 'Love Story' gets a whirl early. Usually Swift-agnostic The Eras Tour viewers can consider the hit TV dramedy's fictional character their spirit animal while watching. This presentation is as shiny and shimmering as everything that its star wears, and as irresistible as the catchy 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' refrain and slinky 'Vigilante Shit' beat as a result. Getting to the why of it all, Swift briefly explains the tour's concept; "what are you gonna do, play for three hours?" she says she was asked about touring post-pandemic after not yet taking Lover, Evermore, fellow 2020 release Folklore and 2022's Midnights on the road. The swarm of phone-wielding concertgoers before her cheer, of course. Understanding why Eras has had everyone talking since is as simple as letting The Eras Tour wash over you.
A music film veteran with movies about everyone from Mary J Blige and Blur to Brandi Carlile and Lizzo on his resume, director Wrench knows that his task with The Eras Tour is multifaceted. His latest concert flick needs to spy the macro and the micro; to feel like it's on the ground and unveiling a money-can't-buy experience; and to see its star as everything and an everywoman whether she's singing about falling in love, searching for a soulmate, heartbreak, revenge, empowerment and identity — and playing guitar or piano. That it does this so seamlessly is no minor feat. Swift isn't a stranger to bringing her shows to the screen, as seen with The 1989 World Tour Live and Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour, but Swifties will consider The Eras Tour their Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz and Amazing Grace. For everyone else, all almost three hours of the film is still enchanting to meet.
Top image: TAS Rights Management, Trafalgar Releasing.
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