The rising global phenomenen that is One Direction (Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Harry Styles) has quickly made it to the cinema in this glorified show-reel-cum-concert film, in the obligatory 3D of course. What is surprising is that its director is Morgan Spurlock, a man most famous for his McDonalds-crippling documentary Super Size Me. Under his quirky eye the boys are given an impressively glossy debut into cinema in One Direction: This is Us, although what a huge missed opportunity this is.
The construction of This is Us follows a simple pattern: travel segment, One Direction interacting with the fans, backstage build-up to a specific show and then a wonderfully executed 3D music video of one of their songs. It is content to rinse and repeat this five or six times, but rarely does it venture into the trickier more interesting questions that it raises. A brief foray into Amsterdam results in the boys being locked in a Nike shop while a path out is cleared. The reactions ranging from confusion to a little bit of fear suggests that the pressures of fame might one day overwhelm the ultra-popular group. These thoughts are quickly banished as the audience is reminded just how much the band love the fans. In the end it reads more like a love letter designed to sell more records and increase the levels of success open to them.
In one late scene Harry Styles, easily the most interesting of all the characters on display, muses that he won’t be remembered as a ‘nice guy’ or a ‘funny guy’ but simply as ‘famous’ and how he secretly hates the label that fame brings. On a lot of young performers this may come across as arrogant and ungrateful, but having spent the whole film with him and seen the amount of work put in, it’s easy to feel sorry for him. The same of Zayn, whose love of art often finds him separated from the fun and it is soon revealed that he sees the money made from the group as a means to an end, notably as a way of paying back his parents for years of love. There is a cynical part of you that questions the motives of the film-maker for including these scenes, but the group all seem genuinely nice and surprisingly humble that it’s impossible not to get behind them.
But imagine, with the power and success of the band and their backers what they could have achieved. With box office success a guarantee before the film even opens, they could have gone the same way as The Beatles (who are referenced as a way of establishing One Direction as their cultural equals) and made something like A Hard Day’s Night and really let them and their natural cheeriness cut loose a little and have some fun? But I guess that doesn’t fall into the great corporate plan for their continued success.
Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn from One Direction: This is Us, that it is a sleek, well-presented advert that the fans of the band will love and everyone else will find a reasonable way to spend a couple of hours.