and all at once, this is the tour we have been waiting for: reputation stadium tour movie review
photos by abby stanford
a concert movie is an event in and of itself. it’s a show and a movie night rolled into one, and who doesn’t want to scream the words to all of their favorite songs while wearing pajamas? though a major appeal of a concert film is its accessibility and ease of experience, it also ties in a highly emotional aspect for hardcore fans of the artist. for fans, a concert can be cathartic and beautiful, allowing them to hear their favorite songs live for the first time, adding an entirely new level of appreciation and love to every lyric. however, there are some fans that can’t afford to attend the shows at all, and they end up watching the tour go by, holding onto the shaky videos and photos posted by others online.
for these fans, a concert movie allows them the unexpected opportunity to attend a show they thought they would never see, and to connect to the music that has brought them so much comfort on a new level. clearly, a concert movie is much more than just a movie, it can even become an emotional experience if it’s done the right way. as technology and editing capabilities advance and there become new ways to film and present these live shows, they have the tendency to get over-edited, drawing away some of the show’s natural lure. in taylor swift’s reputation stadium tour movie on netflix, fans and critics alike feared that the show’s editing would be done with a heavy hand, distorting the already captivating intensity of the show. those fears soon dissipated after the highly anticipated worldwide premiere of the film on netflix at 12:01 am on january 31st of 2018. the movie held onto the live show’s appeal, and didn’t attempt to bury swift’s undeniable ability to put on an unforgettable show. the movie shocked and pleased both fans and critics, and was even able to draw in some new fans of swift.
so what exactly about this movie makes it so attractive to such a broad spectrum of viewers? not only was swift’s talent not eclipsed by an overuse of editing and production, but there was a sense of intimacy, a tight bond throughout the packed stadium and the viewers at home that seemed impossible with an audience of that scale. the show’s first two performances of “...ready for it?” and “i did something bad” filled the stadium with an overwhelmingly empowering energy, swift’s sharp choreography and bold vocals during these tracks set the show off to an impressive start. one of the common themes throughout the show, as well as swift’s, album is the juxtaposition of her reputation in the eyes of the media and the eyes of outsiders with her reputation in the eyes of her loved ones and fans. tracks like “i did something bad” very clearly jump at the media’s image, with the bridge of the live performance beginning with a disturbing “they’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one...and it’s just for fun”, which is immediately followed by a bold ownership of the attacks with echoes of the line “light me up”. during the movie’s presentation of this performance, the focus is entirely on the stage, the red and black color scheme meant to portray the media’s devastatingly poisonous landscape of tear downs and attacks. though swift wants to draw attention to her poor treatment and underestimation by the media, the show’s main focus is not on the negative. rather, the show focuses on something that swift has an endless appreciation for: her fans.
it’s truly no secret that taylor swift loves her fans, from inviting them to her house to visiting their houses or sending them personalized christmas, sorry, swiftmas, gifts, there is no shortage of love on either side of this relationship, and that was anything but lost on director paul dugdale. the reputation stadium tour film has a strong emphasis not on flashing lights or bold editing, but rather on the relationship between swift and her fans. the reputation stadium tour stood out from swift’s previous tours because of the fact that it was designed entirely around what fans said they wanted to see and swift’s desire to give that to them. even from the release of her sixth studio album “reputation”, it was clear that there would be no strong emphasis on media representation as swift abstained from interviews and public marketing of the album. as tour rolled around, fans felt that rejection of catering to the media once again as swift scrolled through various social media platforms to figure out exactly what type of show her fans were looking for. she incorporated old favorites like “you belong with me”, “should’ve said no”, and “we are never ever getting back together”, while also performing nearly every track from “reputation”. not only was the show’s setlist a focus on the fans, but the production of the tour’s movie was as well. quite fittingly, during “love story” and “you belong with me”, the stage is covered in photo frames filled with live video of audience members dancing and singing along to the songstress’s classic tracks. this is far from both the show and the film’s only involvement of fans, the film spends a lot of time alternating between swift’s onstage performance and audience members’ off stage performances. every time the camera pans to a fan in the audience, they always have the happiest look on their face, dancing with friends and watching swift dance along on stage, it begins to feel more like a party than a concert.
between shots of the stage and fans in the audience, there are moments during songs like “all too well” where the camera positions itself behind the raised hands of fans, and points itself towards the stage. with this positioning, viewers see the stage as if they’re a part of the show, they see raised hands with light up bracelets and song lyrics tattooed on wrists. all of these little moments truly add to what makes the show so special and so human. towards the end of the show, swift centers herself on the main stage with a piano in front of her and begins to play a soft melody while talking to the crowd. the melody leads into a song that every longtime fan in the venue immediately recognizes as “long live” as swift explains to the fans that “this is a song that, for [her], will always be about you”. “long live” is delicately blended with a track from “reputation” entitled “new year’s day” as the camera pans to fans swaying and tearing up in the audience. this tour movie is infused with these seemingly simple moments, but that’s exactly what makes the energy of the movie work: its simplicity. the film focuses on the emotional connection felt throughout the entire stadium, it focuses on the design of the show as an interactive and involved experience rather than a spectacle to be observed from afar. while some concert movies may try to enhance the visuals and go over the top with effects, paul dugdale’s direction of taylor swift’s reputation stadium tour movie focuses on the small, intimate moments and feelings that make concerts the stunningly sentimental experiences they are.
watch the trailer for the movie here, now streaming exclusively on netflix.