Although U2 is in fine musical form during this nearly two-hour-long concert video, the emphasis of U2: ZOO TV Live From Sydney isn’t on the band’s chops, but rather on their chips (as in computers). Bono and company take a Marshall McLuhan-a-go-go approach, with the results lying somewhere between Videodrome and a kid sitting on the remote. Director David Mallet and his phalanx of camera operators pull off a few neat moves: Bono crooning with a big-screen video projection of Lou Reed to Reed’s ”Satellite of Love,” several artfully placed slo-mo shots, and the gimmick — which seems especially overused in ”Mysterious Ways” — of radically intercutting shots of the stage, the big screen, and the audience, thus allowing the lucky at-home viewer to watch Bono work his by now predictable shtick from every conceivable perspective.
All this high-tech hoopla slowly eats away at what is actually a powerful performance. On ”New Year’s Day,” The Edge plays both guitar and keyboards — can’t they afford another keyboard player? — and it’s an incredible number. But throughout, this tape relies on an almost constant bombardment of trite Video Art 101 images: the crosses, swastikas, A-bombs, and a truckload of kitschy film clips. Worse yet, the Irish rockers unleash these cliches with a pretentious smugness, belying the fact that what U2 attempts on Zoo TV has been done before.