Taylor Swift performing on stage in a flowy green dress during The Eras Tour.

REVIEW: ‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ Brings the Concert Sensation to Theaters

4/5 friendship bracelets

It’s been a long time coming, but Taylor Swift’s smash-hit Eras Tour has finally made its way to theatres with the aptly titled Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, a concert film that distills the energy, excitement, and artistry of Swift’s massive production into a two hour, 49-minute theatrical experience. Jam-packed with older classics, COVID-era deep cuts that never got their time to shine, and new favorites, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is an ambitious, fully realized reflection of Swift’s gargantuan career that brings the sought-after concert experience to the masses but doesn’t offer much in the way of filmmaking flare.

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Starring Swift and her tight-knit crew of dancers, backup singers, and longtime band members (some of whom have been touring with Swift since as early as the Fearless era), Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is a career retrospective for the 33-year-old pop princess. Though not in chronological order, Swift takes an album-by-album approach to the setlist, giving each entry in her discography (barring one exception) a dedicated chunk of the set, complete with costume changes, set pieces, and story-rich choreography that helps echo the mood and tone of whatever album is being celebrated.

It’s a staggering feat for any artist to already have enough hits to be touring a career retrospective at age 33, but what makes the Eras Tour such an effective and engaging walk through Swift’s history is the distinctive visual flare that separates every album. Even without the title cards in between sections that clue the audience in as to what “era” is coming next, Taylor Swift’s songwriting style is already so heavily steeped in creating unique worlds that a single image, costume change, or lighting queue will send audiences screaming for the era they know is being featured next.

The concert opens with the Lover section—a cotton candy-filled album full of sweet ballads like the titular “Lover” and joyful pride anthems like “You Need to Calm Down” that are intercut with Swift’s tongue-in-cheek remarks to the audience about crossing the first “bridge” of the evening. Swift’s one-sided patter has long since been a signature element of her performance style, but bringing the Eras Tour on film allows audiences to get a much more up-close and personal look at the pop star as she’s soaking in the admiration and energy of a sold-out crowd.

A theatrical release of the Eras Tour also gives viewers (who might’ve been straining their eyes from the nosebleeds at the in-person concert) the chance to soak up the story-rich staging and choreography that Swift infuses into each musical number. While Swift—by her own admission—has never been much of a dancer, she makes up for the lack of technical ability through sweeping set pieces and thoughtfully choreographed numbers that bring her lyrical storytelling to life through visuals. “The Man” sees Swift and her female dancers quite literally climbing the corporate ladder, while “The Last Great American Dynasty” dramatizes the fall of East Coast old money, and “Look What You Made Me Do” features Swift duking it out with the living embodiments of her former selves.

While some numbers are certainly more conceptual than others, there’s an across-the-board polish and dedication to production value that makes the Eras Tour feel uniquely suited to a film adaption—the level of detail and care put into visual storytelling helps the viewer forget that they’re simply watching a recorded version of a live performance. However, while the content of the tour itself is top-notch, director Sam Wrench’s impact on the film is almost non-existent. Though the cut-and-dry approach to filmmaking allows for the clearest view of the performance, there’s a distinct lack of creativity in his cinematography, a jarring contrast to the wall-to-wall energy of Swift and her entourage.

A few select close-ups of weeping fans screaming along or gazing starstruck up at Swift are the extent of his presence as a director. Even in comparison to Swift’s previous concert films like The 1989 World Tour Live or Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour, the Eras Tour is less a film adaption of the concert and more of a delivery system for fans who didn’t have a chance to see the tour in-person. Certainly, it’s a welcome opportunity for the millions of adoring fans who weren’t able to snag a ticket of their own, but the sheer lack of interest in engaging with the medium of film is a frustrating oversight, especially considering Swift herself has directed countless of her own music videos and is currently gearing up to take on a feature film of her own.

The other frustrating failing of The Eras Tour film is that it’s not actually the full concert. Swift’s in-person performances ran as long as three and a half hours (without openers), but the set has been trimmed to just south of three hours for the theatrical release. Shortening the set means cutting songs like “The Archer,” “no body, no crime,” “cardigan,” and “Wildest Dreams,” among others. It’s understandable that Swift and Wrench would want to make the runtime more digestible for moviegoing audiences, but one assumes that if audiences are willing to sit for two hours and 45 minutes, they’d happily stick around for the extra 15 minutes it would take to include the axed songs—some of which are crowd favorites.

But even with an unremarkable filmmaker at the helm and a few key songs missing from the final cut, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is still an undeniably infectious concert film that bottles the magic of Swift’s gift for storytelling and unique approach to performance and lyricism. Sure, fans looking for a little flavor in their concert films (or hoping for the full, unabridged incarnation of the setlist) may want to pop on a rerun of Stop Making Sense, but any die-hard Swiftie will surely be delighted by the sheer spectacle of Swift’s now-iconic concert on the big screen.

(featured image: Fernando Leon/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates