The rise of Oasis, a band that was–as both Gallagher brothers will (repeatedly) attest–one of the largest and most successful groups of the mid-to-late 90s, is an odd focal point for a documentary. Recent music based documentaries, like the tremendous Amy, and even this year’s Ron Howard directed Beatles: Eight Days a week, all seemed to have a clear motivation to present the audience a new outlook that would shine a fresh light onto their musical icons. However, Supersonic, despite being as rambunctious and entertaining as its two frontmen, suffers from the fact it provides us with nothing new or insightful.
We open to Knebworth; thousands wait in anticipation for what will be the biggest concert of all time. One in twenty Britons applied for tickets, which is evident as we witness the fields of green swiftly disintegrate into masses of individuals; a sea of human beings washes towards the stage. Here is an ideal place to start: it is a moment in which the band was firmly standing on the shoulders of giants, and looking out to a fandom that is only reserved for the certain anointed few; The Beatles; The ‘Stones. But, rather than continuing on and following Oasis’ rescinding popularity following that iconic concert and the release of a cocaine tainted third studio album, Whitecross flashes back to three years previously.
This is by no means a bad decision. The documentary does a superb job of charting the sheer, quote-unquote, Supersonic nature of the band’s meteoric rise. I myself–an individual who was obsessed with anything Oasis related during the early period of my teenage years–never comprehended the band’s speedy ascension from forming and playing small clubs in 1991, to garnering such popularity that within five short years they could play concerts that attracted over 250,000 audience members.
However, Supersonic does little to highlight why this rise is of particular interest to those who are not already immersed in Britpop culture. This is where I return to my initial assertion: the rise of Oasis is rather an odd choice for a documentary. Whitecross does not examine the development of the music, not that there is much to unearth: Noel Gallagher is a fine songwriter, but not many of us need to ponder over the lyrics of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star‘. There are moments, especially concerning the band’s attempt to play the famous ‘Whisky A Go Go’, and Noel’s subsequent less-than-a-week hiatus from the group, that do offer faint glimmers of a more substantial emotional and musical journey. But unfortunately, there are too few of these moments to feel as though we are engaging with both Gallaghers & Co in a unique way, that is different from the exposure we already have.
At this point I do realise that you may have the impression that I detest this documentary. Nothing could be further from the truth. On pure entertainment alone, this is 121 minutes that, mainly due to the sheer outrageous characters of Noel and Liam, is funny, loud and well worth a watch. Whitecross’ choice to use animations also provided an added layer of cheekiness, that inspired laughter and meant that the brilliant footage–of which there was an abundance–never got monotonous. In addition, the band’s music lends itself to being played loud and proud, therefore in a dark cinema, with the speakers on full and your seat vibrating to the tune of ‘Roll With It’, you really get a sense of Oasis’ strengths.
This is an ok documentary that is rescued from being nothing but a conventional piece found on BBC 4 by the magnetic personalities of its subjects. In my opinion, the filmmakers, maybe through no fault of their own, missed or were prohibited from an opportunity to capture Oasis’ destructive descent. If only we properly began at Knebworth, and were made privy to the chaotic car crash of the band’s split, its feud with Britpop rivals Blur and that encounter a beaming Noel had with Tony Blair, then would we have had a documentary that stretched beyond mere entertainment?