There’s something about heavy metal that lends it to film.
The genre declines in and out of mainstream popularity, making it easy for writers to conjure up underdog stories where the hero proves that metal is really cool and people need to open their minds to good ol’ rock and roll. .
“Metal Lords” tackles the watered-down pop-rock music of Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons, but fails to explain why metal is superior.
All the pieces are there for an old-school “rock and roll triumphs over adversity” movie, but don’t blend together as much as you’d like.
Netflix gave the genre its usual shine and an expensive soundtrack to boot.
“Game Of Thrones” creator and screenwriter DB Benioff writes this charming comedy about two school friends who seek to prove their worth as rock heroes.
The film follows Jaden Martell from the “IT” series as a no-nonsense friend of Adrian Greensmith’s rock and roll leader type.
Greensmith’s character is a specialist in rock history and gives Martell a crash course in the various heroes of the genre.
Footage shows Jaden Martell’s character learning Black Sabbath’s famous “War Pigs” on drums, and in that moment the film realizes its true potential as a “Bill and Ted” style metal story for a new generation of fans.
The young actors are up for the material, and the script gives them plenty of famous bands to name which they deliver with aplomb.
The chemistry between Martell and Adrian Greensmith is the driving force behind the film, with Greensmith being able to perfectly pull off the moody teenager who is a walking metal encyclopedia with a pot mouth role.
Greensmith has a great sequence where he narrates various historical figures while playing various classic metal riffs, and he plays the progressive hysteria and stage progression well.
Martell largely carries the film on his shoulders as his most grounded friend, and his character’s progression from metal novice to regular Lars Ulrich is fun to watch.
The cliché of the school preparing for the battle of the bands is almost as old as metal itself, but the film updates it for a new generation.
With Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello as the music producer on the film, the film certainly has the chops (and expensive music) to take viewers on the journey.
Metal is a genre that’s almost scientifically designed to sound cool to teenagers, and the film captures that spirit of discovery well.
Posters of Pantera, Tool, Megadeth and the gang adorn the walls of rehearsal spaces and having a list of essential metal songs recommended by your coolest friend sounds true to life.
Much like a later Metallica album, however, it might have been enough to cut a few tracks.
A romantic plot drags the film down, as does a late second-act character development that feels like plot development for plot development’s sake.
For a 90 minute movie, the beat never really keeps a solid tempo.
The adult characters in particular feel like the disapproving authority figures in a Beastie Boys or Blink 182 video.
Brett Gelman (of ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Fleabag’) and Sufe Bradshaw (‘Veep’) are two great comedic actors with seriousness but very little work.
Gelman’s character in particular has nothing to do with it, and a running joke about his romantic conquests is as simple as a joke.
“Metal Lords” also picks up on the book’s oldest musical film cliche: There’s a rift in the band and they break up in the middle of the movie.
Best friends breaking up and realizing they’re stronger together is a staple of every teen comedy, from the “Jump Street” movies to “Superbad” and the trope is just as boring here.
Eventually, the band realizes that nothing is more important than rock and roll, and it’s all resolved in the third act.
‘Metal Lords’ might just be the perfect Netflix movie; it has the same production values as a 2009 TV show with an expensive soundtrack, and you’ll only remember a moment or two of its 90-minute runtime.
“Metal Lords” had a golden opportunity to sell a new generation on the power of metal, and while it succeeds in its small moments, it can’t quite land the final punch.
Overall, “Metal Lords” is more 80s disposable hair metal than the Tool album it strives to be.