Metal Lords, written by Game of Thrones EP D.B. Weiss, never quite gets to 11, despite its attitude. Metal Lords follows two high school best friends as they navigate puberty while sorta-sorta gearing up for a Battle of the Bands (that old movie chestnut) in quest of a bassist who can help turn them into a real band and not simply an experimental act, in the manner of The School of Rock.
There are a few amusing moments and a victorious conclusion, but Metal Lords spends much too much of its time locked in a riff that isn't quite humorous enough and never truly fulfilling.
- Metal Lords Cast: Jaeden Martell, Isis Hainsworth, Brett Gelman
- Metal Lords Director: Peter Sollett
- Metal Lords Platform: Netflix
- Metal Lords Stars: 2.5/5
Metal Lords Opening Review
The opening 40 minutes or so of “Metal Lords,” a coming-of-age comedy with a heavy metal theme, are quite conventional. These early sequences do a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the film. They also lack the charm—as well as the patience and emotional generosity—that the rest of the film possesses.
However, the script, written by D.B. Weiss, co-creator of HBO's “Game of Thrones,” does take a moment to establish some canned fraternal tension between Kevin and Hunter (Jaeden Martell and Adrian Greensmith), two high school buddies who struggle to form a snazzy metal band in time for their high school's Battle of the Bands competition.
Metal Lords Second Half
Thankfully, director Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas,” “Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist”) slows down sufficiently in the second half of the film to sell this very Gen X fantasy about the enduring allure (and character-building side benefits) of being an adolescent metalhead.
Emily (Isis Hainsworth), a Scottish-American cellist who Kevin likes but Hunter doesn't because, ew, ladies, puts Kevin and Hunter's friendship to the test in “Metal Lords.”
By the time “Wayne's World” director Penelope Spheeris reintroduced the He-Man Woman Hater's Club for her Amblin-produced “Little Rascals” reboot, this type of feel-good/formulaic development story had become outdated. Hunter does, however, unwittingly educate Kevin on the actual meaning of metal.
Metal Lords Concentrates on All Three Main Characters
“Metal Lords” finally concentrates on all three main characters rather than their restricted roles in propelling the plot to its predetermined climax. Although the picture is cinematic comfort food, its makers earn our trust and hit all of the necessary beats along the way.
Hunter's brash personality, on the other hand, dominates the film's uninspiring first half. Hunter ultimately grows on you as a counterpoint for other characters, but at first (and often), he steamrolls Kevin, his best friend, to make up for his own (very minor) daddy issues.
Hunter has practically everything he wants in life, but he can't relate to his affluent divorcee father, Dr. Sylvester (Brett Gelman). Hunter's connection with Dr. Sylvester, on the other hand, acquires a lived-in sensitivity that makes even their most vehement arguments feel plausible.
Metal Lords Turning Point
Hunter was once identified by the plethora of band posters that adorned his basement walls, including early metal bands such as Judas Priest and Anthrax, as well as modern artists such as Amon Amarth and Opeth. Hunter's perception of what's cool in metal is quickly revealed to be outdated.
He isn't chastised or pampered as a result of his impolite behaviour, which is fortunate. And, rather than being a plot device, Emily and Kevin's difficult romance becomes a big element of the film's story.
After Emily and Kevin have sex in the back of her family's vehicle around 43 minutes into “Metal Lords,” there is a clear turning point. Kevin joins her in her bedroom, where Emily has a bit more control: they have a staring contest, and he lies down on top of her at her request.
Emily is still largely a stock character, but her genuine and realistic show of puppy love for Kevin demonstrates that the film's designers know when to ease into certain predictable storey contrivances.
Even Dr Sylvester and Hunter's problematic relationship is well-developed thanks to the film's superb ensemble cast and comic timing in a few key scenes that are loving, humorous, and well-paced enough to sell the film's otherwise artificial drama. Sollett and Weiss do a good job of portraying teenagers as we (or at least some of us) would want to picture them rather than as they are.
Metal Lords Music
Perhaps you're wondering what this has to do with heavy metal music. Thankfully, “Metal Lords” isn't about the true meaning of metal, as Linus may claim, but rather how to appreciate being in a band, because appreciating your comrades inspires good performances (among other things).
Despite everything, the climactic Battle of the Bands scene is satisfying because the youngsters not only can play their instruments, but the song they perform is a really catchy and unapologetically infantile metal anthem written by Weiss and produced by executive music producer Tom Morello. “Machinery of Torment” is a fitting title for this song.
Later in the film, Morello makes an appearance as one of the celebrity angels and demons perched on Kevin's frail shoulders. It's a great sequence, not because of anyone's cameo, but because of how long it lasts and how amusing it is to see a lot of rock titans remade as role models.
Metal Lords is sincere when it comes to metal, but clumsy when it comes to character and story. It has a thrilling conclusion, but the route to get there is uninspired and half-formed. It also wastes its female lead, making her feel more like a prop than a participant, and never offers us a cause to care as much about metal as its protagonist. However, “Machinery of Torment” is a fantastic tune.