Hey, remember D.B. Weiss and David Benioff? They were the creators of one of the most popular fantasy TV series of all time, “Game of Thrones”. Even if you didn’t follow the show, you knew at least five people who wouldn’t shut up about the Red Wedding. Well, since its controversial series finale, Weiss and Benioff have seemingly disappeared into obscurity. So you can imagine our surprise when we heard that the two of them teamed up with director Peter Sollett to make a…teen rock comedy? It’s been an age since a high school rock comedy has been on anyone’s mind. Barring Jack Black’s legendary “School of Rock” of course.
Enter Netflix’s “Metal Lords”, a coming-of-age teen comedy about three social misfits finding confidence in the power of rock and roll. It’s time to find out if “Metal Lords” will enter the ax-shredding hall of film valhalla or be left in the dust with Disney’s “Camp Rock.
The premise of the film sounds like it could be a gateway to a ton of zany misadventures and wild mischief. In spite of the film’s constant insistence on its subversive free spirit, the film’s plot can best be described as tamed. Anyone whose ever watched a high school film about misunderstood people finding a passion and impressing everyone will know the hymn sheet being sung here. Replace its narrative core with fishing, swimming or baking and you’d still wind up with essentially the same film.
It becomes even more tedious when it decides to focus on the dull bromance drama going on between quiet, nerdy Kevin Schlieb and his angsty partner, Hunter Sylvester. The banter between them is not very compelling to say the least. In fact, a lot of the jokes in “Metal Lords” seem to be hinged on someone saying a swear word very loudly. This isn’t the early 2000s anymore! Hunter is meant to be the troubled, yet sympathetic character that the audience roots for. Unfortunately, he comes off as obnoxious and painfully cringe-worthy. There is some backstory about his mother abandoning him and his father, but it never gets fleshed out.
The same can be said with Kevin as well. He’s mostly there to be Hunter’s support system before eventually drifting away and finding his way back to his friend. There’s nothing wrong with this dynamic, we’ve seen it work well in films like “21 Jump Street”. The reason it works there and not here is because the film actually had funny characters. The most entertaining aspect of the film is Emily’s journey. A quick tempered young lady who finds release from her inner demons in the embrace of metal. Sadly, her role in the film is merely to be the rift that tears Kevin and Hunter apart before their eventual reconciliation.
Somewhere in “Metal Lords” is a good-natured message about self-expression and how being yourself is the most metal thing in the world! Anyone whose into real heavy metal will tell you that this sounds pretty trite and lame. This is a classic case of the film trying to have its cake and eat at the same time. Either go all out and nuts a’la “Superbad” as an insane comedy or play it straight and focus on the internal turmoil and work that goes into making a band.
There are some brief moments of greatness that shine in the film. Namely in the final scene in which the band is finally playing some actual music as the crowd turns into a mosh pit. This is what we came for: the hysterical, high-energy of a rock performance. The film’s original track “Machinery of Torment” is an excellent jam that could have been accompanied with a bunch of other great tracks. There’s so much potential there for bits, gags and elaborate comedic sequences but it’s all wasted. When it finally does arrive it’s too little and too late.
Jaeden Martell’s Kevin is likable enough as the blooming wallflower. You may remember him as the leader of the Loser’s Club, Bill Denbrough in 2017’s “It”. He delivers the few chuckle-worthy lines in the film with effortlessly awkward sincerity. While perhaps not as skilled in the art of the endearing goofball as Michael Cera, Martell very well could be one day. He certainly has great on-screen with Isis Hainsworth’s Emily. In spite of the trailer’s depiction of Emily as some hilarious rage monster, there’s a lot more to the character than meets the eye.
Adrian Greensmith’s Hunter, however, is quite unbearable. We’re supposed to identify with him as this quirky, impulsive rocker wannabe who wants to be seen except there’s just no way someone can be this whinny and difficult! Writer D.B. Weiss does very little to endear Hunter to us. This could all be fixed if Hunter’s metal-worshipping ways was played with some self-awareness. Believe it or not, nobody wants to listen to a character who just preaches about the glory of rock.
Thankfully, the film’s runtime isn’t very long, clocking in at a little over an hour and a half. That being said, a good portion of the runtime is eaten by…musical montages. And if you’ve read our “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” review, you know our stance. This trope needs to die a fiery death.
Netflix’s “Metal Lords” is about as memorable as a Maroon 5 album. It has found a way to make the idea of a teenage rock comedy as boring and unappealing as muzak in an elevator. The script does a disservice to its three leads with dated humour and a paper thin plot. When it finally does deliver on the expected musical madness, it ends all too quickly. You’re better off looking for the “Machinery of Torment” music video on YouTube than sitting through the film.
“Metal Lords” is streaming on Netflix today.
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Netflix's "Metal Lords" Review
Netflix's "Metal Lords" is about as memorable as a Maroon 5 album. It has found a way to make the idea of a teenage rock comedy as boring and unappealing as muzak in an elevator. The script does a disservice to its three leads with dated humour and a paper thin plot. When it finally does deliver on the expected musical madness, it ends all too quickly.
- Netflix's "Metal Lords" Review