Metal Lords (2022)
⭐½ (1½ stars out of 5)
Metal Lords (2022) Directed by Peter Sollett
I have always tried to question the true meaning of the literary and cinematic terminology of the Coming-of-age genre, but I have never found myself with such an energetic need as this film has made me do; not only has it prompted me to examine with greater scrutiny the denominational subjectivity of Coming-of-age films, but it has also made me question if it is really something that in contemporary times is only interpreted with prosaic modernisms such as the simple act of putting a camera in front of a teenager and automatically calling it a Coming-of-age film. That’s how irritated this useless production has left my brain. Synthesizing its narrative clichés, one could say that it is basically a sort of School of Rock (2003) meets Detroit Rock City (1999). Metal Lords wants to make us live the invigorating emotion of being a teenager, with all its social difficulties, within the student life, friends and family, a little bit of everything, to all these formulaic ingredients they add the power of heavy metal, but not only the musical force that represents this genre, but also the philosophical content of the lifestyle of the followers and fans of this music. Within the sphere of contemporary cinema we could say that it is a Coming-of-age film, however it uses a mechanical narrative structure that forms a plot that seems to take away meaning from the core of a narrative where the teenager faces substantial issues of the age in which he finds himself and overcomes them, growing as a person, psychologically, sexually and in the transition to maturity. This sloppy film follows those patterns, but establishes them with an exacerbating superfluity, rather it gives the impression that it only makes use of those characteristics of teen movies to vulgarize the comedy, but nothing more than that. That, and much more, is what makes me convince myself that Coming-of-age was never a genre, today it is misinterpreted and mistreated in scurrilous films as if it were a genre, yet I come to the conclusion that it is more a thematic development that is given to a plot and not a genre as it was always thought. Of course, I must make it clear that my hypothesis is based only on the enormous unproductiveness of the current coming-of-age films.
Metal Lords puts all its effort into being a profound and exhilarating tribute to extreme music, but ironically it goes off on a tangent, and ridicules this music more than it pays homage to it. In my perspective I don’t have the slightest problem watching a mindless movie with great and iconic music on top of it, but I’m pretty sure diehard fans of this genre of music, will find this insufferable. The film follows a plot that builds cliché after cliché in an itinerant way, never establishing a few, it wants to be the epitome of clichés, but besides the rudimentary content, the general essence of this production is not wanting to be anything new or interesting; it is refreshing to have at least one production aware of what it is, that is respectable, nevertheless it doesn’t mean it is saved from being a terrible film. The graphic predictability makes us know how the transitions of the acts will lead us to the end, obviously that flaw is unavoidable, even more so considering the explosive amount of narrative tricks that shamelessly makes exorbitant use of. Things as elementary as that aren’t specifically the biggest problems with this film, but they evidently make the shapeless, lightweight cinematography all the more intolerable.
The lack of emotion in the ordinary performances makes for a terse, rambling comedy experience, but deliriously I think the ridiculous, rowdy performances add an unintentionally hilarious intensity that brings the film to life. Certainly the scrappy performances border on ”so bad it’s good”, and it mimics the crazed instrumental roar of metal music very well; here music is used as a synonym for rebellion, something typical in a film of these characteristics, but it manages to conceive a histrionic rhythm that forces me to say that with a more suitable, and qualified production it would have been possible to get something functional out of all the narrative and acting overindulgence. It is a laborious film to define, patently bad indeed, but interestingly unclassifiable in its flawedness; it is transparent in what it tries to get out of its quotidian narrative, yet the result remains too vague to define, even in the category of trashy film.
Hunter and Kevin are two high school friends who want to start a metal band to participate in a battle of the bands and gain the respect of their classmates. Kevin meets Emily, a shy young Scottish girl with serious anger issues, but with an undeniable talent for the cello. As they do not yet have a bass player in the band, Kevin hints to Hunter to include her, but the latter does not accept. From that moment on, several events will test their friendship, and will lead Hunter to reconsider his attitude towards Emily, his father and all the people around him.
The overblown teen comedy perennially leans to excess, that’s commonplace, and much of that hyperbolic ludicrousness doesn’t work because of the violent flirtation it has with the subtle drama of the story. Balance is the exact word to make a film with these idiosyncrasies work, not only can the harmonious order between drama and comedy work wonders but it can also make the clichés inherent in the genre feel fresh. Metal Lords doesn’t know the meaning of equilibrium, rather it knows the antonym of that word, and makes use of an uneven narrative structure as if it deludedly believes it can deliver solid entertainment. Director Peter Sollett conveys bouncy juvenile jokes and sophomoric camera angles to this shaky production, it is indeed a bland and dull direction, but from the stolid execution at least he understands how to leave room for the film’s diminutive qualities to materialize; I’m not going to lie, much less disqualify this film as a whole, because in reality it is another harmless comedy, quite stupid in its own balloon of idiocy, but never pretends to get out of it, something that rivals everything I’m arguing, because when we have in front of us a comedy so elementary but so aware of its triviality, I can only say that it is a meaningless film, which surely will please many.
Metal Lords makes use of the most exploited stereotypes within the genre, we have the tall, abusive, narcissistic jock, we have the weak, self-conscious, pacifistic guy with glasses, the weird but likable girl, and the bold, rebellious best friend. It’s a hugely banal concentration of characters; and I’m extremely confident to say that much of the ineffectiveness of this production lies primarily in the basic script writing. It is written with a myriad of errors, which makes me question the professionalism of this production in terms of writing a script that at least understands story formation. The film has a framework that disassembles and reassembles, it is cyclical and uses obnoxious tricks that are too artificial for my taste, one of them is the frustrating and constant exercise in filling the plot with unnecessary moments that do not serve any construction a posteriori. Here the drama happens because of simple conflicts that could be solved with immediacy, but being a film with smug teenagers obviously the script wants to make us believe that their problems are the center of the universe, that flawed attitude to solve a quasi-didactic plot makes unbearable the whole development of the film.
Jaeden Martell plays the title character, and Adrian Greensmith plays the best friend, both of whom are passionate about metal music, and form a band by the name of Skullfucker. The dynamic between the two is fun, especially for the fierce rebelliousness they express, and even more for the drastic changes they have during the plot, but there is a stressor that erases those qualities, and that is the dialogues. Usually there is the belief that cursing and mouthing off is automatically funny, or comedy, but that is far from reality, it makes everything vulgarly asinine, and very frivolous. In the midst of this solid friendship that unites them through the power of music, a peculiar girl appears, played by Isis Hainsworth, who ends up generating discrepancies between the friends and thus, creating the dramatic scheme of the film. If you thought the comedy couldn’t get any duller in this movie, get ready because the moments of romance are soporific.
Metal Lords is everything you think it is, and you get just that, more of what you’ve already seen ad nauseam in the movies. The epic, spectacular soundratack doesn’t deserve to be the music for such fragile material.