Saturday, June 18, 2022

Metal Lords (movie review)

Two teen boys and one teen girl in a classroom, one teen boy has death metal stage makeup on, the teen girl has a cello
    Random movie review: "Metal Lords." I was bored, it was on Netflix, so I watched it. And, it was actually pretty decent. How to describe it? It's a light teen comedy/drama movie about metal and friendship and growing up. It definitely doesn't have the realism of something like "We Are the Best" and it doesn't have the quite the emotional depth of "Edge of Seventeen" (2016 - god I love that movie). But it's also not as funny nor as sweet as "School of Rock." But despite some uneven parts and some unnecessary gross-out moments, there were enough genuine laughs and bright spots to be worth watching for anyone who likes light teen movies and likes music. 
    The basic premise is that there are two high-school best friend outcasts, one who is domineering (but deeply hurting inside) who loves metal and plays the guitar, and the more emotionally centered kid he had previously befriended (and who is the fulcrum, so to speak, for the movie) who plays drums. They form a "band" if you could call it that. The guitarist is determined to enter the school's battle of the bands to show everyone that they are "somebodies" and become stars like a prior metal band that came out of the school.
    But can they do it as a duo? And therein lies some of the best moments of the movie. Our drummer watches as a girl in the marching band goes ape-shit crazy on a teacher and then stumbles on her later playing cello - and she's good. Couldn't she join the band? Not if the guitarist has anything to say about it. 
    So we get a burgeoning teen love (drummer and cellist) that conflicts with an old friendship (guitarist and drummer) and that conflict propels some emotional growth in all three. But oh, the conflict between the guitarist and cellist reaches a peak in one of the best scenes in the movie (I won't spoil it).
    There's also healing family wounds, coming out of your shell, and romance. Unfortunately, for all the good, there are a few uneven moments, and the film as a whole has a less-than-believable overall tone. But that's not to say it doesn't work, it's just light, fun, fare - and that's okay.
    All three leads are wonderfully cast. There are some funny cameos from actual metal musicians and there's a great twist with a psychiatrist. There are also some interesting moments with the "rival" band - showing how as douchey as their music is, they're actually decent people. It's nice to see a teen movie where there is a mix of personalities, not just the good ones and the bad ones. But a whole bunch of average people being somewhat decent.
    Interestingly, there is also the regular appearance of a side character with Down Syndrome, played by an actor who has Down Syndrome. I'm a bit torn about this character, and I would be interested in hearing from some folks with even greater knowledge of disabilities than I do as to whether it is positive representation. My hunch is that, it is. The scenes with that character and the guitarist have a gentleness and humanity that I liked, it didn't feel forced to me, it didn't feel exploitative, and I think visibility is great. But, I also might be missing things that might have bothered others about that role (or maybe not, maybe it was good representation?). At the very least they tried and that's something too.
    Other kvetches: it didn't pass the Bechdel Test. There was only one female lead. She did not interact with any other female. There was another girl thrown in just to tempt the drummer. There was no interaction between any female characters at all. 
    And on another note, there was one gay joke. It started really badly with the guitarist calling having the girl in the band "gay." But then the other two look around at posters in the guitarist's room and the sight gag of all those singers with makeup, tight pants, and crotches packed with socks poked fun at the machismo of metal mixed with the innate queerness of many metal bands - and their infatuation with dicks. It was a funny turnaround to be sure. But that's still an uneven commentary on using "gay" as a pejorative. While they did manage to turn it back on the person who said it, it didn't quite resolve in a way that makes being gay okay. All it basically said is that all metal is gay, not that it's not okay to call things "gay" to demean them. On the whole, I wish they didn't make that joke, but there's been worse. 
    So on the whole, the movie was nice, it was sweet, but it isn't one I'm likely to watch again. There really were some laugh-out-loud moments, and the cellist's explosive temper is so well done by the actress. The overall tone was a bit mixed - veering more towards light teen comedy than anything really meaningful - but uneven at times too. And yet, there was some growth in several characters. So as imperfect as it is, if you're bored, like music, and like teen comedies, it might be worth watching.

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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