Directed by: Peter Sollett
Premise: A meek high school drummer (Jaeden Martell) and an antisocial guitarist (Adrian Greensmith) form a metal band. The drummer connects with a cellist (Isis Hainsworth) and they prepare for the school’s battle of the bands competition.
What Works: Metal Lords combines a high school romance with a getting-the-band-together story. It’s more successful as a romance primarily because of the relationship between Kevin and Emily, played by Jaeden Martell and Isis Hainsworth. He is a shy but well-intentioned young man and she is a smart but emotionally vulnerable young woman and together they make a likeable couple. They also feel authentically adolescent. Moviemakers often cast teenage roles with young adult actors who look and act too old for high school but Martell and Hainsworth possess the awkwardness and slightness of adolescence.
What Doesn’t: Metal Lords suffers from a number of flaws, among them its generational disconnect. The picture is set in contemporary times but it feels like a movie of an earlier era. Heavy metal music doesn’t have the mainstream draw that it once did but there are still plenty of contemporary bands in that genre. The music of Metal Lords is almost exclusively of bands that peaked thirty to fifty years ago like Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Judas Priest. Metal Lords comes across as Generation X filmmakers imposing their adolescent experience on today’s youth. It’s a strike against the movie’s credibility. The storytelling isn’t particularly strong either. Metal Lords comes across dramatically flat. Romances and getting-the-band-together stories generally adhere to a similar meet-cute, breakup, and reconciliation narrative structure. None of that is done well in Metal Lords. The love story is sustained solely by Jaeden Martell and Isis Hainsworth’s romantic chemistry. The story of the band is uninvolving. There’s no reason to care if the band actually comes together. Part of the problem is the failure to establish any dramatic stakes or to escalate the conflicts. The other part of this problem is Hunter, the dramatic guitarist played by Adrian Greensmith. The actor is not at fault. He does what the script asks him to do which is to be so off-putting that no one wants to be around him, not even the audience. The story intends for Hunter to learn the difference between being metal and being a jerk. That epiphany is never dramatized in an interesting or impactful way. There’s no reason to care if Hunter, Kevin, and Emily ever come together to form a coherent band. As a piece of cinema, Metal Lords doesn’t look very good either. It’s often shot in the style of a television sitcom and does not possess any of the gothic or industrial atmosphere associated with metal bands.
DVD extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Metal Lords is an unimaginative and frequently lazy retread of teen comedy cliches. The central cast are promising young actors but their talents are wasted in a movie that is not metal at all.
Episode: #898 (April 17, 2022)