It Might Get Loud Directed by: David Guggenheim Cast: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White Running Time: 1 hr, 37 mins Rating: PG Release August 27, 2009
Plot: A light-hearted documentary about how the electric guitar has remained at the fore front of Rock and Roll music for generations. Three virtuosos [Page, Edge, and White] discuss what's influenced their respective success with 'the axe,' and how their music continues to resonate through the six-strings that first inspired them to write songs in the first place.
Who’s It For? Only for true fans of each said musician. This is not a film that glamorizes Rock and Roll. It simply explains why these ultra-famous guitarists love their art so much. Some of it can get a little preachy, and there are no groupies to be found. If you're into the work it takes to create music that inspires further generations to shred electric guitar, It Might Get Loud is for you. If you're simply into the barbarian-antics of rock stars, steer clear.
Expectations: Will Jack White's eerily pale skin mesh with Page's aloofness? Will The Edge's skull cap drive either of the other two up the wall? Are they going to write a song together? Can Jimmy Page... sing?
Jimmy Page as Himself: Page was more of the quiet leader in Led Zeppelin. Though most of the music was his, his guitar did most of the talking. He's certainly aged gracefully, despite the storied rumors of high excess [both booze, and women] that should have left him crippled and dull by the time he reached retirement age [he's 65]. It becomes evident early on that it was best to allow his Les Paul to answer questions from Rock and Roll's slew of instigators. When he speaks about his love of music, he reminds me of what Bill Gates may sound like describing his World of Warcraft character. He's giddy, childish, even downright funny. He doesn't come across as a pretentious rock star, more a down-to-earth appreciator of the guitar and the doors it's opened for him since he first picked one up. Score: 9
The Edge as Himself: The quiet craftsman of U2 doesn't say much, but he does have a sense of humor buried beneath the dead-pan. Edge isn't the most engaging rock star on the planet, but his stories about U2's early days shed some light on how they came to be the world's biggest band. The story seems to focus more on their story, and he guides them throw it with insightful information about how the band was always ethically minded, rather than solely focused on attaining fame. He's perhaps the least likely guitar-wizard to taunt and audience after melting their faces, but he takes his art seriously, and this becomes painstakingly obvious in the scenes where he's perched in front of his synth-pedals trying to figure out how to make an otherwise mundane riff one of U2's best new hooks. It's revealed that Edge isn't a particularly brilliant guitarist, just an impressive orchestrator of synthetic effects in order to give U2 it's "edge." He's humble enough to admit this, and we are all allowed to let out a sigh of relief in knowing he couldn't continue without the echo-effect-pedal. Score: 7
Jack White as Himself: White is one of today's most prolific Rock and Rollers. He's remained busy despite the fact his most famous band [The White Stripes] has not toured in nearly two years, and his latest project features him behind a drum-set, rather than slinging an axe. White holds his own throughout the film, and it's obvious he's the most thoroughly engaging presence captured on film. His quirks are finally explained, and we can trust these explanations because they are from the man himself. There's a childish wit to the way White approaches a question, and though he won't charm your pants off with his answer, it's deftly obvious he's always being absolutely sincere. The hipster-hats, and obligatory clove-cigarettes aside, Jack White is rock and roll's Godfather at the moment, and if this film accomplishes anything, it's display his development into an icon who can more than hold his own amongst two of the world's most celebrated performers... ever. Score: 6
Talking: The banter between the three is hilarious. They are gracious to each other, but you can tell they're each lead guitarists- There are several moments when you find them stepping over one another to explain their respective interpretation of what makes their guitar-work unique. These are great moments because you don't get three house hold names in the same room to discuss their art like this very often. As Guggenheim segways between each musician's back story, and an on-going/on-stage exchange between the three men, it's obvious they're each well aware of each other's musical prowess, but not to quick to bow their heads without proving their own worth. Score: 8
Sights: In a film that spans the stories of three generations of rock's most prolific guitarists, it's nice to see some file-footage of each riff-slinger, and Guggenheim artfully displays each in his own respective light. White's story is told with an expectedly unique edge--He's featured instructing a younger version of himself how to "tame" the guitar before learning how to wield its power. This is a cute, if not super-hilarious angle that reveals White's let's-not-appear-to-be-taking-this-too-seriously-even-though-we-totally-are approach to rock-super-stardom. Score: 8
Sounds: A given delight. The hits are there, and the three of them actually "jam out" on U2, Zeppelin, and White Stripes tunes. These are profoundly giddy moments in which you'll find yourselves looking over to other audience members to make sure they're realizing how unique a cinematic moment you're all witnessing. The only thing is, you get mere snippets of some of your favorite songs. It's hardly an issue, though. These guys manage to steal the show from themselves by adding a thrilling allotment of insight into what made those songs speak to all of us. Score: 9
Best Scene: This is a film filled with quietly poignant moments. For a documentary, it certainly plays like a deliverer of highly-anticipated repartee between legends. There is one scene in particular where White introduces the riff from "Dead Leaves on The Dirty Ground" to the other two, and the synergy created takes the song on a Hell of a ride. Edge adds a soft textured echo-effect, and Page helps White fill the song out with the bluesy undertow that made Zeppelin the greatest Rock and Roll band of its time.
Ending: This is not a film that relies too heavily on its ending. However, we are escorted from our seats with a nice cover of "Take a Load of Fannie" in which White leads the three of them through an historic interpretation of one of classic rock's golden nuggets. A truly surreal moment that's not soon to be duplicated.
Questions: Does The Edge ever laugh?
Rewatchability: Definitely. It will fit nicely next to my copy on The Last Waltz on my DVD-laden shelf. Do it.
Documentaries are usually made to call attention to an impending issue, or reveal "the story behind the story." It Might Get Loud's very existence may very well be because Davis Guggenheim got lucky enough to convince these tyrants of sonic overload to muse about what drives them to create the "soundtrack of our lives." Whatever the case, this isn't a film that will necessarily change your life, but it will provide an enjoyable presentation of three very different people coming together to discuss the one thing that truly brings them together: Badgering an electric guitar into submission in order to fill entire arenas with music compelling enough to make us fork over $55 to see them perform. But seriously, save a few errant tangents, this is a rare thing: A rock documentary that thoroughly entertains, without becoming too self-conscious/self-indulgent to put us off.. It's presented in such a unique way it will drive you to hope Guggenheim may attempt to assemble more icons together in future films.
Final Score: 7/10