Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Directed by: Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
I was never a huge Metallica fan. Despite being a skid throughout most of the 90s, I always found Metallica to be hit-and-miss, a band I couldn�t listen to a full album of, who had cheesy lyrics and boring drumming. To this day I still don�t think their old era any better to their newer stuff. Theres things that are OK, theres things that are good, things that are crap. Whatever. However I am one of those people that went apeshit trashing the band during their famed anti-Napster crusade just a few years back. If the band have any brains at all, they at least secretly regret what they did and know it didn’t make a difference, that it just turned their own fans against them and cost them thousands, maybe even millions, of dollars.
So of course when I heard that there was a Metallica documentary that supposedly showcased the band’s ridiculousness, I was there. Spinal Tap is my favorite movie of all time and a real life equivalent has been a long time coming. In that sense, “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” satisfies. And it gives you a whole lot more.
This documentary, directed by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky of “Brother’s Keeper” and “Paradise Lost” fame, works on many levels and should appeal to a broad audience. Like many great documentaries, it is full of comedy, drama, tragedy, and “wtf?” moments that will surely generate discussion once the movie is over. Its 2001 and Metallica have entered the studio to record their first album of entirely original material in several years. They have what must have seemed a good idea, to show up with no ideas beforehand, no song titles, no riffs, nothing, just jam together in the studio and collaborate in a way they had never done before. At the same time, they are dealing with the quitting of their bass player Jason Newsted, as well as other tension in the band, by hiring a 40,000 dollar a month shrink to deal with their problems.
It is amazing that Metallica, forever trying to be a tough guy band, allowed this footage to be taken, let alone released. Each member exposes several negative traits about themselves, as well as probably does irreparable damange to the image of the band by their words and actions. Singer James Hetfield is clueless to how he’s changed over ten years from regular guy party animal to alcoholic father who takes his kids to ballet practice. As well he can be an asshole at times who can’t resolve problems, often dramatically slamming doors to show off his disdain for the situations he’s in. After going away for rehab for a large portion of the film, he becomes increasingly paranoid about things being done behind his back. Guitarist Kirk Hammett, not that this is new, comes across quite frankly as a closeted homosexual. With this sort of stereotypically gay demeanor and the fact that he’s kind of stupid, he comes away with the best lines in the film. Every word he got in generated laughs. Producer Bob Rock is in the movie as much as the rest of the band, and might as well have been played by Michael McKean of Spinal Tap as he looks, talks and acts the same. Lars Ulrich, what can I say? He’s the ultimate movie villain. A total bitch, self centered, selfish, arrogant. The way the public knows him from the Napster trials is the way he is, ALL THE TIME. There are no redeemable qualities with this man. He’s not even much of a drummer. But he makes for a great movie character, and without Lars, the movie wouldn’t be nearly as fascinating.
The documentary has many surprises and cameos. Lars Ulrich’s father is way more hardcore than he is. Dave Mustaine of Megadeth shows up for some bizarre reason to explain how tortured he is by fans who bring up Metallica instead of his own band. Band members randomly speak in psychobabble relating to their psychiatry and their feelings. Lars discusses the nature of art and then sells some of his own.
For some reason, despite how ridiculous the band come across as, the documentary is certainly no hatchet job. Everything seems to be in proper context with nothing coming across as questionable. The band despite their faults are at most other times likeable and honest, and aware of where the band stands in the current state of music. When it comes to their work they aren�t exactly deluded or claiming to be better than they are. The generic “making of an album” moments that take up a large chunk of the film as well are equally interesting and better than any other ‘making of an album’ piece I’ve seen before.
At 2 and a half hours, for me it flew right by, though I see not everyone exactly agrees. I thought it was tight and didn�t waste any of its minutes. In its investigation of the band, Some Kind of Monster is a more successful psychological analysis of the band than the one they were paying the shrink for. Best documentary of the year to date, and one of the years best films, period. — Goon