It Might Get Loud

Stairway to Heaven, Indeed


Starring: Jimmy Page, Jack White, The Edge

By Robert Patrick

Jack White sits in the backseat of a car, staring at the images pass by. People and objects become frequent blips in his peripheral, as they appear, blur, then disappear; the whole act is like an urban kaleidoscope. A smile curls on his lips, giving way to a flash of teeth. “When you get the three of us together, what’s going to happen?” he asks, jovially, as he readjusts himself in the seat. “Probably a fist fight.” These words, so indicitive of the rock-n-roll spirit, are about director Davis Guggenheim’s documentary It Might Get Loud, in which three of music’s most innovative artists talk about their weapons of choice, the electric guitar, and how they made it a malleable tool of expression. The artists in question are Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge. The three eccletic musicians have made indelible marks on the history of rock, especially in the area of reinventing the sound of the Les Paul guitar.

Page, who has become a sort of rock-n-roll demigod, is the man behind Led Zeppelin’s ornately theatrical guitar work. His hands flutter across the strings of a guitar, creating imagery that sprouts from some of the most famous finger calouses on the planet. White, on the otherhand, is plucked from a modern cache of rockers. Looking like a caricature of Johnny Depp from a Tim Burton picture, White stutter-steps around, pensively, between creating some of the most modernly impressive riffs in popular music – he even, in the early parts of the film, stitches together a guitar out of a Coke bottle and a plank of wood. It Might Get Loud portrays White as a rock virtuoso; a man who dresses like an 18th century mortician, all while hammering out bluesy, electric solos. The last musician on It Might Get Loud’s billing is The Edge, the distortion weaving guitarist from U2. And while he doesn’t bring as much of an interesting contribution to the movie as the aforementioned musicians, he is still a semi-interesting cog to the movie’s impressive mechinery.

The dynamic of the film relies on the frenetic powerhouses meeting, discussing music, then playing an apocalyptic jam session before the credits roll. The three musicians gab together, for an excessive amount of time, before playing each others songs. The whole thing would be borderline mastabatory if it weren’t for the permeating sincerity, interest, and enthusiasm shown by the musicial magnates involved in the project. The movie seems more like a love note to each other, than, lets say, themselves. The artists’ round table is isolated, save for candles, some serpentine wires, and a drumroll of wry smiles from its inhabitants. The guitars themselves are worshipped by the movie’s participants, as the three musicians seem to consult the objects as if they were the Oracle of Delphi, telling them their past, present, and future. For music lovers, It Might Get Loud will be worth the price of admission for the candid campfire conversations. Page visits locations where Led Zeppelin recorded, telling the viewer informative stories about the band’s creative process. Jack White dusts off his collection of old LPs, whirling them for all to see, then plays one or two of them, smiling like an excitable schoolboy as he shares the songs in which inspired him to become an artist. The Edge’s confessionals are far less intriguing, however, and lack the unabridged kind of openness that the prior artists enjoy. White performs an exhilerating guitar solo until his fingers bleed. Page bluntly addresses queries about his life as a songwriter. The Edge simply meanders about, saying roughly nothing, for most of his screentime. The latter sequences should’ve been hacked into pieces, as they serve as nothing but rickity intermissions to the other artists’ stories.

It Might Get Loud behaves like a spruced up VH1 documentary, funded by a producer who is best friends with the guitar gurus in question. And sometimes the testimonials by the musicians get a little long in the tooth, which slows the pacing of the film down, but the film still succeeds for the most part. Rock enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the onslaught of live footage; the unrestricted access to some of the genre’s best artists; and the incendiary finale of all three guys playing together.

It Might Get Loud wont see a cavalcade of awards, but it is an amiably directed feature, made by a director who has an affinity for music. It also serves as a great eulogy to Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, who passed away just weeks before the release of the film. For those interested, it’s a worthy time investment.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *