Musically and visually sumptuous, “It Might Get Loud” is a three-headed, amped-up, guitar-shredding slamdown powered by a pan-generational trio of rock gods — Led Zeppelin vet Jimmy Page, U2’s the Edge and Jack White of the White Stripes — who should cast a spell even in a tone-deaf theatrical marketplace. The brainchild of “The Dark Knight” exec producer (and presumed guitar nut) Thomas Tull, this highly cinematic docu is ostensibly about the cosmic significance of the electric guitar. But like most good movies, it’s mostly about character.
Page is a gentle charmer, his gentlemanly demeanor belying the legendary musical/personal excesses of Led Zep. The Edge, whose Dublin roots are traced with the occasional hilarious glimpse of ’80s hair, is a modest monster. And White, the youngest, most aggressive guitarist takes a page from one of his own heroes, bluesman Son House: He’s all about the attitude. White may be the least technically adept of the three, but he’s clearly the most charismatic.
Following up his Oscar-winner “An Inconvenient Truth” with a decisive shift in pace, tone and rhythm, helmer Davis Guggenheim orchestrates individual bios, technical data and memorable playing (Page’s display of dynamics on “Ramble On”; White’s ability to impose his personality on any $4 guitar he picks up). Sound work is clean and raw, but the look of the film is as important as the music: Guitars are photographed by shooters Erich Roland and Guillermo Navarro with loving attention, their necks burnished by fingers and perspiration, their hardware dulled by sheer exposure, their lacquered bodies reflecting years of tender abuse. If this sounds like guitar porn, it sort of is.
If anything’s missing, it’s a solid statement of why these particular guys are important: The Edge, finishing an arena-sized U2 riff inside his personal, hardware-jammed studio, turns off the effects and reduces his own sound to a fairly anonymous scratch. He does it to make a point — one the film should have made more emphatically — about how (and why) guitarists attain the sounds that set them apart (via unorthodox tunings, electronics, chord inversions, etc.). White explains a bit of this, but a viewer may want to know more about what distinguishes this particular trio, aside from the fact that they appeal to the widest audience and are good onscreen.
“It Might Get Loud” might not have enough of such inside dope to make hardcore guitar-freaks entirely happy, but it does have a surfeit of personality, even virtuosity.