One can’t really go wrong with a band movie. If films like This Is Spinal Tap, Almost Famous, Bandwagon and (dare I say it) Rock On!! have taught us anything, it’s that sticking a guitar, bass, mic stand and drumkit in a feature film is as much a formula for success as robot machines that can take the form of helicopters and mutant spiders. Perhaps I exaggerate, but it is an undeniable fact that stories about bands usually make for much interesting viewing on big screens. It is the larger than life persona of the rock star stereotype that draws us to these features in the same way as the entire viewership of Entourage.
And then we have bands that film live performances. The art of the live performance video is a delicate one. On the one hand, it has to adequately recreate the atmosphere of being present at the music venue, and on the other, it has to represent the performance itself as more than just a collection of songs played live.
Flight 666 treads the path between these two. It has a story – an innovative world tour by an ageing band hoping to regain old fans and charm new ones. And this story is fashioned using live performance footage from the band’s Somewhere Back In Time World Tour, where the band played 23 shows in 21 countries around the world. It aims to transcend the line between storytelling and documentary; one that, in this case, is something it rather clunkily achieves.
At its core, the film is a fan fest. The band get on board Ed Force One, a specially modified Boeing 757, flown by lead singer Bruce Dickinson himself, and travel to a variety of locales across the globe to give Maidenheads (a term surprisingly accepted by MS Word) a taste of material from the band’s glory days catalogue. For a band that’s been around over 30 years, the feat itself is admirable. And the fans duly respond. Make no mistake – the physicality of it all is pretty remarkable, and Iron Maiden makes it a point to rock the socks off every one of the thousands of adoring masses. But does this translate to engaged viewing for an hour and 52 minutes? Unfortunately, no.
About 30 minutes in, the scheme of things becomes apparent – screaming fans at airport, screaming fans in queues outside stadium, screaming (and sweaty) fans inside stadium, screaming fans at end of show. After about five to six (or 15, if you’re that big a fan) repeats of this procedure in different cities, the plot wears very thin. Where the film engages is in the homages to fandom – like the priest in South America with Iron Maiden tattoos all over his body – and the interludes of the band doing non-music things. But these instances are, unfortunately, few.
Flight 666 would’ve worked great as a (much shortened) DVD extra to a live concert performance. On the big screen though, the film only satisfies the most ardent of fans, many of whom you will spot in the footage itself.