For something that started as a cartoon side-project, Gorillaz have proved remarkably enduring. Eighteen years on from their self-titled debut (seven million sales and counting), Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s make-believe musicians – Noodle, Russel, Murdoc and 2‑D – have been busier than ever: releasing two full-lengths in recent years, Humanz (2017) and The Now Now (2018), and travelling the world on a 53-show tour.
All of which begs the question: given the genuine innovation of the project (and being the most successful virtual band ever) why have Gorillaz fallen into the trap of the same old doc’n’roll clichés with this big-screen feature?
Gorillaz: Reject False Icons is a one-night-only, fly-on-the-wall look into the making of Humanz and The Now Now, as well as into the Albarn and co’s touring across Asia, Europe and Latin and North America. But that’s exactly what it is: a sneak peek rather than the deep dive that, almost two decades into their “life”, fans would have relished.
Jamie’s son, Denholm Hewlett, is the director of Reject False Icons. Being the boss’s kid might mean he got better access than most – or it might mean a safe, tactical move for a duo who have largely hidden behind their characters since 2001.
It is, unfortunately, the latter. Reject False Icons is caught uncomfortably between an all-access music doc and concert film. It’s exactly what you’d imagine being on tour with Albarn and Hewlett to be like: boyish banter, chain-smoking and some sweet acoustic guitar moments thrown in for good measure.
By around the 30-minute mark the rotating carousel of studio laughs, sessions and concert clips becomes tiresome, particularly given the lack of the character’s involvement – its main USP. There are only so many times you can watch a room of like-minded blokes burst out laughing before you crave something other than gags and cosy chats. Like its black-and-white format, Reject False Icons lacks a significant amount of colour.