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Russel Hobbs (left), Noodle, 2-D, and Murdoc Niccals of Gorillaz.
Russel Hobbs (left), Noodle, 2-D, and Murdoc Niccals of Gorillaz.
Photo by Jamie Hewlett

Gorillaz Screen Documentary Reject False Icons in Miami Movie Theaters

Gorillaz will soon storm the screens of several Miami movie theaters.

For one night only, the so-called animated band and multimedia project will share Reject False Icons, a documentary delving into the making of the group's most recent records — Humanz and The Now Now — as well as the world tours in support of them. The film was shot over the course of three years and includes appearances from collaborators such as Pusha T, Danny Brown, and Vince Staples. Gorillaz is known for its collaborative nature, and the movie is poised to give the most in-depth look yet at how the band has spent roughly two decades wrangling a variety of creatives to bring its semifictional world to life.

South Florida fans of the art-pop virtual band can catch Reject False Icons at AMC Sunset Place, AMC Aventura, and Regal South Beach. Tickets are already on sale, and the film will screen around the world Monday, December 16. The film was directed by Denholm Hewlett, the son of Gorillaz cocreator and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett.

At least on paper, Gorillaz comprises singer 2-D, bassist Murdoc Niccals, drummer Russel Hobbs, and Japanese guitar prodigy Noodle. The characters hog the spotlight, while the purported humans behind the project — Jamie Hewlett and musician Damon Albarn — stand in the shadows. Although an array of artists has contributed to Gorillaz over the years, Albarn — who also fronts the Britpop band Blur — and Hewlett have been the only consistent so-called members of the band for the duration of its existence.

The trailer for Reject False Icons seems to indicate viewers will see more of the human aspect of Gorillaz and what makes it tick rather than developing the narrative that's been built around its characters through music videos, irreverent interviews, and even a hardcover book detailing the band's supposed story.

The documentary might be the only way South Florida fans can get their Gorillaz fix for a while. The bandmates performed in Miami for the first time only two years ago, when they headlined the 2017 edition of III Points. (It should be noted the visit inspired the song "Magic City" on the album The Now Now.) Albarn has also claimed Gorillaz will probably not tour until 2028, although it wouldn't be the first time he made fantastic claims that ultimately proved untrue. Last year, he told the Toronto Sun that the theoretical decade-long hiatus would be designed to even out the unusually short period between 2017's Humanz and release of The Now Now the following year.

The name of the documentary comes from a slogan the bandmates share in the video for their 2004 song “Rock It.” The second half of the full phrase — “Respect false icons, reject false icons” — became particularly popular among Gorillaz fans. The message? Respect art, music, and other forms of media, but not to the point of obsession and unwarranted idolization. There's no need to see performers and artists as gods, especially when they're immaterial beings. Gorillaz was inspired when Hewlett and Albarn watched disposable music videos on MTV in the late '90s and concluded a virtual band designed to subvert the expectations of rock stardom and excess would be more compelling than any of the "real" stuff they saw on television. In the years since, Gorillaz has repeatedly implored its audiences to think for themselves rather than unquestionably digest mainstream detritus.

The idea of "reject false icons" has defined the band since its inception. Thanks to Hobbs, Noodle, 2-D, and Niccals, Albarn and Hewlett minimized the potential for fans to become obsessed with the people responsible for Gorillaz. After all, when a band is fronted by cartoons, anybody could be making the magic happen. What matters isn't who makes the music but how the music moves and inspires listeners.

Although Gorillaz devotees might long to see more bombastic, bizarre antics from the best-known members of the band (the ones who star in the music videos), Reject False Icons may wind up kindling a stronger human connection between Albarn and Hewlett and their unwitting fans. Everyone has always known someone's vocal cords are supplying 2-D's signature cadence, but it's comforting to see the very real blood, sweat, and tears poured into making Gorillaz possible.

The virtual bandmates may occupy their own reality, but their universe says just as much about our world and how we navigate it as any of the best live-action works of art. Let's hope that, even as Reject False Icons shows us more of Albarn and Hewlett than ever before, we'll leave with a greater appreciation of 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, Russel Hobbs, and the choices that go into bringing them to life.

Reject False Icons. 7 p.m. Monday, December 16, at AMC Sunset Place and Regal South Beach and 7:30 p.m. at AMC Aventura.

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