In February of 2017, Black Sabbath returned to their hometown of Birmingham, England to play the final show in their retirement tour. A film crew was there to document the show, get some behind-the-scenes interviews, and even follow the band in the days after the show as they jam together in the studio one more time.

I was looking forward to this, because I love Black Sabbath, but in the end, I feel like the director just chose to go in too many directions. A straight concert movie would have been fine, but this movie only highlighted a handful of songs. A pure interview movie, with the guys talking about their origins and rise to stardom and fall from grace and redemption would have been cliche but still good; here, the cuts to the interviews are disjointed. Trying to balance the "present" of the show mixed with the "past" of the interviews mixed with the "future" of the studio jam just felt like too much.

I give tons of credit for Sabbath for sounding as good as they do, considering they are all near 70. Tony Iommi can still wail, Geezer Butler is still rock-solid, and while Ozzy's voice isn't what it was when he was 20, it's still Ozzy. You'll notice I didn't mention Bill Ward - neither did the damn movie. The only mention was the rest of the band briefly saying "yeah, Bill wanted to play, we wanted Bill to play, but for some reason it didn't work, anyway..." and that was it. I didn't need every bit of minutiae, I didn't need to randomly have Ward pop up and defend himself, but at least addressing the founding drummer for more than 10 seconds would have been nice.

I also had an issue with the editing, cutting back and forth from the concert to the interviews. In most concert films I've seen, the music will fade out and continue to play softly underneath the interviews. For some reason, the editors here just cut the music at a random place, which is totally jarring. They also seemed to insert interview clips at odd moments; when Geezer Butler is talking about the set list and saying "fans still want to hear 'Iron Man', so we play it", the next song should be "Iron Man", not "Snowblind" or something else. There were a few other situations like this that just threw me out of rhythm.

The studio performances, while awesome, also felt somewhat out of place. A few days after the final show, the band got back together to go through some old tunes, ones they said they hadn't played in forty years. It was awesome to see them stripped down, without all the pyro and video screens and giant crowds. To just have Tony & Geezer & Ozzy & the new drummer Tommy in a small room was cool, but it mostly made me question why they weren't doing these songs as part of the tour. They dusted off "The Wizard" and sounded amazing doing so, which just made me wish they didn't save it for the studio.

In a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, I was just left feeling unfulfilled. Each individual part was cool, but putting them all together wasn't enough.

 

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Black Sabbath: The End of The End" a 5 out of 10.

 

 

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