Rating: 10 / 10 (if you’re a Metallica fan)
Rating: 8 / 10 (otherwise)
During the opening scenes of the new concert / video montage / Anarchy-gone-berserk film Metallica: Through The Never, a young roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan) is making his way backstage before a Metallica show. He first passes singer/guitarist James Hetfield, who glares at him from a flame-breathing hot-rod as he drives by. He walks past lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, who seems only barely perturbed that his guitar is leaking human blood. Trip peers in on bassist Robert Trujillo, warming up and prowling like a freakin’ ape in a small room made up entirely of bass cabs, the vibrations from his playing seemingly tearing the fabric of reality. Finally drummer Lars Ulrich passes Trip by, doing a double-take at Trip as if something isn’t exactly quite right in this universe.
Nothing is quite right with the reality of this movie, which is exactly the tone Metallica and director Nimrod Antal are setting with this extraordinary concert/music adventure movie. Shot for IMAX 3D, Metallica: Through The Never is half concert flick, half music video melange come to life. Over the course of 93 minutes, we witness Metallica live before a Canadian audience while Trip is sent on a mission to retrieve a parcel from a broken-down band truck somewhere deep in town.
What you get out of the film hinges strongly on how much of a Metallica fan you are, but even those with the most fleeting of Metallica exposure might find themselves absorbed the movie’s visionary toolbox. Given the proper presentation — and make no mistake, Through The Never should be experienced in IMAX and 3D — the movie is an entirely immersive experience. There’s a depth and clarity to the cinematography that brings the concert sequences to explosive life. I’ll avoid the easy cliches that espouse such tired platitudes like ‘You feel like you’re onstage with the band!!’ or ‘It’s as if you’re right in the front row at the most epic show of the year!!’ because let’s face it, that doesn’t tell you anything that they haven’t been screaming about concert movies for the past 40 years. Who cares…
What I would say is that the film brings the concert scenes to life in a way that is evocative of vintage music videos of decades past, but in a stark visual style that is emblematic of contemporary cinematic language. Trip’s Odyssean tale makes no narrative sense; there’s no true logic behind it whatsoever. It’s nonsense. On his way to grab the band’s property from the truck, he literally wanders into a Apocalyptic wasteland of destruction, calamity, and woe that exists simply because for the next 90 minutes, it absolutely needs to. Every scene of Trip’s ordeal is punctuated by the necessary Metallica song, one which brings us back to the band performing onstage.
And we’re everywhere during the show. On stage, off stage, backstage, in the pit, in the stands, hovering about and around the band at seemingly impossible angles, Antal directed a beast of a concert feature. His incorporation of visual effects into the live performance adds a level of surrealism to an already off-putting experience, enhancing the pervasive unreality of music video logic even during the “live” concert footage.
And let’s talk about the music. The fifteen song set-list is pretty much boilerplate, providing enough of the most familiar songs to keep the casual listeners interested with a somewhat deeper cut or two for the bigger fans. So yeah, if your little sister’s favorite metal song is “Enter Sandman”, you can bring her along. Eesh. Antal actually does a visual riff on Sandman’s mainstream appeal and overexposure that made me ridiculously guffaw out loud. You’ll know it when you see it.
Again, don’t try to make too much sense with the entire Trip subplot. Don’t try to read anything from it; just roll with it and enjoy where it takes you. The object which Trip is trying to recover is your typical MacGuffin. Remember the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? Same deal. Although if you really want to delve into the identity of this particular Holy Grail — and God help you if you do — they pretty much spell it out for you at the beginning of the movie. Pay close attention to the directions given to Trip. You really want to know what’s in the bag? It’s nothing other than the closing musical number, Orion. Highlight the last bit if you want to know my thoughts, although quite frankly, it’s meaningless.
The 3-D is perfectly utilized throughout the movie. There’s nothing here that is designed to jump out of you through the screen. The filmmakers created a depth of environment that feels genuine, with the express purpose of making this bugf**k universe seem absolutely, tangibly real. While you kinda won’t miss anything seeing this in 2-D — or in a non IMAX theater, for that matter — here’s where I would say the premium is more than justified. It’s an added experience that allows the viewer to become utterly immersed in the film.
Metallica: Through The Never was directed by Nimród Antal, written by Metallica and Antal, and stars Dane DeHaan, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo, and Lars Ulrich, featuring absolutely exquisite cinematography from Gyula Pados. Make a beeline to the next 3D IMAX screening as soon as you can; but even in standard theaters, it’s worth the excursion.