Probably the only thing these four musical acts have in common is that they each have their own feature-length theatrically-released concert film.
Well that and butterfly tattoos. Maybe. Probably not.
Metallica: Through the Never deviates from the familiar concert-doc formula of song/backstage footage/interview/ repeat with a dark and surreal narrative about a roadie’s dangerous mission intertwined with the live footage.
I must start off by divulging the fact that I am a full-fledged, card-carrying, horn-throwing, combat-boot-kicking lifelong Metallica fan. I’ve seen them live so many times that I don’t even know the exact number. Because when Metallica comes to town (or a town 14 hours away on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium), you go. Even after the numerous “sellout” cries (anyone old enough to remember the “controversy” when they… cut their hair?), Napster, St. Anger, and that weird Lou Reed thing, their intense live shows have kept fans loyally filling up arenas for over three decades with no end in sight. Anyone who has seen them knows that with Metallica, it’s more than just a concert, it’s an experience.
Through the Never is probably the closest a person can get to being at a Metallica concert without actually going to one. But at the same time, it’s an experience all its own that can’t be duplicated even with a front row ticket and a VIP laminate. Director Nimród Antal (Predators) uses 3D technology in refreshingly innovative ways that never feel gimmicky. The viewer is transported from the front row, to being on stage with the band, to flying overhead. After awhile I forgot that I was watching a 3D film and just felt inside it all – which is pretty much the best thing you can say about 3D.
It’s fitting that a Metallica concert film would be in IMAX, since their music is so gargantuan it seems like the only acceptable format that could attempt to do it justice (for all). And the sound is absolutely flawless- as loud, powerful, and tremendous as classics like the opening “Creeping Death” deserve to be heard. The band is tighter than ever making it hard to believe these guys are either over or pushing 50. (And is it me or does James Hetfield seem to curiously have a case of Benjamin Button syndrome?) More importantly, even after all these years, it’s clear that they still love what they do and brutally pour every fiber of their being into each and every song.
The soundtrack is wisely comprised of fan favorites with the majority of the songs from the first five albums, though one of the best moments in the film is during “The Memory Remains” (off 1997’s ReLoad). The song isn’t one of my personal favorites, however when the band stops playing mid-point and lets the audience yell the sing-songy hook while they stand in genuine awe absorbing it all (even though they surely have already hundreds of times), it’s goosebump-inducing since we, the audience, get to experience it from their perspective.
In addition, the massive stage, which takes up nearly the entire floor of the venue is insane: video screens at every angle, tons of pyro, and gigantic props in tribute to their album covers. Antal makes the most of this and there are some wonderful 3D sequences involving the stage itself.
Cut in between the concert footage is a storyline involving a young roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan resembling a young Leonardo DiCaprio circa The Basketball Diaries) who is given a mission to find a truck that has run out of gas (apparently, like Napster, Metallica, doesn’t care much for Triple A). On that truck is a very important bag containing an item vital to the band that Trip must retrieve. Seems easy enough, but Trip soon learns while out on his quest through the literal never that it is anything but. An all out apocalypse is brewing between a gang of rioters and police (and it’s way cooler than the one in The Dark Knight Rises).
There’s also pretty scary gas mask-wearing dude on a horse.
These scenes play out like a fever nightmare and coincide with the songs played inside the arena which enhance the dark themes of the music. Again, the use of 3D is inventive and effective.
Despite having virtually no dialogue, DeHaan delivers an intense performance that competes with the one Metallica gives onstage. The young actor was a perfect choice for the role and his is definitely a career to watch.
For Metallica fans, this is a must-see. For others who may not be that familiar with the band’s music, it’s still a really cool 3D experience. It is, however, first and foremost, a concert film, so if your knowledge of Metallica’s catalog only consists of “Enter Sandman” (which, of course, is in there), it’s probably not the best choice for you.
Take a drink: Whenever there’s an overhead shot of the drums.
Take a drink: Every time a noose is onscreen.
Take a drink: Every time the mysterious bag is shown.
Take a drink: Whenever the audience chants/sings along.
Take a drink: Whenever there is an accident (during the concert or Trip’s journey.)
Take a drink: If you’ve ever been to a Metallica show where they did the “fake accident” stunt.
Take a shot: Whenever you see a shirtless audience member who really should be wearing a shirt.
Last call: Definitely stick around for the last song that plays over the credits. It’s a scaled-down touching tribute to the late Cliff Burton. We also get one more chance to find out what’s in that bag.