For as long as I can remember, Metallica’s music has been a part of my life. Their impact was at its peak all throughout my high school years. Like many fans will attest, their music and lyrics has a way of speaking directly to the listener on a personal level. Being a bit of an outsider, I was hooked. As unpopular as it may be to admit, I’ve always admired their adventurous side. No matter the ridicule they’ve been bombarded with, the band has always stayed true to themselves. The risk-taking took an all-time high with 2011’s brutally lambasted Lulu, their collaboration with Lou Reed. There’s no other mainstream act that’s dared to take on as may risks as Metallica has. Their documentaries exposed their frailties most artists would never dream of presenting. With all that baggage, most acts would’ve lost their fan-base. Cut to the present; Metallica is still standing strong. Their latest venture, Metallica Through the Never proudly celebrates that.
It’s an unusual hybrid of concert film and narrative. Not since Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker has a major recording artist approached film in such an out-there manner. Set against a backdrop of a Metallica concert, Trip, a young roadie (Dane DeHaan) is sent on an increasingly surreal and hellacious mission to retrieve a mysterious item for the band. The extremely loose plot feels more like an extended music video than anything else. I really dug the setup which creates a perception of Metallica as almost mythological figures, a worshipping fan’s perspective. The larger-than-life imagery (not to mention the native-shot 3D) helps support this cinematically. There are underlining themes that are nicely mirrored with whatever Metallica track the band is performing. Unfortunately the trivial storyline doesn’t really go anywhere significant. Thankfully in the reliable hands of Director Nimród Antal’s (Predators, Vacancy), this surreal adventure is always stylishly attractive to look at and doesn’t bog down the pace too much. Another plus is DeHaan’s completely convincing role as a Metallica fan. Despite the underwritten part, he gives it his full commitment. The unique connection between the band and its fans is perfectly embodied within his performance. If you have any personal connection to the themes being explored in Metallica Through the Never, DeHaan is probably the reason why.
In Antal’s hands, the 3D is never used as an intrusive gimmick. It’s there to draw you in, getting you closer to the Metallica live experience than ever before. He avoids pop-out gags and for the most part, keeping the camera wide to create a fine sense of depth. This is true with both the concert footage and the fictional story. Metallica Through the Never’s gorgeous opening aerial shot is about as good of a tone-setter as you can ever hope for. I also appreciated Antal’s approach to editing. He doesn’t bombard you with cuts, fully aware how it might disorientate the viewer. Images are allowed to linger on which brings out the advantages of 3D technology all the more. If only more filmmakers would use this as a model.
As for the concert itself, the band is in mighty top form. Having the opportunity of seeing the band live on a couple of occasions, it captures the Metallica live experience perfectly. Fans will get a kick out of the ways in which the World Magnetic stage design has been amped up for cinematic effect. There are even some points in which both worlds uniquely meld together. Considering we’re dealing with Metallica, the sound doesn’t disappoint…in fact, it’s damn epic! I had the pleasure of watching this in IMAX and it’s thunderously loud and ass-kicking. It only helps to enhance the imagery all the more. Metallica live has never been better represented than it does here.
There’s not much in the way of appeal for anyone not already converted. If you’re looking for something revealing along the same lines as documentaries Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, this is not it. First and foremost, Metallica Through the Never is a celebration of the binding bond between the band and its loyal fan-base. It’s made for the fans by a fan. Antal has successfully captured what it means to be a Metallica fan as well as given us a damn fine concert film to boot. If you love the band then there’s simply no excuse why you shouldn’t go run out to see this and in the best cinema around.