Review: Metallica: Through the Never (2013)

Metallica: Through the Never

Rating

Director
Nimród Antal
Screenplay
Nimród Antal, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo, Lars Ulrich
Length
93 min.
Starring
Dane DeHaan, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Kyle Thomson
MPAA Rating
R for some violent content and language

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Review
There are two films struggling to escape the clutches of 3D rock concert Metallica: Through the Never. Whether it’s fan allegiance or ego that cause the blended construction, the result is a mixed bag of brilliant imagery and social commentary.

A sold-out concert. An early arrival. The stage is set while our hero Trip (Dane DeHaan) skateboards into the arena carrying a dinner bag for the backstage manager who cautions him to stick around as other tasks may come up. Stepping into the empty stadium, Trip blissfully watches as the seats fill up in slow motion and the band takes to the stage for a concert that will bring the crowd to its feet.

This concert is the driving force behind the film, informing the disjointed narrative interwoven with a 16-song set list that puts forth many of Metallica’s most famous performances. As a concert experience, Through the Never delivers, setting up a series of unique and inspired set pieces that accompany the metaphorical content of their music.

Blood pools across the stage under the ban’s feet during “Creeping Death;” a gigantic chair surrounded by tesla coils takes jolts of energy during the song “Ride the Lightning,” a mimic of that album’s cover art; hapless people buried alive in coffins are on display during a performance of “Cyanide;” a series of lighted military tombstones in the shape of crosses emerge from the floor during “Master of Puppets;” a series of silouetted soldiers march to the song “One” and eventually turn into skeletons; along with many other fascinating and thought-provoking imagery.

Had these been all the film projected, it would have been wholly a success. Not a succes this non-Metallica fan would have been interested in, but a success nonetheless. Interspersed with these, sometimes in tune with the songs being played, sometimes not, Trip takes on the task of taking fuel to a broken down van containing a mysterious package the band must have pronto. As he makes his way through the night streets, a random auto accident on the deserted roadway leads him into a hallucinogenic trip that involves violent protests, a human marionette and a helmeted man on a dark horse who wields a noose and hands people from street lamps.

The narrative portion is a longform “trip” that explores an armageddon-like environment where fear and death are rampant in the streets. Although none of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are represented by the mounted man, his resemblance to death his uncanny. It’s in these scenes that the 3D IMAX experience pops, transporting us into a vivid and visually stunning post-apocalyptic environment. The photography is crisp and energetic and the visual effects are stunning. One scene in particular, near the end of the film on the top floor of a deserted parking garage, more than justifies the 3D experience.

Fighting between two styles muddies a film that had potential for greatness. In 1982, Pink Floyd lead singer Roger Waters was preparing a film of the upcoming album Floyd album The Wall and had intended for a similar approach as Antal and the band members of Metallica adopted: a series of concert footage with a few animated sequences thrown in. After Waters was removed as lead of the film and Bob Geldof put in his place, a new idea took form and with the steady and of director Alan Parker, the brilliance of Pink Floyd – The Wall was born. Had Antal and company focused on the background, post-apocalyptic story set to Metallica’s music, so much could have been accomplished that would have turned this into a brilliant production.

I wonder how much a part ego played in the decision to blend the two elements together, a pair of companion films would have been preferable. Regardless, there’s some stellar imagery at work here and in spite of the failure to see an adequate path other than this, the film ends up mostly successful. Even though I don’t like the music of Metallica in general, a concept film akin to The Wall with Trip as the central figure might have been another musical adaptation I could have considered a masterpiece.

Oscar Prospects
Unlikelies: Everything
Review Written
October 22, 2013

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