The Beatles and Elvis Presley famously incorporated themselves and their music into narrative movies. Other bands have opted to sell concerts or create documentaries about themselves.
Metallica, in Metallica Through the Never, has chosen a different course: a blend of short film and live show, as full of death and destruction as their lyrics.
For the narrative part, Trip (Dane Dehaan), a roadie for Metallica, gets sent on a mission shortly after Metallica’s concert starts, to find a crew van that ran out of gas. The van contains something the band needs for the show. Like any good roadie, he pops a pill before embarking on his quest, and embarks–only to have the world around him transform from a deserted city into an urban nightmare, with riot police and rioters clashing, and a gas-masked horseman hunting him.
That’s about 20 minutes of the movie. The other 70 are solid concert footage presented in IMAX 3D, full of long camera shots highlighting a spectacular stage performance before a to a sold-out crowd. Metallica’s stage is one big screen, and coffin-shaped screens hang above them, running creepy footage of people buried alive.
For his 20-minute short film, Dehaan perfectly embodies the metalhead roadie–drugged, sullen and obsessive. He staggers through director Nimród Antal’s chilling city, wet after a cold rain, where dead bodies hanging from streetlights. It’s beyond creepy.
Musically, Metallica’s riotous songs and unintelligible lyrics are the perfect soundtrack for the nightmare, and the performances sound almost studio in quality. The 24 cameras used to film the live show capture Metallica’s performance brilliantly.
In the end only Metallica fans will really enjoy this movie. And even many fans might dislike the ambiguous ending, with elements reminiscent of Pulp Fiction’s mystery briefcase and Cast Away’s FedEx package.
As for the band, James Hetfield is a great front man, and his vocals and physicality are excellent. On the other hand, bassist Robert Trujillo, who’s been with Metallica since 2003, doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the band. The others sport classic skinny rocker pants and tight shirts. Trujillo hops around like gollum in what looks like mesh shorts.
The trailer and film description sell Through the Never as a drama while in reality it is at best a long music video. The concert is by far the main feature, and it contains a few clear strong points. Those include performances of classics like Ride the Lightning. But for everything the movie, and the band, boasts–3D, supposedly the most elaborate live-performance stage ever built, all the cameras filming the concert–the most memorable moment is when the band puts aside props and pyrotechnics and performs one song without effects–just a few amplifiers, simple lighting, the music and the fans.