In order to enjoy “Metallica Through the Never,” you really have to like Metallica. I mean really like them. Does this go without saying? Probably, but other than the band’s music and an incredible stage show there is very little else to recommend here. Any attempt at a deeper film is completely lost in all the riffs and drumbeats.
The band and director Nimród Antal try to tell a story here, but it’s about as deep as a kiddie pool. We meet a young roadie played by Dane DeHaan backstage, where he briefly encounters each member of the band before they go on stage. They break into “Creeping Death,” and DeHaan is right there with the crowd in Vancouver, BC, raising his fist in the air and chanting when he is pulled away by the stage manager. There is a van stuck on the other side of the city, the manager says. You need to go there and pick up a package in the van and bring it back. DeHaan takes off, and as the band plays on we see him travelling the city, encountering riots, anarchy, some very cool gore scenes, and a masked hangman on a horse. "Through the Never" cuts between this story and the band blasting through some of its biggest hits.
The concert footage and stage setup are incredible. The song selection spans the band's career, from “Kill ‘em All” to “Death Magnetic.” I particularly enjoyed the aforementioned “Creeping Death,” and “…And Justice For All.” And even though I own a few different live versions of “Master of Puppets” it’s always a strong tune.
What makes this a film worth seeing is the stage setup. Metallica has constructed a massive stage in the round with several microphones for “Through the Never,” allowing members to roam around and sing. There is a massive statue of liberty constructed that collapses, and video screens that rise and fall. For “Cyanide,” we see a video of people being buried alive pounding to get out of their coffins; for “One” we see soldiers marching to their death. All very effective imagery. And 3-D means we can see James Hetfield’s spit fly as he screams “Battery!” It’s all very cool stuff.
But for all their skill writing music and putting together an impressive show for concertgoers, Metallica can't put together a cohesive film to accompany the music. The scenes with DeHaan are cool and gory, but they make no sense. With no backstory and no dialogue, the “movie” part of “Through the Never” has the depth of music video images (this is somewhat ironic, as for a good deal of the eighties Metallica was known as the band who wouldn’t release any videos for their music). What are we to make of these violent images? Are they interpretations of Metallica’s music? Are they a weird drug trip DeHanne goes on (we see him down a pill at the beginning of his adventure)? We’re just not sure. “Metallica: Through the Never” is a great concert film, but doesn’t raise to any more than that. Too bad.
One last comment, I saw “Metallica: Through the Never” at 1pm on a Sunday, and I was the only one in the theater. While it was cool and kinda felt like they were playing just for me (and it let me air guitar freely and cry out “Time marches on!” during “For Whom the Bell Tolls”), it doesn’t bode well for the future of this film in the theaters. If you want to check it out in 3-D you may want to act fast.