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METALLICA: THROUGH THE NEVER (2013) review

October 8, 2013

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written by: Nimród E. Antal and Metallica

produced by: Charlotte Huggins

directed by: Nimród E. Antal

rating: R (for some violent content and language) 

runtime:  93 min.

U. S. release date: September 27, 2013 (a limited week-run in IMAX) and October 4, 2013 (wide) 

 

I think Metallica takes WAY too much crap.

I certainly don’t love everything they do, and, yes, they’re thirty years, and multiple millions of dollars, from the greasy-faced kids that cranked out Kill ‘Em All in 1983. You can read multiple online rants about how they’ve lost the “fire” that drove their early work. That’s probably true, but, folks, you can’t be 20 years old forever, and if you try to, you end up a giant act of fakery like David Lee Roth.

The trick is to find a new kind of fire.

They aren’t those kids, nor should they be. Too many years, deaths, arguments and dollars have passed. One can mock and criticize them for standing up to illegal downloading, making a documentary about their group therapy sessions, the resulting chaotic, ugly album, or creating art-house rock with Lou Reed. To be clear, much of the criticism would have valid points, but I would also ask how many major, world-renowned music acts would do those things? Would take those risks? Very, very few, and frankly, the vehemence and unreasonable nature of the criticism the band has endured probably has more to do with fans who can’t get past not being who they were in 1983, rather than a band who’s run out of ideas.

 

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I am nowhere near the rabid fan I was for many years, but I will always be interested in what singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo do. They’ve given me enough enjoyment, excitement, and straight-ahead anger management that I figure I owe it to them to give a fair listen to what’s turning them on, rather than just demanding they hew to my vision of what Metallica should be.

I don’t have to like everything, and I haven’t, but I get it. I get the desire to create, and not be placed in a box, forbidden from exploring anything outside of a rigid fan’s desire.

So, Metallica put up a bunch of their own money, and made a movie. “Metallica: Through the Never.” It played exclusively in IMAX 3D at select locations for a week, and went wide on October 4th. I managed to make it to the Navy Pier IMAX last week to check it out in full IMAX 3D glory.

For the most part, “Through the Never” is a pretty straight-ahead concert film. There is a “narrative,” of sorts that plays out as the concert goes on. With Dane DeHann playing Trip, a Metallica roadie sent into a nightmare city of revolution and violence to procure, and return, a special item needed by the band. Really, this whole element of the film is complete hooey, and I mean that not as a criticism.

The band didn’t want to just do a concert film, citing Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same,” with its fantasy sequences starring each member of the band. Metallica, probably wisely, based on the Zeppelin example, felt they should not be directly part of these sequences. Trip travels through a series of surreal episodes tied to each song the band plays, as well as the concert staging, giving the entire enterprise the feel of a giant music video. Sometimes this works perfectly, the sequence around “Cyanide”, from 2008’s Death Magnetic, is legitimately creepy and disturbing, not just for the surreal landscape of hanging bodies Trip walks through, but the video imagery of people finding themselves sealed alive into coffins that surrounds the band as they play.

 

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It’s these moments when the narrative really works, even if it makes not a lick of sense. Trip’s journey is illogical, with the character apparently dying at least twice during the film. However, Director Nimrod Antal (“Predators“) effectively sets up the entire world he’s operating in as wildly dreamlike and surreal, even before Trip leaves the arena. The introduction of each band member, as Trip first sees them, play as weird jokes (My favorite being Hammett conferring with a tech about a damaged guitar that is gushing blood).

So, yeah the entire narrative is silly and rife with heavy metal horror movie cliché. Never bothered me, because the film knows what it is up to. It’s more than happy to poke fun, as with the “first in, last out” screaming uber-fan who opens the film. When the film and filmmakers know that this is all sizzle for the steak, I can roll with that.

Because the steak is so good. Antal’s cameras are everywhere in the arena as the band plays. At several points you see the crews dodging flashpots, and band members, on the stage to get up close. When the advertising says that you’ll best seat in the house, it’s not hyperbole, the cameras are literally inches from the band members, and the audience.

It’s also a really effective use of both the IMAX format, and 3D. As with most of my favorite 3D films, the effect isn’t Count Floyd poking something at you moaning, “scary, scary,” but a sense of depth and actually being in the arena. Frankly having a wall of people behind the band in nearly every shot really helps. Not to mention that the IMAX format makes all those people, and the silly things people do at concerts, very, very clear.

The spectacle of the whole thing is also tied to the truly amazing stage set the band had constructed for these shows. Featuring props and gimmicks from throughout their career. It was kind of amusing to see things like “Doris” the lady justice statue from the “…And Justice For All” tour constructed and destroyed just like the old days. Each new prop and bit brought back memories for me.

As pure spectacle, the film is well worth the money. If you want to hear the band sound spectacular in full surround sound, it’s worth the money.

It’s worth the money.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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