Metallica Through The NeverReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/28/13 06:09:48
Once considered the bastard stepchild of both the music and movie industries, the rock concert movies has witnessed a comeback in recent years as acts running the gamut from U2 to Katy Perry to One Direction hitting the big screen with performance films utilizing the miracles of 3D, digital sound and even IMAX to reach audiences who either want to relive the live experience or who couldn't attend the actual shows due to exorbitant ticket prices. The trouble is that even with all of the technological improvements, such films tend to be little more the the cinematic equivalent of a souvenir T-shirt-- hastily slapped-together totems designed to squeeze a few more bucks out of a dedicated fan base by selling them a reminder of an event that already occurred.To that extent, "Metallica Through The Never" deserves some credit for being more ambitious than most films of its type. Instead of simply showing the enormously popular heavy metal band blasting through songs from a career that has spanned over 30 years--one that has survived such low points as the tragic death of original bassist Cliff Burton, tensions among the band members that eventually required the presence of a therapist (chronicled in the 2004 documentary "Some Kind of Monster ") and that hideous album they put out last year with Lou Reed--the group and director Nimrod Antal (the auteur of and "Predators") have instead put together a strange film that combines interweaves performances filmed during a series of shows from the Canadian portion of their 2012 concert tour with a bizarre narrative showing the increasingly apocalyptic goings-on outside the arena.
On the stage, the group--singer James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Robert Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich--prowl a 200-foot-long stage while cranking out an array of their greatest hits amidst a stage show that incorporates a giant statue of Lady Justice that collapses, coffins, a simulation of a Word War II strafing run, videos of maggots and flames bursting through the stage floor at regular intervals. While all of this is going on, sullen roadie Trip (Dane DeHaan, best known as the troubled kid in "Chronicle" and the troubled kid in "The Place Beyond the Pines"), is sent out on a mission to bring gas to a stranded truck belonging to the band that is carrying a bag containing a mysterious and all-important item that the group requires.
Once Trip ventures out into the city, he is quickly plunged into a surreal nightmare featuring blood on the walls, bodies hanging from streetlights and a masked madman roaming the streets on a horse and brutalizing anyone that he happens to come across. Eventually, Trip literally finds himself in the middle of a violent clash between a group of anarchists that look like they are about to Occupy Thunderdome and riot police. As the streets fall into ever-increasing chaos, Trip has to somehow find the trunk, retrieve its cargo while avoiding the cops, the protesters and his horsebacked pursuer and, if possible, get back to the show in time to catch the encore.
Truth be told, I have never been much of a fan of heavy metal in general or of Metallica in particular--when they first hit it big back in my high school days, I was more into The Bangles, if only because their bassist was cuter--so I have to admit that the idea of sitting through a movie featuring their music--in IMAX and 3D, no less--for 90 minutes filled me with more trepidation than usual. However, I have to admit that watching them perform their songs was surprisingly impressive. Sure, the staging is overblown (and owes a little too much to what Pink Floyd did with "The Wall" for its own good at times) and the band's self-imposed isolation from each other for most of the show is a bit disconcerting (though when they do come together at the end for a rendition of their early tune "Hit the Lights," it is the highlight of the show) but they go through their paces with an extraordinary amount of energy and clearly connect with their fans despite the massive scale of everything going on around them. At the very least, it is certainly more interesting than all the nonsense involving the roadie, all of which plays like a series of very weak music videos and has the weakest payoff that one could possibly imagine.Ultimately, "Metallica Though The Never" never quite manages to transcend the concert documentary genre in the manner of such classics as "The Last Waltz," "Stop Making Sense" and "Shine A Light" and it also pales in comparison to such genuinely trippy rock-driven narrative films like "Tommy" and "Pink Floyd The Wall." Those films were so impressively made that even if one wasn't a fan of the musical acts they were based around, one could still appreciate them on purely cinematic terms and that is not the case here.
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