The members of Metallica have had a well-documented, successful 32-year career as musicians. In their concert film, titled Through the Never, they move into the realm of screenwriting. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet, and Robert Trujillo, alongside director, Nimród Antal construct a confusing and weak apocalyptic plot wrapped around personal, intense concert footage. The overall product proves that Metallica should stay on the stage and leave screenwriting to just about anyone else.
The plot involves a young roadie, played by Dane DeHaan, being sent to retrieve a bag for the band from a broken down delivery van. As he makes his way through the urban landscape, strange things begin to occur. He gets into a car accident, walks into the middle of a police riot, and becomes the target of a gas-masked killer on horseback.
While all of this is occurring Metallica is putting on a blockbuster performance for a sold out arena. This portion of the film emphasizes the band’s showmanship and musical skill. The band covers songs that any Metallica fan could hope for in a concert. The set list ranges from early work like “Creeping Death” and “Hit the Lights,” and classics like “ For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “One,” “Enter Sandman,” and “Master of Puppets.” To emphasize the intensity of the performance, Antal employs immersive camera angles that bring the viewer onto the stage and directly into the performance.
The stage design used for this film is amazing and proves Metallica spared no expense to impress their fans. As the plot and concert develop, everything from Tesla coils, an electric chair, coffins with digital victims struggling to escape, a crumbling Lady Justice statue, massive pyrotechnics, and lasers supplement the hard-hitting music.
This is where the entertainment ends, however. The inlaid apocalyptic plot of Through the Never is choppy and confusing to a point that it becomes distracting. The viewers may find themselves question the role the narrative plays within the concert. It is clear that the carnage occurs simultaneously as the concert, yet it is never clear whether the young roadie is on a drug trip or if the world is really crumbling into anarchy. To further the confusion strange things occur within the concert. Hetfield’s microphone goes out, a robotic lighting fixture malfunctions, and eventually the entire stage display falls apart. While most of the concert is entirely unaffected by the events outside the arena, these moments try to create a reminder that there’s a larger narrative occurring. Unfortunately, the plot just distracts from the performance.
People looking for a cohesive narrative set to the music of Metallica, like The Who did with Tommy, or even a concert enmeshed with bizarre fantasy sequences, like Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, will be sorely disappointed. Die-hard fans of the band will enjoy the intensity of the performance and the crisp visuals provided by the IMAX 3D format the movie is shot in. Overall, this film is not worth the exorbitant IMAX 3D ticket price.