Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Movie Review: Metallica: Through the Never

Metallica: Through the Never
Directed by: Nimród Antal.
Written by: Nimród Antal & Kirk Hammett & James Hetfield & Robert Trujillo & Lars Ulrich.
Featuring: Dane DeHaan (Trip), James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo.

Through the Never doesn’t really resemble the last big screen documentary on Metallica – Some Kind of Monster (2004) – except in one way -  it is impossible to watch either film, and not come away knowing that Metallica have enormous egos. In Joe Berliner and Bruce Sinofsky’s brilliant Some of Kind of Monster (which would make my list of the best rock docs of all time), the massive egos of singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich (not to mention Hetfield’s addiction issues), threaten to tear the band apart during the recording of their St. Anger album (largely considered a disappointment, although I quite like it). Bassist Jason Newsted leaves the band altogether, and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett basically acts like a little kid, straining to keep his parents from getting divorced. While Some Kind of Monster showed the almost destructive nature of their various egos, and painted a very human portrait of the men in the band, Through the Never is the exact opposite – showing off Metallica’s egos by portraying them as (almost literal) rock gods. This IMAX concert film/slash drug fuelled post-apocalyptic nightmare of a film shows Metallica at their best – ripping through a collection of their greatest hits in a massive stadium, with thousands of screaming, chanting fans, and one of the most elaborate stage designs I have ever seen. Both films could have been made about a band like Metallica – whose music, egos and performances are larger than life anyway.

The “story” of the film revolves around Trip (the immensely talented Dane DeHaan – who must be a Metallica fan), a roadie for the group, who early in their massive sold out show is sent out into the city with a gas can to retrieve a truck that has run out of gas and has “something the band needs for tonight”. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that something is not quite right in the city – and he becomes involved in some sort of post-apocalyptic riot, where he makes the massive mistake of pissing off a man riding a horse in a gasmask who is hanging people from lamp posts – and has to fight his way back to the arena, with a mysterious bag, through the raging hordes of people.

These scenes work in a goofy music video kind of way. There isn’t much real story, and less dialogue (the music plays over most of the scenes), and at times the action is an overly literal interpretation of the lyrics to the particular song (for example, during Master of Puppets, the guy on a horse commands his “army” to go after Trip). But as far as big budget music videos go, I’m not sure what else we could realistically expect.

Besides, the heart of the movie is the concert footage of Metallica themselves – performing songs spanning their entire career One, From Whom the Bell Tolls, Enter Sandman, The Memory Remains, And Justice for All, Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, Fuel, Battery, Nothing Else Matters and Hit the Lights are among the songs covered – often with mind boggling on stage props. Director Nimrod Antal (one of those “vulgar auteurs” who got so much attention earlier this year), captures the performances with sweeping camera work. On the IMAX screen, with their great sound, the concert both looks and sounds excellent – if you have any interest in seeing the film at all, do so on the biggest screen possible. . And in case you’re worried that the aging rockers have lost some of their edge, don’t worry – that isn’t the case here. The band rips into their songs with fury – and Hetfield’s trademark growl is on full display. Metallica, to put it simply, still rocks.

The 16 year old in me – who was a huge Metallica fan – loved every minute of this insane concert film, even as the now 32-year old me has to admit that the film is an undeniable vanity project for Metallica. It’s true that to a certain extent, Metallica made this film as an ego boost – perhaps because they didn’t want their last big screen film to be Some Kind of Monster, which showed the rock gods as flawed, egomaniacal and all too human. Another part of the 32 year old me – the father of a two year old, who has had to sit through countless annoying songs by the Bubble Guppies, Backyardians, and countless versions of the Octonauts’ “Creature Report” tune was thrilled to hear this raw, angry music pumped up full blast. In short, I knew much of what I was seeing was more than a little ridiculous, but I loved it just the same. If you love Metallica, than Through the Never is a must-see film. If you don’t – than why the hell are you reading this review anyway?

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