Film review: Metallica Through the Never’s Colin Delaney discovers that ‘Metallica Through the Never’ is epically righteous for fans:

After 32 years on the grind, Metallica have built an epic empire with their music reinforced by a strong visual presence through intense video clips, iconic album art, T-shirts and their logo with the bookended M&A.

It’s had quite the legacy.

But in 2000 when they became embroiled in the Napster controversy something must have clicked because, in that time, they’ve released two records, St Anger and Death Magnetic with a new album in the works for over two years. Instead, over the last decade Metallica have been leveraging their easily identifiable I.P. and a devoted and large fanbase to branch their brand beyond music.

They released a concert film with the San Francisco Symphony in 1999 titled S&M. Followed by the acclaimed documentary Some Kind of Monster in 2004 which portrayed them as soft versions of their former selves, taking group therapy sessions to finish 2003’s St Anger.

And prior to the release of video game Guitar Hero: Metallica in 2009 having already featured heavily in the series’ previous releases, in 2003 the band was developing a game with a greater narrative bent. It was never released, but the conceptual artwork is pretty rad – placing the player in a Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic world… no doubt with a Metallica OST.

Earlier this year and still within the gamers realm, they’ve gone old school with their own pinball machine, following in the footsteps of Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses and Kiss. Whether artistic endeavours or licensing opportunities, it’s smart business for Metallica.

Now they return to cinemas with a vanity project that moves into the third dimension, Metallica Through the Never. Part live concert, part narrative film the whole thing is rock n roll escapism.

As the boys rip through a righteous stadium set with the entire stage floor a video screen and Spinal Tap-esque apparatus rising and lowering from every angle, backstage young roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan – Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) is sent into the city to retrieve a van and its contents. But shit goes pear-shaped for Trip when he’s in a car crash. Suddenly masked gangs fight riot squads before the appearance of horseman of the apocalypse, I’m guessing, who might also be both Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Sandman. Chased through the street, Trip finally has his face off with ‘Sandy’.

From a script perspective, it may suffer from the worst (perhaps best) use of a MacGuffin, and in general the story is pretty weak. It could have been more cohesive in plot while still being ridiculously over the top. Four of the five writers’ credits go to Metallica. They can create a theatre of the mind in their songwriting, but maybe not a tightly woven screenplay. But who cares. It plays like a bad dream, nothing really makes sense as we segue between stage and scene – which was probably Metallica’s intent.

metallica-through-the-never-imax-3d-gi-001Visually, it’s impressive. The narrative parts are shot in high-contrast and hyper-real as Trip tears through the city streets and the 3D is used to acceptable effect. Alternatively, the 3D usage in the concert scenes lack punch. Various props come crumbling down on cue, but not often on us. There could have been some fast zip line camera work, but that too seemed lacking. However, it’s still immersive, whether you’re among the fans or up in Rob Trujillo’s sweaty face.

Musically of course, the band are as tight as ever and cover all their hits from 84’s ‘Creeping Death’ to 08’s ‘Cyanide’. But I’m deep inside a motherfucking metal show and it’s nowhere near loud enough. On leaving the screening I overheard one prominent film reviewer who sits in a lime green arm chair on your telly (if you’re in Australia), and who probably isn’t a Metallica fan say: ‘it was too quiet. I wanted to feel the floor shake under my seat’. So note to all theatres, turn it up to 11, nah, fuck it, 13. It should pound our chests and make our ears ring, if not bleed.

I wouldn’t recommend this to the general public – it’s not for you. Fair-weather fans like myself will enjoy it if they let themselves go for the ride, but ultimately, this film is for the heads; It’s for the teens who’d listen to Ride the Lightning til two in the morn and then shred down their dead town’s main street on their skateboards like kings; It’s for guitar fiends who poured over the Master of Puppets riff in their bedroom till they nailed it; It’s for the goons who’d bang their heads to Lars’ double kick drum in One – over and over again.

Metallica is music to read graphic novels by (there’s another licensing opp, chaps). It’s a release for agitated dudes who’d as much like to sleep with a chick with three tits, as they would swing a battleaxe across their operations manager’s neck. So why should the film be any different? Sit back enjoy the pulp and corn of this vanity project. Let the three-dimensional, unadulterated Metallicaness wash over you, just don’t expect the level of artistic genius that is their musicianship.

Set list: The Ecstasy of Gold // Creeping Death // For Whom the Bell Tolls // Fuel // Ride the Lightning // One // The Memory Remains // Wherever I May Roam // Cyanide // …And Justice for All // Master of Puppets // Battery // Nothing Else Matters // Enter Sandman // Hit the Lights // Orion


Words by Colin Delaney.