“Metallica: Through the Never” is something like the ultimate fan’s concert film. Expense and fire marshals be damned, these gents – James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo – and their extensive road crew put on a show – Tesla coils, lasers, gigantic video-screened coffins, an electric chair, a statue of Lady Justice built on stage (and destroyed).
For nonfans? Perhaps “Tinnitus: The Musical,” fits. If the 3-D glasses don’t give you a headache, the high-energy/higher decibel stage show by the world’s heaviest heavy metal band will pick up the slack.
“Through the Never” is a greatest hits concert set interwoven with a roadie/gofer’s experience of Metallica’s music – anarchy, blood, riots in the streets – as the kid, Trip (Dane DeHaan), is sent from the arena where they’re performing to fetch a truck that’s run out of gas, a truck that holds “something the band needs tonight.”
The kid pops a pill, cranks up his ancient Ford Econoline and drives off into the night. And director Nimrod Antal (“Kontroll,” “Predators”) sees to it that strange things start to happen – dream fugues where Trip thinks he’s floating in water, nightmares where the streets are alive with masked, hooded anarchists battling riot police, all set to the music of Metallica as we cut back and forth from the musical mayhem indoors to the real mayhem outside.
The situation seems ripe, at first blush, for a somewhat humorous misadventure on the order of that KISS movie about the theme park, or “Detroit Rock City” or “ABBA: The Movie.” But Metallica isn’t humorous. These guys are as serious as a heart attack. Which works for them, because wherever else you absorb their music, you “feel” it in your chest – first.
The street stuff is given little screen time, with no dialogue and only a gas-masked horseman and the young gofer’s talismanic rearview-mirror doll as characters. Which is just as well, because whatever message is implied in the violent brawls and chases, it probably means more to those who have memorized the set list and all the lyrics (mostly unintelligible, performed live) therein.
The nine-time Grammy winners cover 30 years of thrash metal success, from “Hit the Lights” and “Enter Sandman” to “Cyanide.” The camera swoops in on their theater-in-the-round stage set and gives us plenty of close-ups and a full dose of their live show’s energetic playing.
But Metallica, here, doesn’t really interact with the audience, doesn’t stray far from its power-chords-played-fast style.
And since the movie’s street side dream doesn’t add much more than a gimmicky “interpretation” of the band’s sound, you’re left with a deafening dirge – well-played, but really, no improvement on your basic concert film.