DIR: Nimrod Antal
STARRING: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet, Robert Trujillo, Dane DeHaan
Blu – Ray
No one can ever accuse Metallica of resting on their laurels. Their output over the last twenty plus years may have been erratic, but they have always pushed their own boundaries and defied expectation. So the announcement that they were making a feature film didn’t surprise me as much as it might have. With Through the Never they attempt to give the traditional concert film a new spin by adding a narrative to proceedings and framing the show as part of a wider story arc. It’s a brilliant idea in theory and offers scope for something truly exciting. At its best Metallica’s music is heavy, and thoroughly cinematic, so partnered with the right story this could truly have been something epic. However, in practice it is a bit of a mixed bag, not quite materialising as the cinematic fusion the band had probably hoped for.
Through the Never is the story of Trip; a young fan boy roadie who finds himself sent on an errand to collect something that the band need. He takes a strange pill and sets off on his journey. He soon finds himself at the centre of a riot and becomes embroiled in a surreal dystopian nightmare. In order to get back to the show he must face his fears and fight his way back through the violence. All the time this is happening Metallica perform a set of epic proportions; some of the events on stage mirroring Trips journey through the city.
It’s a great set up for something exciting and the early moments show some promise. As Metallica take to the stage it is immediately apparent that this isn’t a traditional concert film. Having a feature film maker’s eye and a feature film budget mean that the camera is allowed to go places it can’t normally go, so the concert footage is absolutely superb. Metallica have spared no expense on the stage show either which goes beyond spectacular.
It moves smoothly into the story to start with as the camera swoops up through the crowd finding Trip shouting passionately along to ‘Creeping Death’. But once he leaves the arena the movie’s shortcomings become apparent. The problem is quite a simple one: Trip’s story isn’t particularly interesting and adds very little to proceedings. During the making of documentary one of the producers is adamant that this is not a concert film. She insists it is a narrative film with concert elements. She’s wrong; very wrong. Through the Never’s fundamental flaw is that it is a concert film with narrative elements meaning that the ‘story’ distracts from what is a truly amazing Metallica show.
But that isn’t to say it is a total failure. Whilst the story itself isn’t particularly engaging there are some nice visual flourishes. At around the half-way point the music and the movie start to sync up quite nicely and there are some cool moments as Trip sinks deeper and deeper into trouble. Metallica fans will love the way it matches up the now famous ‘Enter Sandman’ stage collapse with Trip’s actions outside the venue. Dane DeHaan (from the great Chronicle) deserves some credit as well. He manages to give Trip more personality than the script does and, in what is essentially a silent role, gives it an emotional centre that stops it from being totally pointless. Ultimately, the intentions here are noble, and there is a lot for fans to enjoy. There are sly nods to Metallica’s history peppered throughout and it is clear that director Nimrod Antal (Predators) knows and loves Metallica. As a story it wants to play as a tribute to the lengths fans will go to be a part of the Metallica experience, and Metallica clearly want it to be a bit of a love letter to their fans. But it isn’t quite brave enough to go the whole distance and is a little afraid of its own ambition.
The disc itself is a must buy for fans. You get the Blu-Ray and the 3D Blu-Ray in one for a decent price. Not being much of a fan of 3D I have only watched the 2D version but can honestly say I don’t think 3D would change the experience at all. The image quality is absolutely top drawer, and is one of the nicest looking Blu-Rays I have ever seen. As for special features, there are interviews and festival panel videos as well as trailers and ‘Master of Puppets’ uninterrupted as a live music video. But by far the best reason to buy this is a making of documentary that, in true Metallica style, doesn’t pull any punches.
Anyone who has seen the ‘Some Kind of Monster’ documentary will be aware of how candid Metallica can be, and this making of goes beyond the usual overblown sales pitch. Metallica allow every part of the process a look in, and it is particularly interesting to see producers argue over the budget. Financially Metallica have made a loss on this as it died a quick death at the box office, and it is fascinating to see how everything unfolded in the films pre-production, especially when the band are constantly pushing for bigger and crazier things. What is a shame is that there is no option to watch the concert without the film elements, especially as the shows were longer than the film would allow.
In the end Metallica fans are going to want this. It’s a good package and is a genuine curiosity for those that love the band. Whether or not you feel Metallica are being overly self- indulgent, or that they are just trying to push the envelope a little more this is something a bit different for the committed fan.