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Articles : Metallica: Through the Never (Movie review)

By on January 28, 2014

Metallica; you know the name, you know the music and whether or not you are a fan of them one has to admit that the Metal world would be an entirely different place without them. You can ask anybody, metal head or no, about Metallica and they’d be able to name at least one of their songs; they are that well known. That said, it is not many bands that can claim a 30+ year career with significant highs and rather embarrassing lows and still be relevant today.

You know their history; you know the news and have, no doubt, your own opinions of them; which leads me to the subject at hand: Metallica: Through The Never. When I had first seen a promotional poster of this I thought “What the hell is this? Are Metallica pulling a Stop Making Sense (Look it up) and releasing a theatrical concert thing?” I couldn’t find much info on it, whether it was a concert, a movie or a documentary; which wouldn’t have surprised me, after all this is not the first time Metallica have had eyes on them outside of video clips. Let us not forget Some Kind of Monster, and the legendary A Year and a Half in The Life of… parts 1 & 2. It came to me as quite the shock to discover that Through The Never was to be a hybrid of both theatrical film and live concert. Sure Led Zeppelin attempted something similar with The Song Remains The Same (Which contains the single best recorded version of Stairway that they ever did), but it was still quite a stretch; after all, how does one begin to review something like that?

Well, it has been some time since I have actually reviewed a movie (I once wrote for a site in that vein; a dude with spectacles was involved), and for it to share the screen alongside the already impressive stage shows that Metallica are capable of? Challenge Accepted!

Coming to us from late 2013, Metallica and Nimród Antal (Director of Predators and the underrated Kontroll) have attempted to bring us a true amalgamation of concert and theatre. Again, as I mentioned, Metallica are no slouches when it come to putting on a good show; there are a number of Live Concert performances where this is evident, but with the notion of a narrative in the mix? Things are sure to get interesting.

The film begins inauspiciously, with a panning overview of a city, settling in over an arena; where a lone fan pulls up out front, steps out of his car and yells “METALLICA!” I’m not even kidding. I’ll admit it made me laugh but if this was the tone the movie was going to set then I was probably going to hate the rest. Enter Trip (Played by Dane DeHaan), the “Protagonist” of the film; thought you probably wouldn’t know that because I don’t think he is ever called by name once. Here begins the opening to the film, which was beginning to annoy me, as it was reaching the 5 minute mark and not a single opening credit was in sight; from here we have the standard fare, each member of the band is introduced and the interactions that are shared with them and Trip, which is to say little-to-none at all.

It was at this point I thought I was staring into the gaping, ugly maw of the ever-accursed Vanity Project! The kind of thing a band or artist does to glorify themselves with little to no pretext or subtext. However, that doesn’t last long as from when Ecstasy of Gold starts and Trip enters the arena, things start to take a clear, and very pleasant, turn. The tracking shot of Trip walking in as the stadium slowly fills is an impressive little scene; upon seeing it you can tell that this is going to be something different.

Metallica erupt with Creeping Death, with a huge amount of energy and aggression, and it is now that the film grabbed my full attention. This is Metallica at their finest (not best, but finest; there is a distinction, upon which I shall elucidate later) with the song played as fast, but perhaps not quite as heavy, as when it was first recorded, and it is a pleasure to hear as well as see. This is where the film really shines: the concert segments. You can tell, from the looks on the members’ faces, to the way they gambol about on stage, that this is truly their element and that they are having fun, fully in the moment. In addition to the many on-stage gimmicks that appear, as well as some excellent pyrotechnics and imagery, the concert is a sheer feast for eye and ear. But wait, wasn’t there supposed to be a story? Yes, there is, but there are times where the movie seems to forget that little fact.

Don’t get me wrong, the concert scenes are superb, but the film thus far has set this up so that there is a story here as well. Trip is called away by the Head Roadie (Again, no name is given for the guy, and you don’t really see him again), to find a truck that has broken down in town, which is carrying something that Metallica need. A bit contrived perhaps but at least we have a motivation. So, as our “Protagonist” sets out on his quest, we have Metallica playing Fuel, and this is as close as the film gets to its fusion of film and performance. Which, I would have to say, is the closest thing to a letdown in Through The Never; the action is heavily swayed in the favor of the performance. This is not a bad thing at all, since the concert is the main draw and is excellently done, but there is no real interaction between the two; there are maybe one or two instances where they cross over but it is pretty jarring.

Anyway, Trip (which I am sure, by now, you’ve got the joke. Yes, very clever Metallica) finds himself at a red light and notices a bloody hand print on a wall. This is where it gets real. I won’t spoil any of the scenes for you, but the acting, the direction and the art style are all perfect for what the narrative is out to portray. It is a heavy, dark and somewhat surreal series of events, with palpable intensity and the propensity to disturb. It is in these scenes where it is apparent that this is no mere vanity project, but an earnest attempt at storytelling and it fulfills its role admirably, with its sharp angles, entrenched atmosphere (though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it profound) and little, obscure references to the band, their own influences and their intent. The story, for want of a better word, is almost your basic parable without the allegory. It is a simple odyssey where the “Protagonist” is sent on a quest and meets his destiny; but you’ve probably noted those pesky Quotation Marks hovering around the word “Protagonist”. Trip could have been anyone; you know nothing about him or where he comes from, save that he’s a fan and roadie for Metallica, and you ultimately don’t care about his fate. He has a clear destination and motivation but no arc, and his conflict, though sharing some of the more exciting moments of the piece, seems minor. The conclusion of the narrative (though I think I may be misusing that word in this review) is a disappointment which leaves the idea of the story feeling rather pointless.

However, this is just an inconsequential gripe in the grand scheme. Where it is a story, the story is portrayed well, and where it is a concert, the concert is played marvelously. As I said before, this is Metallica at their finest; it is almost like this film is the stage show that they’ve always wanted to do. Can’t say that I blame them! The energy on stage goes beyond the screen and is well worth your attention, with a great variety of songs across their already extensive back catalogue, played well and presented perfectly. Though the film maybe heavily skewed in favor of the concert, I don’t see many people really complaining about that; the narrative may be, in the end, irrelevant but it does deliver on some excellent visuals and atmosphere. Again, no spoilers here, but I know there will be some moments in there where your jaw will slightly drop and you’ll catch yourself saying “Holy crap!”.

As a movie buff and Metallica fan I was immediately of mixed opinions going into this, but Through The Never is energetic, more than occasionally exciting and very entertaining. If you like Metallica you may come to love this movie for all its flaws; from Creeping Death to an excellent rendition of Orion, you’ll be stuck to your seat. If you are a lover of film, then you too may find something of worth here; with the generally austere tone, coupled with some great direction.

Through The Never is certainly worth a watch or two, as it presents one hell of a show in conjunction with a fairly engaging story; overall making for one entertaining watch.

Metallica: Through the Never will be released on January 29 through Hopscotch Films in Australia. The Hopscotch crew have given us 10x copies of the movie for a special giveaway. Click here to find out how to win!


Hailing from parts unknown (actually, it’s Melbourne), Tristan is a freelance writer and lover of metal, with a special place in his heart for Power and Folk metal. After playing in a number of local Melbourne metal bands, and completing his Bachelor of Arts, Tristan focuses his attention to the pursuit of writing, practicing the Liechtenauer School of swordsmanship, dabbling in Cosplay and reciting Babylon 5 quotes; in addition to hunting for a publisher for his novel. Until then, he enjoys metal, writing about metal and convincing people around his office that he is immortal and has lived for 3,000 years. (So far only the chick in HR is buying it)