REVIEW: Metallica: Through The Never (2013)

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In the opening stanza Trip enters Rogers Arena backstage—he’s a roadie with a VIP pass, he’s allowed to do this. Getting out of his van he sees singer James Hetfield drive past in a bizarre 50s vehicle, guitarist Kirk Hammet waves him through security with “he’s cool,” drummer Lars Ulrich stares him down and, strangest of all, Rob Trujillo is in a room practicing bass, surrounded by shaking Ampegs. From here things start getting ludicrous quickly.

It’s 80 percent concert film, 20 percent ‘plot’. Inverted commas are used because the plot is not logical in any sense, nor could it be argued it is the work of fantasy: this is the product of a brainstorming session of “Guys, what do you think would be super-ultra-mega-awesome cool to happen?”

The project was first spoken about—publicly—in 2010 when one of the members hinted that the band and management were considering a theatrical production that “rivalled The Wall” and would surmise the band’s history till now. It made sense: they were about to celebrate their 30th anniversary and there’s no party like a thrash-cum-blues-cum-thrash party.

Through The Never is the result of these plans. Sharing its title with a song from the titular self-titled 1991 album and thus making no sense as the name of the film, it is a film from the point of view of the band. One gets the impression Lars had watched U2: 3D and figured with a couple of tweaks he could do something similar. The band is shot from the inside out, as if you were on stage, and it makes for some great angles. It’s not as groundbreaking as he’d have you believe—well, not at all—but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Trip is sent on a wild goose chase through the streets chasing a bag that is “very important to the band.” During this he has a car crash and then gets mixed up in a city riot that just appears out of thin air and then he’s forced to fight for his life. The elements of story are at times huge, clutching metaphors for the song playing at the time (rioting as Wherever I May Roam roars); other times it’s imagery from the album covers (Lady Doris during … And Justice For All; a giant electric chair for Ride the Lightning that is rather impressive).

This is a packaged wet dream hand delivered for Metallica fans: sonically and visually this is the best live release they have made in the past twenty years. Shot for IMAX and mixed to perfection (with occasional over-dubbing) this will blow most of you out of your seat. Outside of the die-hards though, very little is on offer. A story that goes nowhere is meant to bait you in but serves as an afterthought to a motif-laden replication of the history that most fans are already aware of. Then again, as a friend remarked afterwards, you don’t go to a Metallica movie to watch a story.

Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire

Metallica: Through The Never is released on IMAX and selected cinemas from October 10 via Hopscotch for a limited season.