DIRECTED BY: Nimród Antal
FEATURING: , James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo
PLOT: A roadie goes on a mysterious errand during a Metallica concert.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s a weird movie for fans of Metallica, not a Metallica movie for fans of the weird.
COMMENTS: Obviously, aficionados of hard rock outfit Metallica’s shredding guitars, brutal pounding rhythms, and morbid macho posturing will be thrilled with this 90-minute testament to their precision musicianship and sweaty stage presence. Fans will be happy to hear that the 14-song set isn’t a plug for the latest album, but instead is of a classic greatest-hits survey of crowd favorites. To me, on the other hand, every Metallica song sounds like a guy with anger-management issues yelling at his malfunctioning washing machine. Then again, I think popular music never recovered from the wrong turn it took at Bill Haley & the Comets. Still, as a pure adrenaline/testosterone concert concoction, Through the Never is near the top of the heap. The elaborate stage production features walls of video monitors (and even a video floor that sometimes “fills” with blood), green lasers shooting skyward, the assembly and demolition of a colossus, and a sequence where the electrical wiring goes haywire and speakers come crashing down onto the stadium floor, all captured with some impressive crane shots. Even with the receding hairlines, the performance is of sufficient energy to avoid Spinal Tap syndrome. All of this will, obviously, play to fans looking for the virtual concert experience. Through the Never‘s extra ambition comes in its feature-length music video style narrative about a roadie named Trip who’s sent to recover a mysterious parcel while the band plays. His mission takes him through a surreal Vancouver nightscape ruled by rioters and a horseman in a gas mask. Director Nimród Antal indulges his visual imagination with weird moments like a bleeding guitar and a walking voodoo doll. These music video styled semi-narrative excursions effectively break up what otherwise might have become a tedious visual exercise in determining how many ways you can shoot a guitar so it reminds you of a phallus. And, although the symbolism will be obscure to outsiders, there is a touching point to Trip’s quest that Metallica diehards will surely pick up on. Non-essential for non-fans, but not nearly as bad as it could have been, and infinitely better than the last movie we reviewed in these pages sponsored by a band.
I find echoes of the fascist concert sequences from Pink Floyd The Wall in the call-and-response exercises with the adoring audience who chant angry lyrics about death like holy texts. That’s not unique to Metallica, of course: this Dionysian abandonment, the adolescent’s desire to dissolve his individuality into the headbanging collective, is the thing I’ve always hated most about rock concerts.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Who says a movie has to make a lick of sense to be entertaining?… If half an hour of bizarro side-narrative fever dream is the price of admission for a gorgeously lensed, best-seat-in-the-house hour of chugging rock brutality, I’ll pay gladly.”–Colin Covert, Minnesota Star-Tribune (contemporaneous)