Special report by Mark Neuberg
Of course, this is big. After all, it‘s METALLICA. So the statistics alone are impressive: A concert movie, which is supposed to be even more than just that, featuring an accompanying side story with actors and stunts and stuff, all in full-on 3D, filmed by 36 cameras set on a stage that has cost 15 million dollars alone with a total production value of a whooping 32 million dollars. This ain‘t no Cliff ‘Em All style bootleg, that‘s for sure. But what is actually going on in this 93 minute long film? BraveWords attended the European premiere in Berlin to find out.
Should we expect a movie with Metallica playing along? Or is it a concert film with some added bonus? More of the latter, but "bonus" is an understatement. Metallica Through The Never shows a full-blown-and-then-some Metallica show alongside a movie that blends in and out of the gig. Here‘s the plot: A young roadie named Trip (played by Dane DeHaan - remember Metallica‘s alias at the last Orion music festival?) works at a Metallica show. Upon arrival at the venue, he witnesses James Hetfield in a muscle car, sees Kirk Hammett discussing a guitar, hears Rob Trujillo making walls shake in bass room and bumps into Lars in the hall. The concert starts with impressively with 'Creeping Death', but during the 'Die Die!' part, Trip is send to find a lost Metallica production truck and retrieve a mysterious bag. This is the first, but not the last instance, where concert and movie overlap.
Trip drives into the city, but things turn surreal: His van gets hit by a car, a man runs away from invisible attackers, empty streets are suddenly filled by a pillaging mob led by a mysterious masked rider. Police cars are burning, windows are smashed, and corpses are hanging from lamp posts. Trip has to fight the horseman and even dies, but, 'er, doesn‘t. One of many questions the movie part evokes.
All these film sequences segue in and out of the concert footage, sound-wise and visually, so it‘s not as much of a downer as the interview sets during the legendary Let There Be Rock home video by AC/DC, for example. Sometimes you hear the band in the background, at one point the mob turns into video projections of marching troops back at the show during the intro of 'One'. This leads to some cool visual effects, since the concert footage is augmented with post-production magic like people being trapped in the huge coffins that are used as lightning rigs (as seen on the Death Magnetic tour)
The concert in itself is quite impressive, with a plain awesome production. Sounds, lights and stage could arguably give RAMMSTEIN a run for their money. We see the stage in the middle of the venue, as witnessed on many Metalli-tours, and they pull out all the goodies: The collapsing Justice statue Doris, the Metal Up Your Ass-toilet with the dagger, crosses from the Puppets cover popping, pyros galore and the fire/explosion/burning man stunt from the Reload tours, followed by the gathering in the middle of the stage in a more intimate setting. The sonics are crushing, the playing is great, and yes, Hetfield must be eight metres tall. Of course, all that is enhanced by the 3D perspective, which indeed increases the impact - if it shows. In some parts it‘s working better than others, some scenes look surprisingly 'normal', plain and non-3D.
No complaints about the setlist, however: Everything that starts with 'Creeping Death', ends with 'Hit Lights' and has 'Master Of Puppets', '…And Justice For All', 'Enter Sandman', 'Ride The Lightning' and 'Battery' in between is almost per definition great. Funny enough, the show does not conclude with 'Seek & Destroy' as it was custom during the last few years. As Lars later explained: "All the silliness with the balloons and the singing along just didn't work, so that ended up on the cutting room floor." Meanwhile, the movie‘s silent protagonist finds the bag and manages to bring it back to the venue. The movie ends with him witnessing Metallica playing a mesmerizing version of 'Orion' on an empty stage in an empty venue under full lights...
Trying to avoid spoilers, we want to say just as much: There is one big question mark at the end, when movie and concert come together. And there is no answer. In fact, don‘t expect a full story. The fact that the plot and the whole setting leaves us with a lot of What?, Why? and Huh? is intriguing at first, but on second thought actually feels like a let down. Imagine a graphic novel set in a apocalyptic urban world, but only reading chapter 3 - probably thrilling, but no beginning, no end, no context. Maybe this fits Ulrich love for abstract art which doesn't really explain or mean anything definite either. This makes the whole movie interesting to watch, but will not be sufficient to draw non-Metallica fans to the box offices. More importantly, it firmly keeps Through The Never 3D in the "music film" and out of the "real movie" category. Thinking of the million music videos we have all seen, blending a band performance with some kind of backstory, a cynic might think of the movie as a that: a music video, albeit a very, very, VERY glorified one, and long too. Maybe it‘s the expectations one built not only after all the buzz, but even after the first couple of minutes in, but taken for itself Metallica Through The Never is expanding the scope of the genres big time, but not totally breaking the mold. Nevertheless, a fun thing to watch and sure as hell a kick ass show.
BraveWords' official Merchandise Store is now stocking swag from Metallica's new movie Metallica Through The Never at this location