Directed by Nimrod Antal
Horror and heavy metal collide on the big screen in Nimrod Antal’s Metallica: Through the Never, a 3D tale that seeks to use the music of the thrash heavyweights as the backdrop for a roadie’s post-apocalyptic nightmare scenario. Billed as a narrative rather than a mere concert film, Antal utilizes some creepy imagery to construct a loose story, but the film truly shines when Metallica is placed front and center.
Nimrod Antal’s story suggests a parallel to the nightmare-like insanity often suggested in the music of heavy metal’s reigning kings. Dane DeHaan plays Trip, a roadie for Metallica who is sent into the city to retrieve something from a truck that has run out of gas. Seemingly upset that he has to miss the show, Trip pops an unidentified pill and hits the road. As the band plays on, Trip’s simple assignment takes a turn for the worse when he gets into a car accident and finds himself in the middle of a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
Through the Never is less a narrative than it is a glorified ninety-minute music video, with Metallica’s music setting the tone for Trip’s terrifying ordeal. “Fuel” plays as he whips through the empty streets of an unnamed city, while “One” slowly sets the stage for a confrontation between police and a mob of armed rioters lead by a gas mask-wearing horseman wielding a sledgehammer. Police and passersby are strung up and hung from light posts as Trip fights his way through the crowd to get to the disabled truck and retrieve a lone bag, the contents of which are unknown.
These initial scenes suggest a narrative driven by the band’s music, but as Trip presses on, the music becomes less relevant to the story, both in terms of theme and tone. Despite a few moments where the tone of the music matches the tone of the action, the music simply chugs along without any real connection to the story. Metallica’s catalogue has a number of songs that could have easily fit into the insanity of it all (“The God That Failed” comes to mind), both thematically and tonally, but they never explore these opportunities beyond the first few songs. The bulk of the film is comprised of the band’s live show, and DeHaan’s scenes serve as non-musical interludes for their blistering performance. It’s just not enough to be considered a story, and those going in expecting as much will be disappointed.
As such, Through the Never is incredible only as a concert film. Filmed in 3D and capturing the awe-inspiring power of Metallica’s live show, Antal showcases the band’s raw talent as performers as they move swiftly through some of their biggest hits, including “Creeping Death,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “Master of Puppets.” As it stands, the concert-as-backdrop for the story is far less interesting than the concert itself, which features plenty of moments to remind you of Metallica’s impact. At the end of their performance of “The Memory Remains,” the band lets the crowd take over vocal duties for Marianne Faithful, the British singer-songwriter who sang background vocals on the track on the band’s album ReLoad. As the music fades, the deafening roar of the crowd consumes the arena as James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo gaze silently into the crowd, amazed at what they’ve inspired.
And that’s where Antal succeeds. Metallica is a larger than life band, and their impact transcends genre. They helped to not just change the face of metal, but bring it mainstream. I can’t count how many times I’ve met people who say they don’t like metal, but they like Metallica. Furthermore, the use of native 3D sucks you in and makes you feel as if you’re on stage with the band, as multiple cameras capture their epic performance from all angles. For a fan of Metallica, it’s the next best thing to being there and experiencing their 30+ year legacy, but for those who desire more than a mere concert film, it’s likely Through the Never will appear as nothing more than a bait and switch. The use of a concert to set the stage for a post-apocalyptic scenario is ambitious, but Antal doesn’t utilize it to its full potential.
3 out of 5