I’ve previously reviewed the soundtrack album that goes with Metallica’s latest concert film, so here I will be primarily focusing on the film itself.
Shot in 3D and released in cinemas Metallica: Through The Never is the most lavish and extravagant concert film Metallica have released to date, following in quite a line of previous efforts which began with Cliff ‘Em All in the late 1980s and has continued pretty much in line with their studio albums from …And Justice For All to Death Magnetic.
With this history of concert films in mind what is presented here is, essentially, a pulling together of all of their previous efforts into one show packed with references, props and effects familiar to fans. Along with this there are things that, had they had the budget and technology in their earlier days, Metallica would probably have featured in their live shows in the mid-80s.
What this leads to is a perfectly satisfactory concert film that gives something of a flavour of the 30-plus year career of “the world’s biggest metal band”, but with a nagging sense that all these props are somewhat distracting, and at times detracting, from the four men on stage playing what should be predominantly viscerally intense music.
I know I’ve mentioned the music before, but a brief thought on that before I continue. Across the film it all sounds fine, but for the most part, little more. This leaves a sense that the band are very much going through the motions and are presenting what feels like a ‘cabaret thrash’ show and it is really only on One, Nothing Else Matters and set closer Hit The Lights (when all the effects are put aside) that the might of Metallica’s glory days is really hinted at.
Alongside the straight performance sections of Through The Never comes another aspect to the film – a vaguely narrative arc running through the concert footage.
This concerns a young roadie-cum-stagehand-cum-fan who is sent on an obscure mission during the opening number who we cut back to throughout. While clearly not intended as a literal narrative to accompany the music it is somewhat abstract but, rather than adding an extra element to develop ideas presented in the songs, what these sequences tend to do is distract from the concert footage and are often jarring in transition between the two.
Much like the concert the narrative scenes, featuring Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan, are perfectly satisfactory and contain some interesting visuals and ideas, but it never really seems to come together to give the sense that both parts are serving the same master so the narrative arc is left somewhat lost.
What this leaves us with then is something that, unfortunately, captures current day Metallica pretty accurately. While there are still hints at what made them the powerhouse they were, and it appropriately celebrates this, Through The Never also shows them as the overblown behemoth they have become. So in the end, if you want to see a great Metallica concert film, it’s still best to dust of Live Shit: Binge & Purge, but if you want a spectacular, but ultimately soulless retread of some of their greatest songs (and a couple of others) then look no further – but the Ride The Lightning ‘Tesla coils” are cool!