Metallica Through the Never Reviews
Now, the narrative doesn't need to be all that special in a film that is mostly about live musical entertainment, yet there's much to be desired within this film's fictitious subplot, as underdevelopment behind the Dane DeHaan's near-silent lead Trip character, as well as conflict motivation, make it hard to get invested in all of the surrealistic happenings. I can't help but subscribe to the feeling conveyed in Rotten Tomatoes' consensus that the narrative is "slightly less assured" than the presentation of the concert sequences, and it's hard to ignore that when the film finds difficulty in keeping organic with its juggling of both driving aspects of this musical thriller. A surrealistic thriller and a theatrical concert experience, this effort is two fairly different films combined, and not consistently organically, as the simplicity of the presentation of Metallica's concert often goes overcomplicated when the band's music is forced into the context of, maybe even somewhat interrupted by the narrative, which is made all the more effective by the harsh tone of the music, yet is made all the more lazy-feeling when it finds itself overshadowed by the essentially plotless live show that outstays its welcome too much for the structure of the final product to be all that balanced. Pretty much all of the problems you're expecting out of this film are present, and about as severe as one might fear, not being so severe that you can't get fairly well-invested in both the fun narrative and funner concert, yet nonetheless being distancing as a reflection of just how questionable of an idea this film is in the first place. Okay, perhaps the film isn't so much questionable as an idea, as it's pretty refreshing as a concert film, and not just because concert films this high in profile aren't as prominent as they used to be, and yet, while this film is about as well-done as it can be in plenty of places, just what kind of cinematic reward value are you expecting out of a film that simply uses its thin narrative as an obligatory break in the monotony of seeing a simulated live performance? This could never be all that strong of a film on a general standard, and while it is well-done enough to come to that point, natural shortcomings stand, stressed by some storytelling issues and structural inconsistencies that further hold back a film whose lack of depth was never to make for all that compelling of an effort. That being said, the fact of the matter is that this film is pretty well-done for what it is as both a stylish account of a thrilling live show and as a narratively nifty thriller.
This story isn't as inspired as it probably could have been, let alone as inspired as the presentation of Metallica's live performance, being too undercooked and over-the-top for its own good, although it remains pretty entertaining in its being just so creatively surreal, with dynamic set pieces and a pretty solid lead performance by Dane DeHaan. Granted, DeHaan isn't given the material to be all that solid, so really don't expect him to be nearly as revelatory as he has been in other, more narrative-driven recent projects for him, but do expect him to utilize convincing expressiveness in order to project the slick presence, human fear and quiet intensity that make the Trip the roadie character an effective avatar for the audience in the midst of a chaotic plot which is further sold by inspired direction. Nimród Antal can't fully make up for the questionable structuring within his and Metallica's script, yet he's fairly clever in playing with Metallica's intense music in the context of the narrative in order to establish tension within this thriller, which at least keeps consistent in entertainment value thanks to Antal's celebration of outstanding technical style. The film is about as stylistically creative as they say, at least a concert film, with snappy editing by once-regular Oliver Stone and Cameron Crowe collaborator Joe Hutshing, as well as haunting plays on bleak coloration and lighting by cinematographer Gyula Pados that are both fitting and visually handsome. Really, there's not a whole lot to praise, as surely as there's not much to complain about within this film which simply doesn't leave you with much to talk about, as the final product is what it is: a well-done, yet simple adrenaline ride that is primarily a vehicle for tunes which must be delivered pretty successfully if the film hopes to be successful. Yeah, to tell you the truth, while I have a fair degree of respect for Metallica, in spite of their being major inspirational figures within the extreme and alternative metal movements (Hey, I'd be more willing to get over Nirvana more-or-less killing rock's commercial prominence if they didn't drop the standard for musicianship to a record low along the way), I've never been particularly crazy about all of their overly noisy compositions and harsh songwriting, James Hetfield's overstylized vocals, and, well, plenty of their songs' simply running together (Well, I, even as an anti-modernist of a music buff, am a fan of DragonForce, so maybe a lack of diversity isn't all that legitimate of a complaint), although I must admit that as overblown, if not, quite frankly, questionably mixed as they are in the studios, they sure do know how to put on a live show, where, even without the cinematic style that this film applies, a flashy visuals, subtle musical formula adjustments, and, most of all, the band's palpable chemistry and energetic charisma go a long way in selling tightly structured and driving tunes that, in spite of the aforementioned noisiness and repetition, in addition to Lars Ulrich's underwhelming drumming abilities' failing to match his personality in terms of liveliness, go anchored by Robert Trujillo's thumping bass work and Hetfield's and Kirk Hammett's solid guitar playing, highlighted, of course, by some thrillingly rapid-fire lead soloing by Hammett (Hey, you also have to dig the soulful, if too short one that Hetfield delivers for the ending to "Nothing Else Matters"). Whether it be the always particularly well-done "For Whom the Bell Tolls", or the epic "One", or the definitively thrashing "Master of Puppets", or the colorfully structured "Enter Sandman", as well as plenty of other Metallica hits, both commercial and cult, hit-or-miss classics are delivered about as well as they can be here, and that is well enough to make for quite the satisfying show, which may not but be enough to make for an especially satisfying feature film, yet certainly joins stylish direction and a fun story in playing an, if you will, "instrumental" part in making this quite the decent offbeat concert flick and thriller.
When it's time to fade to black, if you will, the natural shortcomings of this more-or-less depthless are emphasized enough by an undercooked and overblown side narrative, and by uneven structuring, to keep the final product firmly secured just shy of rewarding, but through a fairly fun story that goes carried by Dane DeHaan's engaging lead performance and by Nimród Antal's stylish direction, - flavored up by sharp editing and haunting cinematography - and is broken by a worthwhile concert, "Metallica Through the Never" entertains about as thoroughly as it can as an unconventional thriller and tribute to the chaos crafted and inspired by true legends in metal.
2.75/5 - Decent
Combining concert footage and a strange action/horror film narrative, Through The Never is an entertaining, albeit flawed film. Director Nimrod Antal is perfectly apt at shooting concert footage, and doing so in a way that makes you feel like you're there. The concert is entertaining, and due to some solid editing, it weaves nearly seamlessly in and out of the action/horror narrative. However, the narrative storyline is just plain stupid. It's not necessary, and it often takes you out of the cool concert footage. I appreciate someone trying something new with the concert film, but maybe the band shouldn't have written the script.
You don't really need to know anything about singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammet and bassist Robert Trujillo, but if you want to you could check out their 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster, their deep chronicle of band therapy. Through The Never, shot with multiple cameras and eye-popping stage sets by Hungarian filmmaker Nimrod Antal (Kontroll) over five nights in Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada during last year's World Magnetic Tour, needs no explanation. It's that good.
What does merit some explaining is the short film that accompanies it starring Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as Trip, a roadie tasked with collecting a mysterious bag as the concert goes on. It's a surreal journey that sees him enter a world of zombie restlessness, cop cars exploding and even a masked horseman, all within a narrative thread that doesn't always hold. It's a bit distracting but no less hypnotic. You could do worse.