Concert films are tricky propositions, particularly for bands with a long history.
How do you balance showcasing what you ostensibly do best — perform live — with some element acknowledging that the audience is watching something that has already happened?
Over the years, rock acts have tried with various degrees of success to blend the cinematic with the musical — Led Zeppelin created weird interstitial shorts for The Song Remains the Same; Talking Heads went full-tilt avant garde for Stop Making Sense — but few bands, apart from pop stars like Katy Perry or One Direction, have gone the IMAX 3-D route, which lends some immediacy and helps immerse the viewer in the film.
Metallica tries to split the difference between a long-form music video and outsized eye candy in its new concert film, Through the Never, and winds up diminishing what should rightly be the main draw: the veteran metal band’s fire-breathing live show.
Directed by Nimrod Antal, who shares story credit with the members of Metallica, Through the Never (which was filmed over a series of special concerts at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena last year) follows a nameless roadie (Dane DeHaan) as he sets out to complete a task for the band. Over the course of his journey, he descends into a nightmarish cityscape that ultimately has almost no bearing on the music.
It’s a curious choice to structure the film thusly, and one which seems arbitrary upon reflection.
The film cuts back and forth between the roadie’s quest and Metallica’s concert, which, up until the conclusion, is filmed in a decidedly straightforward manner. For fans of the band who saw Metallica on its “Death Magnetic” tour a few years back, the stage design will look familiar, and the set list favors the group’s early output ( For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Memory Remains and Master of Puppets are just a few of the punishing highlights).
Ultimately, Metallica: Through the Never is best viewed as a lavishly produced document of the rock icons’ most recent tour and not as the weird arthouse hybrid it aspires to be.