Still from 2013's "Metallica: Through the Never."

And yet they released a concert film some four years ago. Directed by Nimród Antal, the force behind Vacancy (2007) and Predators (2009), Metallica Through the Never is as energetically photographed a presentation as any. The thrills of seeing the eponymous band remain as sharp and superior as they were during their 1980s heyday are undeniable. Because Metallica is not a band known for catering to the conventional, though, the film is not an orthodox concert documentary. 

 

It also features a storyline and a fictional character. It orbits around a skinny roady named Trip (Dane DeHaan) navigating the dangerous streets of Vancouver B.C. as James Hetfield and company play to a sold-out arena. Sometimes the film derives its tension from the bombastic musicianship presented in the quasi-stadium; sometimes its tension comes from the action sequences faced by Trip in the outside world, which has seemingly been overtaken by anarchy. It’s part rock doc, part indie thriller.

 

Because the sequences focusing on Trip trying to survive the mayhem of Vancouver B.C. feel more gratuitous than urgent, we have to wonder why Antal, along with the members of Metallica (who co-wrote the screenplay with the filmmaker), felt the need to make Through the Never semi-fiction rather than straight-up concert film.

 

But then it becomes evident that maybe the misadventures of Trip are an ode to Metallica’s fanbase, which is predominantly comprised of angsty youths who use the music of the band to make themselves feel powerful in a world where they often feel powerless.

 

With DeHaan so scrawny and the terrors he faces resembling the horrors of a 30 Days of Night (2002) strip, clear is that the fictional endeavors seen are really just lengthy representations of the daydreams experienced when one listens to Metallica. When one’s reality is less than ideal, the fury of the music can suddenly transform a person into an individual who feels as though they could face off against an entire army singlehandedly. 

 

Consider that I listened to the group’s 1984 masterpiece Ride the Lightning while studying for final exams this past month. I was anxious about final grades and yet unmotivated to put my attention onto the study guides and slide shows necessary to look over to pass my classes. The music somehow instilled me with enough passion to forget about my misgivings and remind myself that the conquering of the material was of higher importance than all the longings for freedom nipping my psyche.

 

But even though one can understand the placement of Trip and his storyline, it still is not nearly as thrilling as watching Metallica play to the packed auditorium — sometimes we’re bitter we have to leave them in favor of seeing what some young punk is up to. 

 

This is a band who has overcome so much in their 30-plus years of staying in the public eye. They lost a bassist to a tragic accident at their prime, survived a middling ‘90s which caused many to wonder if they could ever reach their ‘80s pinnacle again, pulled through the disaster of their 2003 album St. Anger and the threats of a falling out that went into its making (which was chronicled by the much-acclaimed, candid documentary Some Kind of Monster [2004]), and even came back from severe public disdain after an awful 2011 Lou Reed collaboration that nearly ended their career.

 

Through the Never shows that, warts and all, Metallica abides as one of the great living rock bands. Though their trajectory has proven to be torrid, there’s no denying the talent its members have kept in pocket nor the impact they’ve had on so many lives. Look at the emotion on the faces of the film's audience members and you’ll know what I mean.  B+

DIRECTED BY

Nimród Antal

 

STARRING

Dane DeHaan

James Hetfield

Kirk Hammett

Lars Ulrich

Robert Trujilo

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

2013

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 32 Mins.

Metallica Through the Never July 19, 2017        

M

etallica makes for such a rousing rock band that whether one’s listening to their discography through bulky headphones while walking down the street or through a set of frowzy car speakers, there need not usually be some sort of flashy visual accompaniment to solidify their ability to overpower us. While other artists, from the Talking Heads to Madonna, have benefited from grand scale rock documentaries turning their concert spectacles into cinematic masterpieces, Metallica is not a group who immediately comes to mind when talking about the genre.