By now you've certainly heard your fair share about Metallica's 3D movie, Through The Never. The one lingering question seems to be "is it worth seeing?" I was lucky enough to get tickets to an advanced screening last week and went in with the exact same question.
Warning: The review contains some mild "spoilers," although this isn't exactly Lords of the Rings here. It's ultimately a concert film with some narrative.
The movie starts off with a pan of the city of Vancouver, eventually revealing the Rogers Arena and continuing to pan into the parking lot for the arrival of the first Metallica fan, who is depicted as an overweight oaf. Of course! Our main character, Trip, skateboards through the shot and heads to his van. Throughout the opening sequence, Trip runs into each member of Metallica. After a few minutes of "exposition", the concert portion of the film begins with "Creeping Death."
I got chills from the first few notes. The IMAX sound wasn't just incredibly loud, but so clear. I wish shows sounded this good live. One of the main reasons I would recommend seeing this film in a theater is just for the sonic intensity of the performance. At one point, I genuinely regretted not bringing earplugs.
Visually and aesthetically, the movie delivers on all fronts. The 3D is very tasteful and allows the filmmakers to beautifully showcase this massive stage show the band created. The band sounded great, no doubt helped by post-production cover ups of mistakes, but it worked.
The stage show itself is beautiful. As a viewer, I felt I had the best seat in the house.The film makes you feel like you're right up there on stage with James, Lars, Kirk and Robert. As for props, the band used every trick in their 30 year arsenal with Lady Justice, Master of Puppets crosses, the Ride The Lightning chair and other tricks. The setup for "One" was particularly noteworthy, with gunfire ringing through the theater as though we were in an actual war. Here's a good sampling of all the gimmicks in the movie:
The "die" chants in "Creeping Death" was the first time the film cut from the concert and to the runner's story and I immediately felt disappointed and wanted to get back to the action. I appreciated the functionality of narrative, which was to give us a quick breather of the performances. It helped make the next song seem bigger and also allowed filmmakers to cut some of the longer outros of certain songs that might come off repetitive to a theater goer. Functionally, the cutaways worked, but creatively, I thought they were pointless.
My interpretation of the story was that the runner, played by Dane Dehaan was sent to get some mysterious bag and decided to take some sort of hallucinogen. You see the character popping a pill and then eventually getting into a car accident, which is when I assume the drugs kick in, leading to the more abstract visuals we see. I was fine with the narrative until it reached absurd abstractness at which point I just checked out and felt it was useless. The film never reveals what's in the bag, and there was never a point where I cared. Thinking back, the functional effect of a breather could've been achieved with some behind the scenes video instead of this seemingly pointless narrative, although the band has said that's exactly what they didn't want. I wasn't the only one who felt this way. A quick surveying of some fans around me led to the same conclusion: the narrative was pointless.
One thing I did like about the narrative is how they coincided with the songs being played. For example, "Fuel" kicks off as he starts his van and his journey to find the mysterious bag begins. Here's a clip:
So who is this movie for? If you are a die-hard Metallica fan, I highly recommend this movie. If you've never seen Metallica live, I absolutely recommend this as your first experience. If you are a movie buff, I'd recommend seeing this for aesthetic purposes. If you are somebody who thinks they can just wait for the DVD, I recommend shelling out the cash for the IMAX 3D experience, because it is definitely an experience that cannot be recreated in your home.
But if you are one of those jaded fucks who stopped caring about Metallica during or before the Black Album, this one is skippable for you.
No other metal band could come close to pulling this off and very few other musical acts would even try. The band and the filmmaker clearly put a lot of effort (and money) into the film and it comes across as the best concert film you will ever see, and for that reason alone, it might be worth your time to see it in the theater.
Tickets are available at ThroughTheNeverMovie.com