Last updated 05:00 11/10/2013
Do you like Metallica? Do you enjoy their music? Do you still lovingly hang a black Master Of Puppets t-shirt in your wardrobe?
Did you see them on their most recent Australian tour, headlining Soundwave Festival earlier this year? Did you watch their 2004 documentary Some Kind Of Monster?
Do you still mourn for the loss of bassist Cliff Burton? Do you respect these four men as human beings? Did you read about the time TheVine hung out with them for a week?
If you answered 'yes' to any of the above questions, don't see this film. It won't make you like this band more. It might even have the opposite effect.
Were this a regular concert, filmed with 3D cameras and given a limited release in cinemas, that'd be fine.
It wouldn't change anyone's opinions about the band, but it'd get a passing grade purely for existing.
Metallica's many fans would lay down their cash to see it. They'd headbang in their chairs, suck back popcorn, and throw up sticky-fingered horns at key moments.
It'd make a tidy profit at the box office and find a wide audience on DVD, where it'd gather dust alongside every other competent-but-forgettable rock show ever recorded.
To their credit, I suppose, that option didn't appeal to Metallica. After 32 years in the business, and having ridden the concert film merry-go-round several times before, one can only assume that this time around, the band yearned for something more.
Maybe they figured that they'd watched enough bad music films on the tour bus and saw an opportunity to extend the medium beyond four guys on a stage, surrounded by fans and cameramen.
Perhaps they fancied that they could succeed where Led Zeppelin failed with the cringe-worthy The Song Remains The Same, which remains the gold standard for Bad Ideas Committed To Film By Musicians even now, 37 years after its release.
The basic components of Through The Never bode well: an iconic metal band with hours of high quality material to pick from; consistently excellent live performers; an enormous stage production that contains almost as many moving parts as the International Space Station; a full stadium of rabid fans who appear to love this band more than close family members. The deck is stacked in Metallica's favour.
Yet in a jaw-dropping act of self-sabotage, they've planted a joker of a sub-plot that's worse than every brainless Hollywood action film ever made. Every scene outside of the stadium is mind-bogglingly terrible.
Move the f**k over, Led Zeppelin, because Through The Never sucks so hard that it's going straight to number one with a bullet.
The opening aerial shot of twinkling city lights eventually settles on a beaten-up car driven by a portly gentleman, who pulls up in a vacant parking lot and horn-salutes the stadium where Metallica are playing that night.
With neckbeard and a black tank top that barely conceals his heaving beergut, we can only infer that this stunted young man is a stand-in for Metallica's understanding of their target demographic.
Things take a turn for the surreal when a skinny skateboarder - hoodie and kerchief hiding all but his piercing blue eyes - gains access to the backstage area and spies the band members amid dozens of burly road crew.
Singer/guitarist James Hetfield drives a vintage silver car whose exhaust spews flames. Kirk Hammett holds a guitar whose bottom half has been sliced clean off; blood drips from the wounded instrument and pools at his feet.
Robert Trujillo crab-walks and wears a mean look while practicing his bass in a tiny room stacked with gigantic amplifiers that shake the entire stadium.
Lars Ulrich points at various things and calls the shots, while an attractive, submissive, clipboard-wielding female staff member agrees with his every word. (Cool fantasy, Lars...?)
The drummer shoots a dirty look at the interloping skater, who looks thoroughly out of place yet is apparently meant to be a member of the road crew.
Each of these initial glimpses of the band members last only a few seconds.
Their purpose is to show that things aren't quite what they seem, I suppose. Yet everything that happens henceforth in the stadium is as predictable as any Metallica show you've ever seen, down to [SPOILER ALERT] the third-act 'accident' that sees parts of the set collapse while the band take cover and a stagehand is stretchered off after randomly catching fire.
It's a near carbon copy of what happens in their 1998 live release Cunning Stunts: Hetfield asks if everyone is OK, and wonders aloud whether they should play on. (SPOILER ALERT #2: they do.) Why they're repeating a 15 year-old gag is beyond me.
The show itself isn't even filmed particularly well. There are plenty of sweeping, close-up shots of our four heroes that make them look as big and imposing as gods - as they should in this context - but there's just as many static, mid-range shots of nothing in particular, where a band member is positioned in the corner of the screen while the crowd blurs into the distance.
The wide-angle shots of the teeming stadium and the overhead camera that captures Ulrich's drum kit in the centre of the stage-wide, animated LCD screens, are breathtaking in the first instance.
But these 'wow' moments are exhausted quite early on. The 3D effects add very little to the experience, though if you've ever wanted to see Hetfield's saliva in three dimensions, you're in for a treat.
The setlist is a well-chosen selection focused around a few themed tunes that relate directly to interactive stage props: an electric chair descends from the ceiling for a strangely flat take on Ride The Lightning; a Lady Justice statue is assembled and destroyed during the epic '...And Justice For All'; eerie white tombstones rise from the stage during Master Of Puppets, and so on.
Cyanide from 2008's Death Magnetic is the only recent cut; nearly everything else they play is at least 20 years old, besides Fuel and The Memory Remains. It's difficult to fault the band in this regard: they know what fans want, and they serve it up with a shit-eating grin, night after night.
But all of the highs offered by the soundtrack and the enthusiastic performance thereof are overruled by the banal, listless action scenes interspersed between the songs.
The nameless roadie - played by 27 year-old Dane DeHaan - is given a task to pick up a valuable item across town.
His ride is a shitty van that's soon totalled by a stranger after the roadie runs a red light while preoccupied by thoughts of Fuel and flamethrowers.
The centre of town is eerily empty, until the protagonist finds himself between riot police and a mob whose anger is completely unexplained.
The two groups proceed to fight for no reason. Nevermind the Molotov cocktail-throwing youths; the police are framed as the bad guys, of course. F**k 'the man'! Directionless anger! Grrr!
The 'Big Bad' of this tedious sub-plot is a gasmask-wearing, sledgehammer-wielding dickhead on a horse. He hangs motherf***ers from light poles.
The roadie doesn't like this, so he pegs a rock at Big Bad's head. Big Bad doesn't like that. Roadie barely escapes through the strangely accommodating crowd of cop-beating yobs. Roadie covers his eyes and tries not to spew while walking underneath thirteen corpses hung from a bridge, to the tune of 'Cyanide'. And on and on this pointless quest goes.
All of this stuff just drags on the screen, sapping energy from even the highest-BPM tunes in the band's repertoire. DeHaan is given very little to work with: no dialogue, but plenty of chances to look frightened or angry.
His character's story resolves in the dumbest way possible, and the contents of the anonymous duffle bag that he's tasked with delivering to the band are never revealed. Absolutely no-one gives a shit.
The dramatic elements of all this undermine every aspect of the musical performance, because we have zero emotional investment in any character not named Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett or Trujillo.
Metallica wrote the script, alongside director Nimród Antal.
I can't imagine the screenplay scribbled on anything other than a handful of dirty napkins between rehearsals; it appears very little thought has gone into anything outside of the stage production and the music itself.
Metallica should stick to what they know, because Through The Never is a pile of shit and a waste of time. Don't see it.
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