“We’re pulling out all the stops,” Kirk Hammett told us last year, while discussing Metallica’s upcoming feature film, Through The Never, at Metallica‘s first Orion Festival in Atlantic City. “We built a monster stage, we’re gonna have a tremendous production, we’re gonna play all of our greatest songs and it is gonna be (huge).”
He wasn’t kidding. Metallica’s stage set for the shows they recorded for the film (during a three night stand in Montreal last year) did indeed feature some of their most iconic songs: “Creeping Death,” “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “Master Of Puppets,” “Enter Sandman,” and some lesser known tracks, including “Ride The Lightning” and the epic “…And Justice For All.” And they did pull out all of their stage effects from their biggest tours, including the crumbling statue from the cover of …And Justice For All, the barrage of explosions during “One” and the collapsing stage (the stage actually falls apart, a tech on fire runs across the stage and another tech swings upside down from above the stage) from their 1997 tour for Load.
As far as concert films go, if it isn’t the most beautifully shot one of all time, it’s close. You actually do feel like you’re onstage with the band. But – ostensibly – this isn’t supposed to be just a Metallica concert film. There’s a narrative.
Dane DeHaan (who we will be seeing more of in the next two Spider-Man films) plays a Metallica roadie named Trip who goes on an “important mission” for the band. It’s tempting to say that “hijinks ensue,” but that would make it sound like a comedy. What actually ensues is a vague, but cool-looking, apocalypse. He even faces off against a creepy horseman (no doubt one of “The Four Horsemen,” although that song isn’t in the film). The storyline seemed to take up no more than 20 minutes of the film and seemed completely secondary (rightfully so) to the performance.
Metallica has been doing the film festival circuit (and even played at San Diego’s ComicCon) as if the film is a cinematic event. But the film comes off as an extended music video (which isn’t as compelling as, say, Metallica’s eleven and a half minute film for “The Unforgiven”) where the storyline is secondary, and only barely connected to, Metallica’s crushing performance.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No matter how good the story is, the odds of someone going to see the film if they aren’t a Metallica fan is rather low, and the film is way more watchable than, say, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same. What would Metallica’s Song Remains The Same have looked like? When we spoke to Hammett, he gave us an idea: “The narrative isn’t going to be James racing in monaco, Rob surfing, I’m swordfighting a troll in Norway.” And let’s be thankful for that. Because the bottom line is: if you love Metallica, you’re going to have a blast at this flick, without having to watch the band members in sci-fi situations.