Metal legends Metallica get their thunderous due in Through the Never, an ambitious take on the concert film that frames one of the band’s performances inside of a fictional narrative. While this could have gone terribly wrong had a greater emphasis been placed on the fictional story, the end result is one of the most hypnotic concert films ever made. Especially seen in IMAX.
Taking place in an unnamed city (the live concert footage was seamlessly compiled from two Canadian concerts in Vancouver and Edmonton, while outdoor scenes were shot in New York and Los Angeles), Through the Never stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) as a roadie sent to refuel one of the band’s trucks as Metallica plays to a packed house.
DeHaan, however, doesn’t have any lines throughout the film. In his dialogue-less scenes, he wanders a deserted cityscape while police and rioters clash, chased by a mystical horse-riding figure wearing a gasmask and wielding a mallet as he attempts to retrieve a mysterious item the band needs to finish their performance.
With the Metallica concert blaring in the background, this fictional narrative ends up becoming a glossy, high-end music video. With scenes sparingly interjected throughout the 94-minute feature, this storyline takes up roughly 20-25 minutes of the film.
That means the other hour-plus of Metallica: Through the Never is pure concert footage, an electrifyingly photographed and edited stage show that defies traditional concert movie tropes; we rarely, if ever, get a good view of the tens of thousands of screaming fans in the audience, though their presence is always audibly felt.
As drummer Lars Ulrich tirelessly beats away on at the center of the elaborate stage, flanked by bassist Robert Trujillo, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and lead singer James Hetfield, cinematography by Gyula Pados captures the band in larger-than-life fashion: for most of the feature, we’re up there on stage with Metallica. Live show or not, this is the closest many will have felt to the band (frequent close-ups of Hammett’s guitar, which changes classic horror movie themes from White Zombie to The Mummy, reveal that this is actually two concerts edited together.)
Sixteen of the band’s greatest hits unfold during the film, including classics like Master of Puppets, Enter Sandman, and Nothing Else Matters, each one set to a stage performance that makes use of props, lighting, and video. A highlight of me was the one-two punch of Ride the Lighting, during which an electric chair was lowered from above, complete with effects, followed by the solemn One, during which silhouettes of soldiers marched through video monitors throughout the venue.
While other concert movies seek to realistically re-create the concert experience for a theatrical audience (prime examples being classics like Woodstock, The Last Waltz, Stop Making Sense, and most recently, The Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think), Through the Never aims for something grander; while the actual film was actually shot during two of the band’s concerts, the result feels like an surreal staged performance that most definitely captures a larger-than-life feeling.
Metallica: Through the Never has been playing exclusively in Prague at Cinema City Flora’s IMAX (and worldwide at IMAX venues throughout the globe) from September 26, and will open in other cinemas from October 3.
While the film isn’t a native IMAX production – it makes use of a standard widescreen 2.35:1 image instead of the IMAX-maximum (roughly 4:3) – the sheer scope of the screen and the thunderous aural reproduction turn Through the Never into an incredibly immersive audiovisual experience.
For fans of the band –and even those with a casual interest – I cannot recommend Metallica: Through the Never highly enough. While I was less than enthralled with the fictional narrative, the concert footage is truly a thing to behold: while it may not authentically capture the concert experience, it’s a perfect match for Metallica’s towering presence.