For some reason, Metallica seem to inspire a lot of films. The latest addition to this canon, in addition to the excellent doco Mission to Lars (2012) and the reportedly excellent Some Kind of Monster (2004) which I have not seen, is the music video/feature film hybrid Metallica Through the Never (2013).
I was not really sure how I would go with this film. Metallica were never a band that I got into that much. As such watching a concert of theirs interspersed with a fictional side-plot would not have been my ideal way to spend 90 minutes in theory. The end result though was a surprisingly satisfying jaunt. It still did not turn me into a particular fan of their tunes, so I imagine that if you are a big fan of the band, that this would be even more satisfying for you. The whole film and the conceit behind it is a little cheesy, but for the most part it is endearingly so. Whilst a Metallica concert plays, a young roadie played by Dane DeHaan (a pretty slick actor to get in this film) sets off into the city on a mission to get something the band desperately needs. On this journey a surreal and shambolic array of occurrences comes to pass. There are riots, a weird masked dude on a horse, car crashes and in perhaps the most striking piece of imagery, a bunch of people are hanged over the road whilst the city burns below them. What all of this means is not entirely clear. The main focus is on making it look pretty cool and having at least a superficial connection to the songs that the band are playing basically the entire time.
There is plenty of footage of the band doing their thing in concert and this gets more prevalent as the film goes on. Personally, I would have preferred a little more of the side story featuring DeHaan, but stronger Metallica fans may well disagree. It is not like that side story is a particularly fully formed narrative. But the experience is original enough, with the concert going on, cutting back and forth. The major strength of it is that it does manage to have some really cool imagery throughout, invoking all sorts of gothic sources and even biblical references without ever threatening to manage to coalesce into something truly coherent. Nowhere is this more evident than the ending which really is a bit of an abrupt and totally unsatisfying conclusion to a little story that I had gotten at least a little caught up in. However all is forgiven and major bonus points scored due to the fact that Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett uses two guitars throughout the film – one featuring art from the Bela Lugosi film White Zombie (1932) and the other with Boris Karloff as the titular character from The Mummy (1932). How freaking cool is that!
Metallica Through the Never really works better than it has any right to. For the most part it manages to skirt the self-indulgence that could have buried it, helped by the fact that it does not take itself too seriously. Now all I need is one of my favourite bands to take this really kind of cool approach to the concert film and we will really be talking.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs