Making movies is not Metallica’s forte

Through the Never Youtube trailer

Metallica performing onstage as seen in

Courtesy Photo

Metallica performing onstage as seen in “Through the Never”

Will Grubb, Staff Writer

Raucous Metallica fans sporting denim jackets, concert tees, tattoos and long hair filled the sold out theater at United Artists Laguna Village 12 Theater on Oct. 4, in what became a special evening for the fans in attendance.

James Hetfield, the band’s frontman, was poised to introduce “Through the Never,” the band’s movie which is half concert footage, half apocalyptic narrative and all 3D, to hundreds of his loyal fans.

The doors to the theater opened 40 minutes before showtime letting fans file in and take their seats. Unlike many movies, where the most coveted seats are somewhere 15-20 rows back and the very front row is reserved for those who show up late, Metallica’s fans treated the theater more like the floor of an arena, taking the first 10 rows by storm for a chance to be closer to the stage and, of course, closer to Hetfield.

Showtime neared and the anticipation built as Pat Martin, disk jockey for 98 Rock, introduced his “date,” James Hetfield, and the two did a live Q-and-A while taking questions from the crowd. Hetfield talked about the band’s current side project, the possibility of a new record and, of course, the making of the movie.

 “We are totally blessed to be together, still, after 30 some odd years, and doing what we love doing, so please enjoy, I want to see smiles,” were the words Hetfield left the crowd with, as the lights dimmed and the crowded theater erupted in cheers.

Seats were taken, 3D glasses were donned, and to the chagrin of the fans, the previews started to roll.  It was all downhill from here.

After seven or eight routinely booed previews, the logo for the band’s independent record label, Blackened, filled the screen and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.

The opening shot of the movie shows off the excellent 3D footage as the camera flies over Vancouver, past skyscrapers, over the arena Metallica is performing at and finally settles on the front bumper of a beat up metalhead-mobile.

A skateboarder whizzes by and here the audience is introduced to the wordless roadie, Trip, played by Dane Dehaan (Lawless), the film’s protagonist. The first of many cheap laughs is achieved as Trip falls off his skateboard while cruising through the parking lot and into the arena’s basement.

This is where the plot begins and ends. Trip is led through underground passages while running into members of the band and eventually backstage by an important looking man wearing a headset who tells him of the details of his night.

His job is simple, use a map to track down a truck in the city. The truck is out of gas and contains a mysterious something “the band needs for the show.”

Trip makes his way back down to the basement parking garage as the concert begins, and while this is not important, it achieves its purpose. Shots of Trip staring onto the stage from deep in the crowd set the scene and the 3D concert begins.

The remainder of the movie consists of mostly concert footage from a 2012 concert in Vancouver, shot over two days, with short sequences of the narrative between. The film’s highlights are these shots of the stage with the band and all their theatrics.

The 3D, while extremely well done, doesn’t always feel necessary. There are many brilliant shots of the pyrotechnics, lasers and elaborate stage props that pop out at the audience while the band plays their greatest hits, but for every few of these, there is a shot of Robert Trujillo, the band’s bassist, crawling around the stage like a crab or hobgoblin, or a shot of Lars Ulrich, the drummer, sweating profusely and looking like a pissed youth league soccer coach taking out his frustrations.

The narrative fades in and out and feels less like a story of a young roadie’s crazy adventure through a downtown turned dystopia, and more like a rather long and expensive music video. The shots are framed well and the visuals stunning, but I couldn’t help but keep asking myself “what the hell is supposed to be going on?”

This isn’t surprising, the band themselves wrote the script to the narrative and hired Hungarian director Nimród Antal (Predators) to do the rest. The result is an intense  3D concert, the real treat for Metallica fans, that is trying to do too much. The fact the narrative does so little for the movie overall almost makes it unnecessary. The symbols are vague and the “choice” Trip is supposed to make seems less like a choice and more like a struggle for survival.

I won’t spoil the end, although it may not even be worth spoiling. I’ll just say that when the credits rolled certain members of the crowd let out a round of boos, but all stayed through the credits to watch footage of the band rehearsing for the concert.

If Metallica isn’t your favorite band, then there is no reason to pay for this unless you absolutely must watch a 3D metal concert as that’s what this movie truly is. For anyone with a die-hard attitude towards the band, however, you missed the best showing in town.

Metallica knows who their audience is and what they want, but if you aren’t one of them, you should stay away.