I suppose it's cheaper than a concert ticket...
This'll be a fairly quick review as there's not much to Metallica: Through the Never, and if you're not already a fan I can't imagine why you'd want to pay the IMAX premium ticket price. Through the Never is a concert, inter-cut with what's essentially a glorified music video. If you're hoping for some backstage footage or insight into the band, then you'll need to look elsewhere, but if you just want to rock out with Metallica for 90 minutes, then Through the Never delivers.
Yes, I am a Metallica fan, particularly when I was younger and in my early days of playing drums. I used to play "...And Justice for All" from beginning to end, and was a big fan of Lars Ulrich. As far as the music goes, I feel like the drumming and the tempo the only things I feel qualified to critique, but I'll get to that later.
I want to get the music video elements out of the way, since I found them to be complete nonsense. Trip (Dane DeHaan) is a roadie for the band. Shortly after the concert starts, he's sent out on an errand to retrieve an item from a truck that has run out of gas. I don't know if everyone in this city was already at the concert or they just shut down entirely, but you'll notice there isn't a single car on the road. That is, until Trip almost runs a red light and is struck by another car. What a coincidence! Forced to continue on foot, Trip finds himself in the middle of a riot between people that couldn't afford a Metallica ticket and the police. Then he's chased by not-Bane on a horse. He's able to find the truck though, and it's only cargo is a small bag. What's in the baaaaaaag!? Why a moving truck was needed for a small bag, who knows? He's cornered by not-Bane's posse at one point and figures the best way out of this mess is to douse himself in gasoline and flail about uncontrollably. This didn't work at all as the mob beats him senseless. Fortunately, he wakes up on the top of a parking structure, still with the bag, and relatively unhurt. I pretty much gave up at that point. I know music videos don't always make sense, but I found these scenes to be devoid of any entertainment value and more and more distracting as they went on. I'm not sure what the band and director Nimród Antal were going for here, but I'll chalk it up to an experiment that didn't work. I was more surprised that Dane DeHaan is the featured character as he's an up and coming actor that's been in some well-reviewed movies. He has no dialog though and doesn't really do much otherwise.
As far as actual concert goes, I really enjoyed it. The stage design was great and there were some really elaborate and interesting effects used. For instance, the intro to "One" was very theatrical and that would have been something to witness in person. However, there were some distracting elements here, too. At one point James Hetfield's mic cuts out and he angrily knocks it to the ground and motions for a tech to fix it. Was this a real event in the concert or staged to make it feel like a 'real' concert? Eventually the music video events bleed into the actual concert, and it felt awkward.
They play a wide variety from their catalog which I also enjoyed, like the aforementioned "One". You'll hear many of their other popular songs like "Battery", "Master of Puppets", "Fuel", and "Enter Sandman". However, if there's one thing that bugged me, it was that some of the songs were played at slightly faster tempos. "Fuel" is already a fast paced song, but playing it even faster made it sound messy. There was one song that was intro'd with the album version, but then cut to them playing live, which really made you notice how much faster they were playing it. You'd think they would have worked on that to make sure it wasn't so jarring. The irony is that when playing "Battery", it sounded great, as did many of the slower paced songs that didn't have many tempo changes, like with "Nothing Else Matters".
I hate to say it, but it sounded like Lars Ulrich's playing has regressed a little over the years. His tempo was all over the place, even within the same song. Again, with "One", I was happy to hear it begin normally, but then the speed keep creeping up as the song went along. I'm sure the band would feel that using a click track or metronome would take away from the realness of the performance though. Even his technique was a little off, and many fills sounded rushed or sloppy. I don't mean to sound like I'm hating on Lars, but I tended to be more technical when I played, so things like this always bugged me. I also don't recall hearing this as much when attending previous Metallica concerts. At least I can still enjoy the goofy faces he makes.
The musical highlight was during the credits, when the band played "Orion", one of their instrumental songs. It was just the band on stage jamming the song without an audience. The band sounded great here, and their playing was tight and clean. I'm sure when playing in front of an audience they feed off the energy of the crowd, but I liked seeing the band play as if they were back in the garage.
You're not rewarded for staying until the end of the credits though, as we never find out what's in the bag. What's in the baaaaaaag!?
Fans of Metallica will enjoy Through the Never for the music, but the movie elements end up being distracting nonsense and totally unnecessary. The 3D and IMAX were also nothing special, but I guess it's cheaper than a concert ticket. If you have a good surround sound system, then I'd recommend saving it for rental and enjoying it that way. It's worth a listen.
3 (out of 5) Death Stars