I was a latecomer to Metallica, starting to listen to them after hearing everyone raving about Master of Puppets (I was ahead of herds who hopped on with "One" and "Enter Sandman"), but their post-Black Album material hasn't interested me which means I've been ambivalent about them for over 20 years. I saw them on their ...And Justice For All and Black Album tours and they were great shows, but I haven't even watched my DVD of Some Kind of Monster and I've had it a few years.
So when I heard they were releasing Metallica: Through The Never, a 3D IMAX Experience concert film, my pulse remained unchanged. I read a review that was laudatory and while it moved the interest needle a hair, I wasn't sure I'd go to the screening until an hour before its start time because it was a bit of a drive and I was still meh at the prospect.
Hoo boy, I'm glad I went.
After Avatar, Hollywood when on a rampage seeking to make (and mostly convert) movies to 3D in order to cash in on the higher ticket prices and many of these movies have been shoddy, half-assed in their composition and conversion, and as a result the share of tickets sold in 3D are declining. They did it to themselves, but if there is something that could make a good testimonial to how useful 3D can be, it's Metallica: Through The Never.
Director Nimrod Antel (Predators) gets the cameras right into the band's faces and cleverly shot five shows allowing for
intercutting between nights in order to get the best shots. (I figured
this out quickly when a Steadicam operator with his massive Cameron-Pace
3D camera rig - which is TWO cameras with a prism - would be visible
shooting close-ups in long shots only to disappear from his position
when cutting to another angle with that spot in view.) The depth and
clarity is stunning and frankly better than a front-row seat would
provide. The audio is immaculate and the band is on fire throughout. Unless you have a really awesome home theater, anyone not seeing this in a proper theater isn't getting the full effect.
Using a dopey "story" frame involving a roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan from Chronicle and the new Harry Osbourne in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) on a mission to retrieve a bag from an out-of-gas truck in a deserted nameless city (it's Vancouver) overrun by bizarre denizens and monsters, what the film is mostly (thankfully) is a condensed version of a headbanging show by the band as they perform 16 songs, all but three from their good era (i.e. Kill 'Em All through Black Album), as if even they realize they've sucked for a long time.
DeHaan is good in a thankless, meaningless role - he's going to be a big star and looking like a young, darker Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't hurt - able to convey Trip's trip (heh) without dialog. All the dumb narration in this trailer below is NOT in the movie; he has literally one word of dialog.
Frankly, I don't know what Metallica bothered with the "story" part because they're the stars of their show and the abrupt ending - it's only 93 minutes long with credits - startled the audience who clearly wanted more, having already had "Wherever I May Roam" truncated down to just its intro. Weak.
If you're a lapsed Metallica fan like me, revisit your bygone youth at the theater. While the IMAX ticket prices are premium, it's definitely cheaper than what you'd pay to see the band live and you wouldn't have as good a view.
Metallica: Through The Never opens Sept. 27 in IMAX theaters and regular theaters Oct. 3.
Score: 9/10. Catch a matinee in 3D. If you're a fan, spring for the full price IMAX ticket.