‘Metallica: Through the Never’ is only pretty darn insane

Lars Ulrich does a good job pretending he's not 50 years old in "Metallica: Through the Never." Credit: Picturehorse
Lars Ulrich does a good job pretending he’s not almost 50 years old in “Metallica: Through the Never.”
Credit: Picturehorse

‘Metallica: Through the Never’
Director: Nimrod Antal
Stars: Metallica, Dane DeHaan
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

As any self-respecting metalhead will tell you, one big reason “This is Spinal Tap” is so brilliant is because it’s so accurate. The pomp, the pretense, the rabid band of idolizing angry male fans — it’s all there, just as it’s all in “Metallica: Through the Never,” which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is actually subtitled “Through the Never.” The difference is popularity. Metallica have always have had it, and have only gotten bigger as, of course, their new material has gotten worse. It’s been 22 years since their last truly major work. (Though some OG Metallica heads stop at Cliff Burton’s death in 1986.) But they’re an established arena band now — rock gods, two of them in AARP age.

They still essentially got it, though. James Hetfield no longer looks like a screaming lion, and Lars Ulrich is beginning to resemble a manic troll. But in this IMAX 3-D concert picture, they tear through their biggest hits with respectable faithfulness. They don’t have the slack, sometimes phoned-in weariness of the Stones as they started reaching up in years. When they scale things down towards the end, trying to summon the raw power of their debut “Kill ‘Em All,” it’s creepily accurate.

Of course, it’s not just a concert movie. The main influence is “The Song Remains the Same,” the Led Zeppelin movie that peppers a concert with ridiculous fantasy sequences for each member: Robert Plant as a knight, Jimmy Page scaling a mountain and meeting a wizard, etc. Here, “The Place Beyond the Pines”’s Dane DeHaan (born: 1986) plays a young stagehand who stops fist-pumping with the crowd to crash a van, run into Occupy Wall Street-style protesters, battle demons (or something) and the like.

The scenes, littered throughout, were written by the band and the film’s director, Nimrod Antal, a genre director (“Vacancy,” “Armored”). They’re both too undefined — even Matthew Barney would find some of the symbolism too inscrutable — and not nearly insane enough, especially compared to “The Song Remains the Same.” But they have a certain personalized charm that’s purely retro, and purely metal. The ludicrously outsized performances are much more Spinal Tap-y. Lasers, hologram gravestones, a statue of Lady Justice painstakingly erected then clumsily knocked apart — this is exactly what you’d expect from a Metallica concert movie…in 1991. That they’re still doing it in 2013, and capably, is impressively not depressing, but just impressive.


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