I should probably preface this review by saying that I don't consider myself a Metallica fan. I have nothing against the 32-year-old metal band, mind you. I've just never actively followed the group. So take it as a ringing endorsement that, despite my relative indifference, I thoroughly enjoyed the band's nutty but imaginative new concert film, "Metallica: Through the Never." Directed by Nimród Antal ("Predators"), the film mashes together the standard concert film format with a fictional plot involving Trip (Dane DeHaan, "Chronicle" and "The Place Beyond the Pines"), a roadie for the band who is tasked with locating a broken-down tour truck that contains something the band needs for its performance, but who along the way finds himself caught in the middle of an apocalyptic battle between anarchist rebels and an army of riot police. Oh, and the whole thing is filmed in 3D.
Antal cross-cuts between this action-oriented storyline and Metallica's actual concert, a massive arena stage spectacle featuring Tesla coils, flames, screen projections, and lasers. Amidst all the flashy effects, the band performs its way through its discography, from early hits "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Ride the Lightning," through some of its more recent output. The director's cameras swoop across the arena, capturing every bit of the epic performance in immersive detail, from lead singer James Hetfield's charismatic growling to the fist-pumping crowd singing along. It's a testament to the band that its members at least appear to still be enjoying themselves as they play these songs, some of which they've been performing for decades.
All four members of Metallica share writing credit with Antal for the "plot," but the storyline is mostly an excuse to stage elaborate action scenes as a glorified music video, meant to provide cool-looking visuals to accompany the band's music. DeHaan performs well, I suppose, but it's difficult to judge his performance, as he never utters a single word. It wasn't until the credits rolled that I even realized his character had a name. But "Through the Never" is visually stunning start to finish, and gorgeously shot by cinematographer Gyula Pados. The editing of the film is extraordinary, and surely must have been a monumental task for the film's sole credited editor, Joe Hutshing. I respected Antal's attempt to do something different than the typical concert film, and he succeeds in capturing the raucous energy of a great rock concert, but in the end it's not quite enough to recommend the film to anyone other than die-hard Metallica fans.