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‘Metallica Through the Never’: A visually haunting 3-D tale


Trip Dane DeHaan

Metallica vocalist James Hetfield

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett

Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo

Picturehouse presents a 3-D film written and directed by Nimrod Antal. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R (for some violent content and language). Opens Friday in Imax theaters.

Updated: October 28, 2013 6:44AM

Pete Townshend and Roger Waters famously established their careers with album and film projects that connected the dots between rock-star hubris and old-fashioned fascism — the uniforms, the mass gatherings, the hero worship, the symbols, the catharsis. All the same ingredients that went into, say, the Nuremberg rallies emerged at stadium rock shows.

In line with those works is “Metallica Through the Never,” a 3-D film featuring iconic metal band Metallica that offers a psychological presentation of the band’s music through stage footage combined with a corresponding narrative of a roadie wandering into an urban nightmare. The film is neither the star-endorsing vehicle of most concert films, nor an outsider interpretation of a band’s career catalog. Instead, it’s a concise but never elaborate presentation of the core themes Metallica has obsessed on for more than 30 years — war, madness, childhood — in a way that is visually haunting.

Director Nimrod Antal introduces each band member separately as distant heroes to Trip, a roadie (Dane DeHaan) who skateboards into the backstage area of a downtown stadium while the band prepares for a show. There we witness the working hive of one of the world’s most successful rock bands — a swirl of technicians, roadies and assistants — until Trip is dispatched to deliver gas to a band vehicle that is stranded nearby. From that moment, he enters a solitary city, void of people or vehicles, just a dream world suggesting images drawn from the Occupy movement.

The story is interspersed with Metallica’s live performance, which incorporates themes and visuals from past albums, including the coffins of “Death Magnetic” and Lady Justice from “And Justice for All.” These props, combined with an LED floor and flashes of fire, are intended to intensify the music but on screen do not necessarily do the job. Instead, the real combustion comes from the physicality of the band itself — particularly the primal stage stalking of bassist Robert Trujillo and the emoting of singer-guitarist James Hetfield. On such a mammoth stage, stretching 200 feet, the band easily could feel detached, not just from its audience but also each other. This film shows how a band creates grand theater from such an asset.

“Metallica Through the Never” is shot in 3-D, which is less a selling point than is the corresponding story. Songs like “Ride the Lightning” and “Cyanide” emerge as Trip encounters a war between masked anarchists and similarly masked riot police: Whom should he trust? Instead, he flees, pursued by a menacing, ax-wielding horseman. The most haunting image comes when he stumbles upon a street where people, lynched, hang from streetlights. He slowly walks down the block as Antal frames each his head against each swinging set of sneakers.

In this film, Metallica elevates headbanging to matters of the head that will consume the viewer long after the fade to black.

Mark Guarino is a local freelance writer.

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