I like Metallica. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s read my first novel, Touched by an Alien. I consider “Enter Sandman” to be the best rock song ever made. (And that’s saying a lot.) I’ve also seen Metallica live in concert and, for the record, they put on a great show.
I’m not a huge fan of concert movies, though, mostly because those movies spend a lot of time showing you how cool and/or normal the performers are and don’t spend enough time letting you actually see the concert. Or they’re stultifying dull. So, it’s no surprise that I fall on the Help! side of the movie concert house. As in, I like a fun, fictional story to go along with the musical performance.
Metallica appears to share my dislike of the whole “backstage is so cool and let’s sit a camera in the back of the auditorium and run around with another camera on the stage so the audience still can’t really see the performance” thing. And it’s not a spoiler to say that there’s a mini-movie going on at the same time as the on-screen Metallica concert — it’s something Metallica pointedly wanted. And for the most part, it works.
The concert footage is amazing. We saw this in IMAX 3-D. There is literally no really good reason to see this movie in 3-D (at ALL) but there’s great reason to see it in IMAX. Metallica had an amazing set for this concert, and you get to see it all, and all of the band, clearly. Amazingly clearly — and let me say they look damned good for the number of years they’ve been around. And they can still shred with the best of them.
The kid (Dane DeHaan) who stars in the (basically silent) mini-movie looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and considering that he doesn’t say a word, he might be as good an actor, because you know what this kid is thinking any time the cameras are on him.
The mini-movie/movie concert combo really made me feel like this was a heavy metal Mama Mia! crossed with Alice in Wonderland. The story portion is definitely driven by the songs Metallica is performing, and there’s some amazing imagery, stunts, and sets.
Before you worry that all I’m going to do is fangirl over this, however, let me mention some of the things I didn’t like.
This movie is loud, like being at the concert loud. Literally there’s only a few lines of dialog that isn’t being sung by James Hetfield, so if you have sensitive ears, bring some cotton. You’ll still hear everything.
The bigger problem I had (other than constantly asking myself why, why, WHY they’d filmed this in 3-D, because other than 2 scenes, most of the 3-D was focused on microphone stands and cymbals) was that the mini-movie has both a MacGuffin and is loaded with ambiguity, to the point of complete confusion at the end. I was quite caught up in the mini-movie portion, and in fact wanted more of it than we got, but I also got literally no answers at all, and that’s frustrating after 90+ minutes. Ambiguity in a 3 minute music video, okay. Ambiguity on top of a major MacGuffin in a major motion picture running 90 minutes plus, on the other hand, isn’t okay, it’s annoying.
Metallica already has the whole #what’sinthebag? thing going, but I really want to know #whatthehelljusthappenedforthelast90minutes? Not every rock fan takes hard drugs, guys. Do the sober a favor and give us a clue about what we were supposed to take away from this movie experience.
However, all that said, the hubs loved this movie, ambiguity and all, and I have to say that it was both a great concert and a really compelling movie… which is why not knowing what really happened bothers me. If you like Metallica, like rock and roll, like weird arty movies that aren’t boring, or just want to see what a team trying to work outside the concert movie box come up with, you should give Metallica: Through the Never a try. Just don’t expect to know what’s in the bag, or anything else, other than that Metallica really and truly totally ROCK.
Rating: Concert: A, Movie: B