Toronto Film Review: ‘Metallica Through the Never’

'Metallica Through the Never' Review: A

Covering more than three decades of Metallica history, this first U.S. release from the revived Picturehouse Entertainment is a definitive document for fans.

If 2004’s “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” was a rare rock documentary of interest to people who might not necessarily care for the music, as it chronicled attempts to resolve interpersonal conflicts that very nearly broke the titular band apart, “Metallica Through the Never” is for fans who don’t need any feelings explored that they can’t headbang to. A set list consisting of greatest hits from more than three decades of history, a dynamic stage show, Imax 3D presentation and a silly but diverting fantasy narrative make this a definitive document for anyone who’s ever hoisted the devil-horn fingers in metalhead solidarity. This first U.S. release from the revived Picturehouse Entertainment opens on 300-plus Imax 3D screens Sept. 27, then expands Oct. 4.

The majority of the pic is a straightforward but elaborately crafted (what with 24 cameras, multiple cranes, etc.) translation of the group’s 2012 touring concert, cobbled together from five nights in Vancouver and Edmonton. The show (designed in large part by John Mark Fisher, whose prior live-rock extravaganzas include Pink Floyd’s legendary “The Wall” tour) is nothing if not aesthetically ambitious, weaving running motifs from Metallica lore into a package that encompasses a floor of panels on which images are projected (including 5,000 squirming colored maggots), Tesla coils, lasers, flames, crosses that rise from below the stage, five actors screaming inside coffins they wake up sealed in, a giant “blind justice” statue that breaks apart, and so forth.

Nonetheless, the four musicians aren’t overwhelmed by all this showmanship, as they’re in crackerjack form and expert at rousing the crowd — even if this kind of performance scale means they’re often playing in physical isolation from each other, exhorting viewers seated in the round from opposite sides of a uniquely shaped long platform. (The ruse of some apocalyptic event nearly wrecking the stage allows them to revisit small-venue days of yore by clustering together amid the rubble for a parting “Hit the Lights,” from 1983 debut album “Kill ‘Em All.”)

As thrash metal pioneers, Metallica played a big role in stripping metal of its ’70s bloat and bringing in a fast/tight sensibility from punk music. Still, too much compact crunch can be a little monotonous, so beyond including a few slower-tempo tunes, the band and director Nimrod Antal (of Hungarian cult hit “Kontroll,” plus U.S. thrillers “Vacancy” and “Predators”) devised a storyline starring young actor Dane DeHaan (also at Toronto in “Kill Your Darlings” and “Devil’s Knot”). He’s “Trip,” a tour gofer who’d rather watch the show, but who instead gets sent on a mysterious errand into an eerily deserted city. On foot after a car crash, he watches anarchist types in hoodies attack riot police, then each other, then (for no obvious reason) him, led by a murderous specter on horseback. (One of the film’s very few jokes is a final shot underlining that we never did learn just what the object of Trip’s errand run was.)

Energetically staged if not exactly deep, like Metallica’s lyrics, this mini-horror-fantasy-adventure trades trades in metal nihilism that really doesn’t bear much thinking about if you’re over 15 and/or not titanically stoned. The narrative bits serve well to break up the concert sequences, offering distraction without ever overstaying their welcome. After all, vaguely “Mad Max”-like dystopian miniatures are nice, but “Master of Puppets,” “Enter Sandman”, et al. are what this movie’s audience really came for.

Sound mix is naturally tremendous, and every other tech/design contribution is tops.

Toronto Film Review: 'Metallica Through the Never'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Event), Sept. 9, 2013. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 92 MIN.


A Picturehouse Entertainment release of a Blackened and Picturehouse production. Produced by Charlotte Huggins. Executive producers, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Cliff Berstein, Peter Mensch, Tony DiCioccio, Marc Reiter, Doug Merrifield. Co-producer, Adam Ellison.


Directed by Nimrod Antal. Screenplay, Antal, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo. Camera (color, HD, Imax 3D), Gyula Pados; editor, Joe Hutshing; music, Metallica; production designer, Helen Jarvis; costume designer, Carla Hetland; concert stage designer, John Mark Fisher; concert lighting designer, John Broderick; art director, Chris Beach; set decorator, Elizabeth Wilcox; music producer/mixer, Greg Fidelman; sound (Dolby Atmos), David Husby; re-recording mixers, Rick Kline, Jeffrey Haboush; visual effects supervisor, Boyd Howard Shermis; assistant director, Paul Barry; casting, Tricia Wood, Deborah Aquila, Michelle Allen.


Dane DeHaan, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo.

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  1. DetroitThrash says:

    Typical “critic” spouting condescension about ‘childish heavy metal’.

  2. Thomas says:

    Next time you review somthing make sure you mention there is a huge spoiler in it. Douche!!!

  3. crista fletcher says:

    my fiance and i would love to see metallica live, it has been a dream of ours for a while..we watch the rockin live in rio and its amazing every time.
    i could just imagine them live ..

  4. Joe says:

    In early 1982, Metallica recorded its first original song “Hit the Lights” for the Metal Massacre I compilation.This demo tape was recorded in McGovney’s garage during March 1982. The demo has never been officially released.

    The writer states that Metallica’s lyrics are not exactly deep and therefore superficial. This is only exposing his lack of research. A common and well known disease among journalists, which has nothing to do with “eye of the beholder”.

    About a few lyrics:

    The lyrics and the video of “ONE” are based on the novel Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. A song about those who are affected by the cruelties and horror of war.

    “Sanitarium” is based on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), a novel written by Ken Kesey.

    Blackened, Harvester of Sorrow, Master of puppets, Mama said, Creeping death, and Justice for all, bleeding me, sad but true………..etc.etc. etc….

    Lyrics concerning all aspects of life like history, religion, human relations, psychology, society, war etc..
    Offcourse these are matters we all have thought over from birth and which we can drop at the age of 15.

    Dennis Harvey failed to do his homework before picking up his pencil.

    Perhaps he was titanically stoned when writing this review?

  5. Tracy Paseman says:

    Kill ‘Em All released in 1983

  6. paraskeuas says:

    kill em all was in 1981 fire the useless who wrote this

  7. Tracy Paseman says:

    James Hetfield’s lyrics are considered the deepest in the metal genre, and is one of the reasons Metallica touches millions of fans all over the globe. I myself can’t hear ( Welcome Home) Sanitarium, Bleeding Me, or Fade To Black without crying. And by the way, I’m a 50 year old female who has seen them in concert 21 times to date, and I assist surgeons in the operating room for a living. So much for stereotypes.

  8. A little fact-checking, please. Metallica’s debut album, “Kill ‘Em All.” came out in 1983 not 1995. In 1995 they were working on their sixth and seventh albums, “Load” and “Reload.”

    Also, Mr. Harvey implies that the median age of Metallica fans is in the mid-teens. For a band that has been around for over thirty years, this is simply not the case. A quick look at the age range of the audience in the film would bear that out quickly.

    While fans of leafy substances are counted among Metallica fans, they are not in the majority as say fans of bands like Phish or Jake’s Leg. Metallica fans tend to be drinkers not tokers.

    Lastly, Metallica’s lyrics are generally regarded as deep and thought-provoking. One such example is that there is a book about their music/lyrics and philosophy:

    Thank you for your time.

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