IN 2004, the members of Metallica produced a feature film documenting what happens when a once-vital band has amassed an absolutely vulgar amount of money, has every advantage at their immediate disposal, and has absolutely nothing left to say. Now, in 2013, the members of Metallica have made what more or less amounts to the same movie.
A riveting train wreck, 2004's Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is one of the greatest rock films ever made: a blissfully accidental Spinal Tap, in which its subjects exhibit scarcely a modicum of self-awareness as they struggle to contend with substance abuse, writer's block, on-call band therapy, and the cloud of waning relevance. It's an amazing piece of cinema, even (especially?) for someone who never really gave a shit about Metallica. If Some Kind of Monster was Metallica's accidental Spinal Tap, then Metallica: Through the Never—a tenuously released (read: not screened for critics) IMAX/3D concert extravaganza—is the band's accidental Captain Eo: a curio of pure masturbatory cinematic spectacle, with zero justifiable reason for its existence outside its makers' own megalomaniacal boredom (this is an escalating habit for Metallica—see also: Lulu, the band's much-maligned recent collab-album with Lou Reed).
An elaborately shot concert film documenting a particularly extravagant/batshit stage show, Through the Never pads its running time with an astonishingly bone-headed series of narrative interjections—each following a heart-achingly beautiful roadie (Eddie Furlong stand-in Dane DeHaan) on some kind of videogame-ass mission through an unexplained and ill-conceived apocalyptic hellscape. The less I say about this the better. It's the sort of fame-addled, vainglorious shitshow that's all too rare in the post-music industry age—the kind of conspicuous excess that's almost never entirely without its pleasures. Firstly, the set list is mercifully thin on songs written during this century—a satisfying balance of the band's thrash-era material together with every song they're obliged to play at every concert forever. Second, the theatrical stage show provides more than enough transcendently Spinal Tap-ian absurdity to stave off listlessness. Finally—and for a band to which volume is the ultimate premium, most importantly—Through The Never is relentlessly LOUD AS FUCK. Like, uncomfortably loud. Like, I feel sorry for the anyone who bought a ticket in the adjacent theater loud. Like, seriously you guys, maybe you should just be reasonable and turn it down a little bit loud.
Through The Never is basically Laser Metallica re-imagined for the multiplex: big, dumb, loud, and—in its way—still sort of remarkable. Kind of like Metallica.