Sept. 27--Concert film. Directed by Nimrod Antal. With James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Dane DeHaan. (Rated R. 92 minutes.)
As a purely kinetic experience, it's hard to beat "Metallica: Through the Never." The film plunks the audience squarely onstage for a jet-fueled concert by the heavy-metal kings, and it's shown in Imax 3-D to boot, which means we're really onstage.
The performance footage was shot over several nights during the Canadian leg of the band's 2012 tour. The show was a megawatt spectacle designed by the late Mark Fisher, who also created extravagant sets for Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and other rock royalty.
The huge stage used during this concert-in-the-round is actually an outsize video screen -- perfect for the kind of macabre images evoked by the group's music. A dazzling array of props also emerges from the platform, including a graveyard-like field of crosses and a gigantic statue of blind justice. The air explodes with laser beams and fireworks.
Part of the show is designed to suggest that some catastrophe is taking place outside the arena and disrupting the onstage activities. Throughout, there's so much going on that the producers say they employed as many as 24 cameras at one time.
These guys are masters at inflaming their fans, even though they are virtually working in isolation here, playing to different sections of the crowd from parts of the stage separated by many yards. But that doesn't deter them from presenting maximum-energy versions of songs takes from throughout their three-decade career, including "Master of Puppets," "Enter Sandman" and "Hit the Lights."
Considerably less successful are fantasy sequences laced throughout, starring Dane DeHaan ("The Place Beyond the Pines"). He plays a roadie named Trip who just wants to watch the show but is sent out on a mysterious assignment. He wanders deserted city streets full of riot cops, rebellious youngsters (shades of the Occupy movement) and mass executions, and is chased by a death-dealing figure on horseback. All this may or may not be related to the catastrophe that threatens the show.
This sort-of narrative is probably meant by director Nimrod Antal ("Predators") to provide breaks from the high-intensity performance segments, but it's knucklehead stuff, even in the metal context.
Walter Addiego is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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