The Song Remains the Same. There, said it – as will every other rock & roll fanatic considering Metallica: Through the Never. In Led Zeppelin’s infamous concert film from 1976, The Song Remains the Same, Madison Square Garden concert footage is cut together with vignettes representing the individual members of the UK’s other fab four. The results – dungeons and Druids – eventually played no small role in the satiric wonder This Is Spinal Tap. Fearlessly cruising the same deep, dark Atlantic waters of that concept, Metallica updates the hybrid head on, wrapping its own live show in a contemporary, genre-appropriate narrative. Instead of their predecessor’s hazy Stonehenge-baiting, the Southern California thrash metal pioneers pile on the apocalyptic.
Paying homage to doom-y sources like Walter Hill’s The Warriors, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, and George Miller’s Mad Max series (also sprinkle in some L.A. wasteland from Charlton Heston’s indelible The Omega Man), director and fellow Angeleno Nimród Antal (2010’s Predators) gamely avoids any icebergs that might otherwise sink the film’s center: Metallica’s actual performance. That Through the Never requires 3-D glasses matters very little beyond giving the band’s in-the-round stage setup a winning depth. When the 32-year-old quartet opens with their early catalog rush “Creeping Death,” you’ll spend the entirety of the song marveling at frontman and primary composer James Hetfield’s physique, neck tattoo, and miraculous preservation. The maniac hesher who penned “Disposable Heroes” and “Leper Messiah” commands the big screen as firmly as he does stadiums. No less charismatic is actor Dane DeHaan (who could pass for a young Hetfield) as the roadie charged with bringing back a distinctly Hitchcockian McGuffin while the band rages through its greatest hits. In fact, DeHaan’s possession of the spotlight might well best the band itself, since Metallica never completely catches fire live. Even then, midnight showings of Metallica: Through the Never will easily trump those of The Song Remains the Same.