Metallica rocks in 3-D on Imax screen 

click to enlarge The concert film “Metallica: Through the Never” gives viewers many cool perspectives of the acclaimed Bay Area band.
  • The concert film “Metallica: Through the Never” gives viewers many cool perspectives of the acclaimed Bay Area band.
From his award-winning 2003 feature “Kontroll” to the films “Vacancy,” “Armored” and “Predators,” there was nothing in Hungarian-descended, Los Angeles-based director Nimrod Antal’s horror-suspense canon that hinted at the sudden left turn his career recently took with one unexpected phone call.

“I was asked, ‘Hey, would you come in and talk to Metallica about doing a 3-D concert film?’” he recalls, still stunned that he wound up helming the 3-D-Imax extravaganza “Metallica: Through the Never.”

“So I met with Lars (Ulrich, band drummer) first, and he explained the concept – marrying a narrative to a concert – and it felt so weird and out there that of course I said yes.”

Fans of the Bay Area Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will delight at Antal’s thoroughly immersive experience, which ricochets from arena footage of band classics (like “Fuel,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets”) to a parallel story line starring “Chronicle’s” Dane DeHaan as Trip, a Metallica roadie who is sent on a mysterious quest across a violent urban landscape – a journey that metaphorically mirrors the group’s own colorful history.

You don’t just feel what it’s like to attend a Metallica show – you feel what it’s like to be Metallica, with crowds in front of you singing along to every word.

“At a concert, you’re usually down, looking up,” says Antal. “But one we give you the opportunity to be over the shoulder of James (Hetfield, vocalist/guitarist), looking out. And the opportunity to be on the drum riser with Lars, or to be on the actual bridge of Robert Trujillo’s bass.”

Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett concur with their director’s assessment. “For us, that boundary between stage and audience has always been a problem,” Hammett says. “And we’ve always tried to break down that barrier in whatever way – creatively, musically, personally. But this movie definitely brings the viewer onstage with us.”

The stage – aircraft carrier-sized, and floor-lit with shifting ghoulish designs – features pyrotechnics, suspended coffins, an electric chair, even a crumbling “And Justice For All…” statue.

When Hetfield angrily slams down his malfunctioning microphone, it’s all part of the show. “It’s part of the buildup for the destruction scene,” he says. “Which was originally part of the ‘Load’ tour, where everything implodes and we end up just playing with our half-stacks and the houselights on.”

But Hammett doesn’t think “Through the Never” will squelch fans’ urge to see Metallica live. He says, “The ritual of buying a ticket and looking forward until that show day finally comes – You don’t get that pumped from Blu-ray! The concert experience will never be replicated. That’s like trying to replicate the experience of going fishing!”

IF YOU GO

Metallica: Through the Never

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

Directed by Nimród Antal

Rated R

Runinng time 1 hour 32 minutes

Note: Hetfield is slated to attend the 10 p.m. Sept. 26 screening at AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco.

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Tom Lanham

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