Review: Metallica Through The Never @ BFI IMAX, 4/10/13

I’d never been to an IMAX (large-screen cinema) before, neither had I seen a movie in 3D. Until last night.

I’m a self-confessed ‘tallica nut – I estimate at around 20yrs now – and so I’ll often check out something new from them, even though they haven’t been a perfect band after the early 90s.

Through The Never (named after a Black album song, which funnily they don’t play here!) is essentially a 3D concert movie with the artistic quirk of 25mins worth of drama interspersed between songs. Though the premiere was last night, next week it will be nationwide in the UK, and you could see it in non-3D.

The drama aspect didn’t quite cut it for me. It involves a fictional character called Trip who works for Metallica and who is on a mission to collect and deliver something to the band. Cue zombies, kerosene oil, a creepy/cute little puppet…
Regardless, the drama stuff doesn’t interfere much with the 1hr of live music, which in 3D gives a very good perspective of depth; you’re as close to the band as you can ever be, in this film, without trying to find a way onstage.

To add to the 3D gimmick (let’s be honest, it kind of is a gimmick, but it’s interesting) certain songs feature imagery from the albums. For instance, during Ride The Lightning, a lightning-lit electric chair emerges from above; crosses pop up from the stage during Master of Puppets, and Lady Justice appears and tumbles during …And Justice For All.

The 90mins flew by, and for the most part I liked it. Some of it, as my friend was saying, reminded me of the Cunning Stunts DVD from the late 90s; it’s almost a sort of loose remake!

On an IMAX your eyes are filled (you need to tilt your head up, down, left or right if a certain focus is in that direction!), and the 3D glasses push everything closer to you. It’s 3D all the way and very enjoyable. It’s not a perfected technology, but it’s certainly very immersive still!

Drummer Lars Ulrich appeared for 40mins of Q&A near the end. You were lucky if you were able be to chosen to ask a question but I couldn’t even think of one. With respect to those who asked questions, I thought most of them were boring and off-topic (the film), but kudos to anyone who thought of one (even that guy who asked Lars his favourite cheese, which is Stilton.)

There’ll inevitably be a DVD of this release and that will probably feature songs that didn’t make the cut, and maybe an option to view just the concert or just the drama bits.

Would I recommend the film? If you’re a Metallinut you don’t need convincing, but for a general audience it’s average; but made above-average by being a full 3D concert, and near-mesmerising at an IMAX.

I think 7/10 is a fair rating.

I’m just waiting on a long-awaited new studio album now!

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HD to SD is sub-HD?

If the subject of this post doesn’t make any sense you probably want to skip this. I could’ve Googled about this topic but I think that may have prevented me from writing about it – any chance to be more prolific!

Recently, a friend of mine gifted me a DVD (to mark another year closer to death, if you want to put it like that) and I was amazed by the visual quality. Not because it was Bluray; it wasn’t. There is a Bluray version, and it was likely originally recorded in that format, with the standard DVD being a standard ‘descale’ of that.

I haven’t invested in a Bluray player as I don’t really watch much. I have a 10yr-old DVD player that still does the job and will continue to until it blows. But, I was kind of blinking, as, compared to older DVDs, when High-Def wasn’t around, there wasn’t much graininess (viewed on flat screen); there was a kind of pseudo-HD clarity.

I took this disc around to my friend (the guy who gifted it to me, and who owns a Bluray’d laptop that he HDMI’d up to his TV) and I didn’t tell him what I thought of the visual clarity. But after a few mins he said “that’s nearly high def!”

My guess (and surely some article confirms this; I may read up on it later) is that HD content descaled to SD, because you have so much clarity to begin with, loses not so much in the down-conversion, so still looks good. While SD originally recorded as SD comes from a poor quality first source, and won’t even look good on up-scaling players.

SD looks good on old CRT (tube) TVs because of the kind of visual enhancements they can pull off. Fewer people have these now, so I wonder, while HD is still undergoing full adoption, if it’s worth exploiting sub-HD as a tag? Couldn’t HD to SD converted DVDs use that tag? Couldn’t HD to SD broadcast content be aired that way? I suppose the problem is if you can deliver a half-way cheaper solution you put off people from going full HD.

I’m pretty sure my eyes didn’t deceive me anyway. HD descaled to SD certainly looks better than primary-sourced SD, to me.