Although Antal's previous film was the fan service sequel "Predators," the Hungarian-born filmmaker made a name for himself in independent circles with the festival favorite "Kontroll," and that dichotomy -- unrestrained creativity versus studio politics -- provided him with ample inspiration to throw himself into this concert film. "I'm not one of those guys who comes in and says 'I was a fan of this band,' and I wasn't,” he insisted. "I truly was a fan of this band. And I'm certainly grateful for all of the opportunities I've had in Hollywood, but when you work in those environments, the micro-managing and the politics and all of the things that really have no place in making a movie are exhausting."
Antal indicated that the confidence of the band both empowered and intimidated him. "When someone says to you, 'I believe in you, don't fuck this up,' that gets me going way more than any executive on a phone call could ever do," he observed. "Because they believe in me, and I can't disappoint them, I can't let them down, and for me, there were quite a few people in this process that I felt that for."
Long before Antal joined "Through the Never" as its director, Metallica hatched plans to shoot a concert documentary. But advances in technology, paired with the concept Antal pitched for the fictional half of its story, galvanized the project and gave it momentum. "The band had this epic concert they wanted to capture, but beyond that, I think they wanted to introduce an element that would make it different than the average bear," he said. "I think initially they had some IMAX conversations, and it went away for whatever reason, but I think they decided to revisit it once that technology has changed as much as it has, and that capturing it, at least on paper, was a little bit easier than a decade ago."
Huggins explained that the band more or less literally created a foundation for a concert doc, which Antal and their collaborators fortified with truly cinematic ideas. "They had built this for the idea that they were trying to achieve, this spectacular stage, and once they stage was done, they had blocked out sort of what the concert was going to be, but then they stopped and said, ‘well, gosh, now what do we do next?'" she recalled. "So what they did was search for the producer, director and a story idea."
"The band did not do this for financial gain, much like studios do."
The film’s Comic-Con journey wasn’t finished until later Friday night, when fans, journalists and a handful of celebrities converged on Spreckles Theatre to watch Metallica perform its secret show. Despite the earlier problems in Hall H, spirits were high among ticketholders, even after their set was delayed more than 45 minutes. Thankfully, the band's performance more than quelled any attendees’ impatience: at near-deafening levels of sound, Hetfield, Ulrich and co. rattled through a greatest-hits collection of songs that roused even nonfans -- including yours truly -- while positively hypnotizing longtime devotees.
Antal said that much like the indefatigable enthusiasm the group displayed at that free show, Metallica's approach to "Through the Never" never felt commercially driven. "The band did not do this for financial gain, much like studios do," he said. Huggins added, "They're the ultimate guys to make a movie for or with, because they're coming from a creative place. So if you can make a good creative argument, they're going to go with that."
Whether or not the film is a commercial hit that successfully revives Picturehouse obviously remains to be seen. But the Comic-Con events have indeed stirred excitement for the film. The footage on display highlighted that "Metallica: Through the Never" would offer viewers a unique experience, one Antal said was not only audiovisual, but truly cinematic. "There's a lot of symbolism to be found in the film," Antal said. "There's a lot of ambiguity, and I think in today's modern narrative form, you're saturated with tying a bow on the end of everything with boring specifics. As a storytelling experience, it's different than the average film."