Heavy Metal (1981)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 69%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,167
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Connections: Heavy Metal

A glowing green orb - which embodies ultimate evil - terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror. --IMDb
Don Francks
Don Francks
Caroline Semple
Caroline Semple
Richard Romanus
Richard Romanus
Susan Roman
Susan Roman
Al Waxman
Al Waxman
Review by Ginose
Added: November 30, 2009
Heavy metal. The words themselves breed a legendary intensity in nearly every medium they touch. The music, the culture, the actual elements in the very *ahem* art of it is truly nothing more than that: Intensity.

"Is that a good thing?", one could ask. To a degree, yes, I believe it is. It makes for a very particular product no matter how it is used. On the other side of it all, intensity works much better as a piece of one thing or another, rather than the sheer essence of something. It can work into so many things and create sheer greatness in it all. Alone, it's just a theme gone throughout; this doesn't mean much, as it breeds the eternal "style over substance" dilemma that mankind has been stuck with since the 60s. It's hard to ever validate the use of style over substance, but there's no denying that it can be something of wonder if used correctly (such as being a truly beautiful work to look at), but it more than often just leaves the viewer with a hollow feeling, much like eating a balloon of chocolate, it taste great while you're enjoying it, but you often feel unsatisfied and wondering if all the money you spent on the novelty was worth it.

So, how does the film "Heavy Metal" (as well as its preceding source material) fare in the overall worth of the artistic medium? Good question. Glad I asked it.

We start off with a bad-ass opening in which a space-shuttle captures a glowing asteroid and then releases a convertible into Earth's atmosphere which lands, perfectly fine, and drives through the desert, where the astronaut returns home to give his eager daughter a gift, the glowing rock that, then, commences to dissolving his flesh and terrorizing his young daughter with the news that she must die, but at least does her the kindness of explaining to her who, and what, he is, as well as why she must die through many vivid, violent, exciting and hyper-sexualized tales of times both past and forthcoming in the history of this artifact, known through many dimensions as the sum of all evils: The Loc-Nar.

Now, all I've done here is pretty much explain the wrap-around to this anthology, but merely because reviewing each of the individual stories would be a bit more plot than the films really deserves to have explained (and, in most cases, completely spoiled), but, as I've already said, they are intense. That's the only thing that truly connects them all; the comedies are comedies, the action pieces are action and the horror pieces are horror, however, they are all just pushed to the utmost extreme that they are allowed (while sticking to their source material, faithfully) and still retain a loving visual and aesthetic quality. Mix all of this together with an impressive hard-rock/metal soundtrack and you have a film that is greatly deserving of its cult-status, but not much else I'm afraid.

It's not like the film is truly lacking in any technical department, quite the opposite, honestly. The sound-design, voice-work, and, above all, soundtrack selection are far beyond the call of duty for independent animations at the time. The art stayed remarkably close to the stories that they were originally based upon and were, for the most part, short, sweet and to the point. However, this creates the problem of the actual stories being of any real interest to anyone; sure their fun and short, but they're not terribly deep, interesting or enthralling. Truth be told, the novelty of the huge-titted warrior-babe slaughtering minions of a rising ghoul army in slow-motion is far more appealing than the actual act. Perhaps the movie would have stuck with me more if I were a fan of the comics rather than a boy watching it on an old VHS due to hype, but it came off as cheap to me back then as it does now: No lasting impact, but a lot of fun to watch.

I suppose I could like it a helluvalot more if I could watch it from the mind-set of the target audience (14 year-olds with holes in their pockets or fans of the genre/magazine) but I fall outside of that demographic, viewing it as just a fun romp of 80s culture and a great cry-out to the culture of metal, as well as the world of "Heavy Metal" and the strange, wonderful inhabitants of it.

A wonderful cult-classic, and only that, for a reason.

Greg Follender #1: Greg Follender - added 11/30/2009, 10:54 PM
I guess it kinda has to do with how old you were when you saw it...
For me, this film opened up a whole new way to look at traditional cell animation... (before I'd ever even sampled the mad world of Japanese anime)

After seeing this film as a boy and relating to the content like no other film I'd seen before then,.. I knew that once I finished my first short illustrated piece, there was no other place to take it to be published. I'm currently working on finishing the 3rd installment of a continuing storyline through the magazine that inspired this film... and while parts of the movie haven't aged as well as others... I still get a secret thrill out of popping this old flick into my player and re-living my wide-eyed youth through the frantic, graphic imagery that flashes across the screen!

Sure... I'm impartial... but I'm also part of the film's original target audience. 8/10 for blind, nostalgic affection;)
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 12/01/2009, 10:34 AM
Well, in my defense, I was somewhere around 12 when I first saw it, and that was quite a bit after it was released, so perhaps I fell beneath the demographic, especially considering animation had lept ahead a bit since then. However, I was already greatly saturated to the magazine as well as many of the popular underground comics at t he time, so the extreme use ofsex and violence rolled of me like piss on a duck. Not to say it wasn't fun, but most of the shock and splendor that came with the work during its time definately hadn't aged well, and even less-so in my recent viewing. It's not like it's a BAD movie, by any means, as I said, I just feel that the compact and rushed use of the characters and stories were a bit weak.

I probably would have loved it if I hadn't had a bit of knowledge of the stories beforehand, but it just felt like a movie made less sense to the unintroduced, but less satisfying to the ones who knew the works. It looks wonderful, sounds wonderful, it's just not terribly complete, or even fulfilling. I can surely understand some's affection for it.
Greg Follender #3: Greg Follender - added 12/04/2009, 01:13 AM
Yeah... knowing the stories and artists involved certainly allows for a greater investment in the film for sure...
I suppose that a few story segments could seem rather vapid without a prior frame of reference.

I can't really weigh seeing the movie in a vacuum because that simply isn't my experience.
Still, if it gets a 7.3/10 from someone your age... I can't really complain.
MrMurder #4: MrMurder - added 12/09/2009, 10:19 AM
I personally love this movie. I loved it when I first saw it (back around the age of 15 or so) and still love it. I was never a fan of the magazine and honestly never saw much in common between the two mediums beside the essential t&a that is abundant throughout. There's just something about a couple of space aliens snorting up massive lines of blow and talking about driving better when high. Man, you just gotta let your hands do the driving for you.

Easily. 10/10
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