Heavy Metal (1981)

Heavy Metal (1981)

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Very odd, very Moebius.
Very odd, very Moebius.

Twitter Plot Summary: An animated film based on the magazine of the same name. There’s nudity, violence and the battle between good and evil.

Five Point Summary:

1. A New York taxi driver. And nudity.
2. Captain Sternn on trial.
3. B-17 bombers.
4. A discussion in the Pentagon. And nudity.
5. A fight to the death. And nudity.

Heavy Metal began life as a comic book/magazine, which in itself spawned from the French Metal Hurlant magazine. Heavy Metal covered the darker, occasionally more erotic side of the science fiction genre, playing to its teenage market by featuring violence, nudity and almost every possible twist on the science fiction and fantasy genres, provided of course that it features plenty of blood and topless women. That almost inevitably led to this 1981 film, because success and popularity is indicated by whether or not you were able to get a film into cinemas, apparently.

The animation is rough and ready, which fits in completely with the aesthetic of the Heavy Metal comic that spawned it. Several scenes are similar to the rotoscoping technique used by Ralph Bakshi in his animated Lord of the Rings, whilst other sections refer to a darker take on the traditional animation style. Both styles work well, in particular when combined with the soundtrack which features the likes of Journey, Black Sabbath, Nazareth and Blue Oyster Cult, amongst many others.

It’s a collection of frequently surreal animated short stories which are thematically linked by a story about an ultimate evil. The fact that it’s full of surreal imagery like floating eyes roaming a space station, or B-17 bombers with undead crew trying to nibble on the living marks it out as a definitive late night movie viewing experience.

Still very peculiar.
Still very peculiar.

Heavy Metal really is a product of the time that spawned it, a love letter to schlock science fiction, decent heavy rock and metal music, and lady parts. Women exist primarily to get naked and to pleasure the menfolk, and with one exception serve no further purpose. It’s clearly from the twisted minds of men unfamiliar with the concept of gender equality, or ones that don’t care about it. Women reveal their not inconsiderable bosoms on a worryingly regular basis and throw themselves at men at every opportunity – there’s a story about good and evil and a glowing green orb in there somewhere, but that almost seems secondary to having woman after woman after woman showing a bit of animated skin.

There are some good ideas on show – a taxi driver who has a hidden button to vaporise anybody whose foolish enough to threaten him with a weapon, and the weird and wonderful alien vistas that are conjured up, but the core story of this ultimate evil is lost behind an anthology format that makes little sense and that obsession with lady parts. As a flight of fancy however, one aimed at the male teenage market in the early 80s, it does its job. There are certain films which exist solely to entertain a very specific, often niche, audience and Heavy Metal was clearly made with male teenagers in mind, both in terms of its risky content, insane story and plethora of heavy metal tunes. Anyone who was a reader of the anthology comic back in the day is well served by this film, although feminists and those who have issues with the objectification of women may have a bit more to say on the matter.

Score: 3/5

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