It’s like someone said, ‘let’s make a cartoon with lots of sex and violence.’ Heavy Metal is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories which seem more concerned with pushing the boundaries of the animation genre, than the boundaries of storytelling.
The magazine it’s based on, Heavy Metal, bills itself as an adult illustrated fantasy magazine. It has published some truly spectacular work, in an anthology format, and continues to to this day. (Fun fact, the magazine is currently owned and published by Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
The movie maintains the anthology format, adding in a framing story in which a glowing green ball calling itself the ‘sum of all evil’ relates the stories of its evil deeds to a little girl. The ball plays very little part in any of the stories, which is no wonder, as the BD includes a deleted scene of original framing story, meaning this one was tacked on.
Highlights of the stories include the first one, about a New York city cab driver in the future, who picks up a girl being chased by some hoods. It has a nice film-noir feel to it, complete with voice over monologue.
One thing you start to notice by this point is that all the female characters have the characterizations of porn protagonists. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that all the women we’ve seen by this point are very open sexually. Basically, any time a woman finds herself alone with a man, she whips her clothes off and jumps him.
Without getting into the whole feminist debate on the merits of open sexuality, I will point out that none of the women in the movie are victims (well, one was, but her attacker was another woman). Yes, the women all have large breasts, which they show frequently, but they are also powerful. It’s kind of like Xena.
The final installment in the movie is about a woman (the one on the cover), the last in the line of great warriors, who fights against a mutant army. It’s longer than most, so it has time to build up a world, and it’s considerably better for it. It was a story original to the movie, not based on one in the magazine, and yet, it feels like the quintessential Heavy Metal story, as it brings together all the elements that make it distinctive, as evidenced by the picture on the right.
One of the things the movie successfully captures from the magazine is the variety of art styles. While there are some very cartoony looking sequences, there are others that look like they were pulled out of an artist’s sketchbook. The level of artistry that went into creating something this prurient is really impressive.
Heavy Metal is a collection of elements, and is no more than the sum of them. The stories are serviceable to the goal of showcasing womens’ bodies and gore; but again, I don’t mean that in a bad way. The novelty of adult animation certainly played a big part in the films cult status. Of course, now that anime is widely available, there’s no longer anything novel about it.
Still, Heavy Metal strikes a certain cord in certain people. If you look at the cover art of the woman with a sword riding a pterodactyl and think, ‘I want to see more of that,’ then you will be very happy with this film.
The Blu Ray is solid. The film looks like it’s degraded over the years, but it is reproduced well, grain and all. Extras include a rough cut, deleted scenes, and a making of feature.