[Happy 35th Birthday!] Heavy Metal (1981)

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Director: Gerald Potterton

Cast: Harvey Atkin, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Marilyn Lightstone, Harold Ramis, Richard Romanus, Alice Playten, Roger Bumpass, Joe Flaherty

Screenplay: Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum

86 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, folks, 35 years ago today, a little animated film came out. No, it wasn’t a Disney film. Not even a little. No, I’m talking about 1981’s Heavy Metal.

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Heavy Metal is a collection of stories based on those from the original source comic book. Each of these stories is connected through a mystical object, a green glowing orb called the Loc-Nar. There is the story of Harry Canyon (Richard Romanus, Mean Streets, Point of No Return), a taxi driver in 2031 New York who gets in too deep with a beautiful woman on the hunt from the gangster Rudnick. The story of Den (John Candy, TV’s SCTV, Spaceballs), a nerdy teen who is transported by the Loc-Nar to Neverwhere and becomes muscled hero bent on defeating a villainous cult. On an orbiting space station, Captain Lincoln F. Sternn (Eugene Levy, Best in Show, Finding Dory) is on trial when the Loc-Nar intervenes. The stories are each interesting in their own and contribute to an overall mythos by which the film is centered. To go in depth would ruin the fun of watching.

The film starts with a Loc-Nar monologue and immediately jumps into Soft Landing, a hell of a way to open a movie and further proof that opening titles work when done right.

The movie is crass and misogynistic and gory and erotic, and through all that, I love it. Heavy Metal has eye-popping imagery and gorgeous visuals (however dated) combined with a kick-ass soundtrack featuring hard rock music from the era. It is a time capsule of teenage boys in the 1980s, and it is epic.

I would have liked to have seen more connections between the different stories. It felt like they were shoehorned together some (and I know full well that this was the case as the Loc-Nar didn’t appear in most of the comic book stories depicted).

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I love Heavy Metal (the sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, not so much) and I hope for the long-awaited third film to show up one day down the road. This is a film like no other, only barely similar in tone to some of Ralph Bakshi’s work, but don’t let its uniqueness take you out of it. This is a tremendous feat in filmmaking that has been all but forgotten.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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