Monday Movie Retrospective

August 7, 2017


As a sequel to a previous retrospective, today’s retrospective is about the original Heavy Metal movie, “Heavy Metal” (1981).

Once again, just like its sequel, this movie is all about the sensation, rather than the story. In fact, the interesting thing about this movie is the different “segments”, made by different animation companies, giving the viewer different feelings and perspectives. There is an overarching connective story that ties everything together, but it’s the barest of threads, which allow these many different kinds of stories to be told in the same movie.

This movie is a great product of its time, being a punk-rock, anti-establishment (mostly anti-Disney), nihilistic Science Fiction adventure. I was introduced to the heavily censored version on late-night television, where I was exposed to all sorts of alternate (mostly bad) movies that I found enjoyable, or that were at least an introduction to alternate tastes and ideas. There are stories of Disney cartoon artists who were tired of drawing family fare, and dived into this less family-friendly project with an eager drive of new subjects.

In direct opposition to the sound of the sequel, I definitely preferred the music soundtrack of this movie, with its regular rock and roll aesthetic. There are many power metal and power ballad tracks to be found here, and almost nothing sounds bad. The soundtrack selections may, in fact, have been selected to be milder, more popular tracks that would appeal to a wider audience, a fact that would be incredibly important for the box office draw of this movie, which was an experiment in adult animation, in direct opposition to family-friendly animation from more established houses, especially Disney.

When one criticizes the art and animation of this movie, it’s important to realize that it is a largely American production, predating much of the incredible animation of the 1980s and 1990s, which expanded and forwarded the art of the cartoon even further. However, for its time, compared with the original Scooby Doo cartoons, for instance, this is an amazing work of art, implementing classic cartoon styles, rotoscoping, and a close relationship to the original artwork of the magazine. This movie, was actually very influential on the careers and styles of later cartoon artists.

I found the threadbare connective tissue between the different stories and the different stories themselves to be more of a distraction than a valuable story arc, which is why I prefer the single-thread story of the sequel. However, the multiple stories and art styles provide a varied pallete for the audience, which can provide its own level of interest. Don’t like the current art style or story? Hang on and keep watching for the next segment. The B-17 segment is probably the strongest, while the Captain Sternn segment is probably the weakest. There is a rainbow of different stories and styles, from high fantasy to science fiction. It should never be taken too seriously, but should be experienced and enjoyed.

I give it one psychadelically-drugged spaceship pilot out of two.