Friday, September 9, 2011

Movie Review: Heavy Metal

I think I was hooked on this movie before the opening credits even finished rolling up the screen.  I mean, how much cooler can you get than a 1960's Corvette used as a space ship, set to a rock n' roll soundtrack?  They really don't make 'em like that anymore.  I saw it for the first time on a bootlegged VHS tape in the early to mid-eighties over at a buddy's place.

It's very crudely drawn, campy at times, and is straight out of the 1980's no mistake there.  In spite of this, it often hearkens back to an age of film making even older than itself.  Some of the lines, especially in the New York sequence, sound like they're straight out of an old black and white 1940's film with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  That's where the similarities stop.  Other than the spoken lines, it's nothing like the old ones.  It is decidedly a trip back down 80's memory lane, though, that is for sure.

One of the greatest aspects of the movie is of course the soundtrack.  It's a compilation of some of the greatest classic rock n' roll artists all packed into a science fiction production.  To refresh your memory, should you have forgotten:

Black Sabbath
Blue Oyster Cult
Cheap Trick
Donald Fagen
Grand Funk Railroad
Sammy Hagar
Stevie Nicks

Yep, that's some rock n' roll awesomeness right there, and I dare you to find an all around better soundtrack out there.  There may be one, but that's a pretty high bar to reach.

Before I get started, let me make a disclaimer.  The movie's rated 'R'.  Probably only barely, too.  It has a ton of nudity, violence and coarse language throughout.  Animated or not, it's not one for the kiddies.  Yet.  They'll watch it someday, I'm sure, whether you forbid them or not.  It's a cult classic, and a really great science fiction flick, even up against all the modern, special effects-heavy movies being produced now.  I'll try hard not to give away the plot if for some strange reason you haven't seen it yet.  Instead, I'll concentrate more on the style and feel of the film, one sequence at a time.

Soft Landing

This is the opening credits of the movie, where the astronaut drives his Corvette back from outer space to bring back a gift for his little girl.  Too bad it's the Loc-Nar.  Like I said, it's hard to beat an opening like this one, no matter how awesome the movie is.


I think one of the most telling parts of this sequence is where we see the alien miners using their noses to vacuum up the dust of the planet when they find the Loc-Nar.  It's supposed to convey images of how evil the Loc-Nar is, but instead conveys how hedonistic, and yet strikingly innocent the 1980's were.  Ah, yes.  Good times, those.

Harry Canyon

One of the coolest scenes is the dystopic, futuristic New York sequence "Harry Canyon".  That's the guy's name, by the way, an indication of how completely cheesy, bold, and totally unassuming the movie is.  I think that sequence is one of the best old fashioned futuristic science fiction scenes ever made.  It's got the Ć¼bermodern inventions, with flying cars, neat space vehicles, huge satellite dishes and aliens, but it's coupled with the grime, and hurry, and that singular in-your-face New York attitude.  It's a snapshot of pure dystopia at its finest, which makes it one of my favorite sequences of the movie.  Ironically, the Twin Towers are seen in the opening part of this sequence, coupled together with what looks like a pair of giant tubes.


John Candy.  'Nuf said.  One may not normally associate him with this role when thinking of movies he's starred in, but I think this was one of his better roles.  He's fantastic in it, with that unassuming, boyish wonder.  He really makes this movie what it is.  And we get so much more of the comical dialog and wild and fantastic imagery with this sequence.  Suffice it to say, it would have been interesting to have been there when they wrote this part.

Captain Sternn

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde aspect to this sequence is made so much more awesome for the great soundtrack and the fact that it's set aboard a giant space station.  And of course, they use another fantastic name with the character Hanover Fiste.


This has got to be one of my favorites out of all the sequences.  More than just because it's a scene with wartime aviation, the imagery and music used throughout are what makes it so.  What makes it work are the number of classic horror elements used.

So Beautiful and So Dangerous

This segment is so weirdly implausible that you can't help enjoying it, but it's got a very humourous sci-fi vibe to it, along the same lines as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It starts off with aliens abducting a couple of folks straight out of the Pentagon and goes downhill from there.  It's already weird, but the "plutonium nyborg" drug references really push it over the top.  Add stoned Canadian aliens and robot sex just for kicks, if you're up to it.  At this point, you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.


With this scene, both the opening music by Black Sabbath and the visuals give it a much darker feel.  This scene is set on an alien planet, with a long-forgotten race of saviors, summoned to save the world from destruction and chaos.  To me, it calls to mind everything from the legend of King Arthur to Wonder Woman, and was yet original in its own way.  The imagery with Taarna flying her steed across the land of huge, steel pipe cities to avenge the deaths of those massacred is probably the best part of this sequence.


I won't give it away if you haven't seen it, but to me it ended perfectly.  It gave symmetry to the story in a poetic sort of way.


One of the more interesting parts of the film is how it was filmed.  Each sequence is so strikingly different than any of the others.  Each is unique in the part of the story it tells, and it isn't until they're all together as one do you really get an idea what was happening in the movie.  The scenes cover almost every aspect of speculative fiction, all wrapped up into one story, from space travel to dystopia to fantasy to horror.

Of course, the movie being what it is, a violent, sexually graphic, drug-inspired tale of speculative fiction, all you really need to do is sit back with a bag of popcorn or whatever else might suit the moment and watch it for pure entertainment value.

Oh, and it's available on Amazon, should you somehow not have it in your collection.


  1. Certainly a very awesome movie, and considering the cost, or lack thereof, it packs a big bang for the buck. Too bad the sequel didn't hold up to that standard.

  2. Jonathan, I've just passed on the Versatile Blogger Award to you, if you want it. You can find details here: Your blog strikes me as a versatile one in the opinions and areas you explore. Congratulations!

  3. Thank you very much, Guilie. Glad you like the blog. And it's ironic (or is it poetic?) that you view my blog as versatile, because I was just about to branch out into another of my favorite genres to celebrate the month of October.