Animated shows and movies have been stereotyped as children’s fare since the 1960s. As such, few animated films try to cater to an adult audience even though adults in the United States are slowly accepting them. “Heavy Metal” is one of those adult films, and it is an interesting ride from start to finish.
The movie starts with a space shuttle releasing a car from its cargo hold and an astronaut piloting the car to Earth. This is a prime and well-done example of the trope “Rule of Cool.” This establishes the movie’s tone: just sit back and enjoy the ride. The astronaut arrives at a house with a container. He opens the container in front of his daughter and the green orb inside, Loc-Nar, promptly melts him. Loc-Nar then tells the terrified daughter a series of stories that tangentially relate to him.
The first story follows a taxi cab driver named Harry Canyon, who tries to make it in a dystopian New York City. He gets involved in a mob’s attempt to acquire Loc-Nar from a museum curator’s daughter and they get sexually involved. The film makes heavy use of the rotoscoping technique that make the sex scenes go right into the uncanny valley. They stop being sexy and start being a little creepy after a while. Despite this, this story is very engaging with excellent music from classic rock artists from the time. The rest of the movie also has excellent heavy metal and rock music that fits the atmosphere.
The second story follows a teenage nerd who gets caught up in another world thanks to Loc-Nar. Once there, he saves a woman from being sacrificed and she repays him sexually, which helps establish how the writers view women. To be fair, these stories are based on classic stories from the magazine “Heavy Metal.” From there, Den, the protagonist, embarks on a journey to defeat the evil and perverted leaders of the second story’s world. Once again, the uncanny valley makes a comeback and makes the sex scenes slightly uncomfortable. Despite that, the scenery is simply gorgeous, like with the first story.
Captain Sternn of the next story is on trial for numerous crimes such as rape, murder, and a moving violation. Sternn bribes a witness to praise his character, but Loc-Nar interferes and puts Sternn’s freedom, and life, on the line. This story stops being funny when Sternn’s true nature emerges. For once, Loc-Nar’s evil machinations try to do some good. Alas, these good deeds are for naught. This story’s moral is that sometimes things do not work out and it presents that moral depressingly well.
The next story is by far one of the best. It involves a B-17 bomber that takes heavy damage and casualties during a mission. Thanks to Loc-Nar, the dead crew turns into zombies and attacks the pilot. This story presents the horror of being on a damaged airplane quite well in addition to showing how bad war is with the dead bodies strewn around the plane. The music, done by Cheap Trick, fits the scene well and enhances the story.
The second-to-last story seems to take up space. It is funny in its own right, but it distracts from the narrative flow. It follows a government agent espousing his belief that extraterrestrials do not exist despite strange mutations happening to the populace. When he sees a stenographer, Gloria, having a piece of Loc-Nar, he attacks her. Extraterrestrials recall him for repair, but they abduct Gloria as well. The agent was placed there by aliens for no given reason. Then the story engages in more antics such as a drug trip and Gloria sexing a robot. This bizarre story requires an extensive suspension of disbelief.
The last story deals with Loc-Nar’s ultimate confrontation. First, he strikes a planet as a giant meteor. He corrupts a local tribe of humans who turn into murderous barbarians. They massacre a nearby city, and the elders try to recruit a warrior race, the Tarrakians, to help. They are all extinct except for one. Taarna, the silent last member of the Tarrakians, goes to help them, but is too late. She then strives to avenge them and confronts Loc-Nar and his murderous band. This competes with the B-17 story for quality and actually has a strong female lead. She has gratuitous nude shots, but she still is a strong presence and gives the impression that she is very powerful despite her demure frame. The music and the scenery are both excellent. This story, however, ups the lavish detail in the movie to create something gritty and impressive.
“Heavy Metal” is a mixed-bag. It has some excellent stories and some okay ones. It has beautiful scenery but the rotoscoping makes the characters look odd even though nothing is wrong with their designs. The music is excellent and improves the movie significantly. “Heavy Metal” is an overall fun romp and a great way to spend an hour and a half, as long as the stories are not taken too seriously.