Heavy Metal: On-This-Day Thursday
Every Thursday, an older film released on this opening weekend years ago will be reviewed. They can be classics, or simply popular films that happened to be released to the world on the same date.
For August 7th, we are going to have a look at Heavy Metal.
Look. I get the fascination. Heavy Metal was built to be a pop culture vehicle. This compilation of adapted stories from the magazine of the same name already feasted on the numerous pistons of cult phenomena: gore, sex, and fantasy (oh, and metal for days). Many cinephiles hold this film dear to their hearts. The film itself has somewhat surpassed the legacy of its parent magazine. The film continues to be referenced in many ways; the most notable being a certain South Park episode involving "cheesing".
As a critic, it is my responsibility to reflect on works you may be invested in. As a critic, it is also my duty to be honest. Let's forget the soundtrack, which is a nicely varied smorgasbord of rock and light metal staples. Let's ignore the animation, which is pretty much the only reason to watch the film (you can hear the soundtrack on its own). What do we have? A fantastic drug trip as a whole, but a shallow pool of derivative excess when the fun is taken away That South Park episode is fine, because it's short, and there's a satirical narrative on how we discuss drugs with out children (plus the yearning withdrawing parents may have). That episode is fun.
I'd argue this film isn't. We have a bunch of stories that are loosely linked together, in a creative and subtle way (like Dekalog uses the "seer" and the same building as a pivot point). Here, we have transformations: hallucinogenic trips, magical transmogrifications, reanimations galore. Each story feels like a quest in their own right. Aside from that, Heavy Metal is just about sitting back, letting whatever you took take the wheel, and "trippin' balls, dude".
Being on another planet may excuse the nonsensical amounts of male gaze sexuality, meandering fluff and boring adventures. That's the biggest crime here. The actual journeys really aren't all that interesting. Literally the only reasons why this film is worth a shot is for the lucid, breathtaking animation, and the songs by famous artists that give these images a kick.
This film spawned an even worse sequel, but I dare not go any further. I'm not worried about backlash. I just know Heavy Metal and its legacy has its devoted audience, and I'm sure as hell not in it. It might be a brain melting experience the first go around, but it ends up being a futile exercise while hyped up on caffeine (or something else) the second time. It's a middle ground high, like getting baked at a timeshare meeting. You'll feel like you're having a blast, but you also can't stop looking at your watch and wondering how much more you have to put up with.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.