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Heavy Metal

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Heavy Metal

Starring: John Candy, Joe Flaherty
Director: Gerald Potterton
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: August 1981
Genres: Animation, Comedy, Cult, Music

*Also starring: Don Francks, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, John Vernon

Review by Dragan Antulov
2½ stars out of 4

Some movies become cult because they managed to gain small but dedicated group of devotees. Others become cult because of their long absence. The latter was the case with many titles in East European countries, often being pulled out of general distribution for allegedly offending ruling Communist sensibilities (and later becoming legends among anti-Communist intelligentsia). However, this phenomenon can occur even in capitalist West and HEAVY METAL, 1981 anthology of animated science-fiction films directed by Gerald Potterton, is one of the best examples. Originally a huge hit in cinema, it was released on video only fifteen years later due to soundtrack royalties dispute.

The plot (and what goes for plot) of the film is based on vignettes published in HEAVY METAL, US edition of French comic book magazine METAL HURLANT. Loc Nar is all-powerful green orb that represents embodiment of everything evil in the universe. In the beginning of the film it has cornered terrified young girl and starts telling her stories that feature large amounts of violence, sex, corruption, betrayal and depravity.

When HEAVY METAL appeared on video in 1996, many people for the first time became aware how everything changed in previous decade and half. Many of the original fans used to be teenage males and the film (produced by Ivan Reitman, later known for his family- oriented comedies) pander to their sentiments with the combination of graphic violence, drug use, female nudity and hard rock soundtrack (sometimes compatible, and sometimes not with more traditional, but very effective score by Elmer Bernstein). Since each of the vignettes was based on different source and made by different artists, quality of stories and animation varies (the author of this review prefers the last segment), but most of them seem unfinished. Younger audiences would probably be disappointed by the poor quality of film, but they would also probably be thrilled with the images of sex and violence usually not associated with animated features of today's Hollywood. Although HEAVY METAL draws much of its present charm from the mere fact that it was produced in good old times before Reagan and "political correctness", its importance in history of science fiction cinema isn't small - some of the segments, especially "Harry Kenyon" with its "future noir" version of 21st Century New York, influenced future filmmakers, with Besson's FIFTH ELEMENT being the most obvious example. In any case, HEAVY METAL, despite all of its flaws and anacrhonisms, nevertheless represents something of a refreshment in today's sterile climate of Hollywood and those nostalgic towards early 1980s aren't the only ones who would discover "guilty pleasure" in it.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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