The poster is what draws you in. Just look at it! The mostly naked warrior woman sits astride a crazy chicken-bird flying over a burning sci-fi cityscape. She holds a golden sword aloft while her blond hair frizzes out like she’s just been struck by lighting. Now that is a poster! The chicken-bird screams with an expression that perfectly captures the unbridled excitement now welling up inside you. YES! Your only remaining aspiration in life is to be that chicken-bird, and—barring that—to see whatever exceptional film this most exceptional of posters advertises.
Then there’s the title: “Heavy Metal”. Now is that not the most perfect movie title you’ve ever heard? Not since “Laser Blast” have two words more perfectly captured the very essence of awesomeness. And it’s printed in chrome! CHROME!!! Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Because clearly a film with a poster like this could only be titled “Heavy Metal” printed in chrome text.
You need this film inside you eyeballs this very instant.
You pay Amazon $4 for a rental. Amazon! Get it!?! Just like poster lady! An absolute bargain too seeing as your $4 will surely be a ticket to a richly animated feature length heavy metal music video filled to the brim with ultra violences and unspeakable titillations. The only question is, will your body be able to handle it?
It doesn’t matter because you’ve already pressed play. If this is how you go, so be it.
A list of bands flash across the screen: Cheap Trick! Black Sabbath!! DEVO!!! Yes, flipping DEVO!!! You try to prepare yourself for what in all likelihood will be single greatest piece of art you have ever or will ever have the privilege of bearing witness to.
It starts in space because of course that’s how it has to begin. Space. So vast. So empty. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
But there’s no time for all that Kubrick BS because right away neon text flies into your face, neon text bearing those two mighty and infinity perfect words: “HEAVY METAL”. WOW! It’s like Genesis all over again. Except better. A million times better. Suck it God.
And now…! Oh shit!! A space shuttle!!! Which… looks a tad awkward truth be told. This is animated film, right? The briefest flicker of doubt. But then bomb bay doors start opening on the shuttle and you stand out of your seat and yell, “I didn’t know it had those!” And what is it? No…? It can’t be? Can it…?
CHRIST ALMIGHTY! IT’S A CORVETTE!! IT’S A FUCKING CORVETTE GETTING FUCKING BOMBED THE FUCK OUT OF A FUCKING SPACE SHUTTLE!!!
And just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, The Stig is at the wheel! The Stig is driving a corvette in SPACE!!!
Your poor little heart nearly fails as he takes it down through atmosphere for a landing. If this is how the movie starts, just imagine what lies on the planet below…
The Corvette sort of plops down to the ground. Hmm? Could have landed on the side of an erupting volcano, at the very least. He’s going to get out his laser gun soon too, right?
Another moment of doubt. Because again, the animation? Well truthfully it is a little awkward. Floaty. Something about it reminds you of a 80s children’s animated TV show. Different than the poster. But that’s ok. That’s ok. That part must come later. They’re just getting warmed up here.
The Corvette pulls up to a house. A regular house. Hmm. You would have made it a castle. A castle made out of lasers! Yes! A laser castle filled with devil brutes surround by a lava moat full of robotic nazi sharks! Or maybe…! Maybe this is the house where poster woman lives!?! Could The Stig be her lover! Oooooh, imagine that…
But no. Because now there’s a little girl. What’s this about? And why is she so… horrifying? Like some contorted gremlin with the most lifeless eyes. Is she supposed to look like that?
There’s some dialog about an orb but you’re so distracted by the horrific animations that you don’t catch it.
Then out of nowhere, The Stig melts! Now that’s more like it! Just 5 minutes in and you’ve seen a Corvette go through re-entry and solid body melt. None of that pussyfooting around like Raiders! You can’t wait for what’s next.
Except now orb is glowing green and talking. God these animations are just grotesque, aren’t they? Big Zelda CDI energy. Something about evil. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Where’s warrior lady and her chicken? God if only you could be reborn as that big chicken…
You vow to convert to a religion that believes in reincarnation the very instant the credits roll.
You snap back into your present life, a life in which you’ve chosen to watch Heavy Metal. This must be the second best possible life, right?
We’re in a city now. There’s just something unappealing about it all. It’s just not nice to look at. Real Felix the Cat. And is this New York? Why are we in New York? And why isn’t rock music blasting? And why isn’t there action? Why are we watching some slub taxi driver? Strange way to start such an epic fantasy adventure but hey they must know what they’re doing! You can’t just have 100% awesome all the time. Gotta have a little low to make the highs all the more epic.
But this is… well it’s just not very good. A paper-thin noir plot. We just met this femme fatale and now she’s getting naked? What the hell? Is this supposed to be erotic? That’s not how that works you fools! It doesn’t make any sense either. Why is she sleeping with this loser? Why is her only character trait having cantaloupe shaped breasts? Do they think we’re that stupid?
Or maybe that’s the point? Maybe it’s so stupid that it’s funny? You can dig it! For surely they are actually poking fun at stereotypical masculine fantasies? It must be! Right? Right!?!
You sit through what feels like an eternity of the taxi story. Even the few moments of action aren’t very good.
Finally, it’s over. A new story is starting up.
You think to yourself, “Ah, so it’s an anthology! Good, good! They must have just put the worst part first. Probably knew it sucked but had some contractual obligation to include it. It’ll all be uphill from here.” You tell yourself all that, but you’re not nearly as confident as you were just a few brief moments ago.
Ok so now there’s a nerd. A nerd? Why a nerd? Is that supposed to be you? But wait! An explosion and now he’s flying through space! SPACE! Now that’s awesome. Let’s stay up here.
Alas no. He’s on the ground again.
Then the nerd grows a muscly body. Looks sort of like Mr. Clean. It’s very silly.
Mr. Clean uses his new muscly body to save a naked woman. She loves his muscly body and wants to repay him for saving her, but she tells him that she doesn’t have anything to give, “except the parts of her body that most please him.” Ha! Now that’s a laugh! What absurd dialog! It was a joke, right? Right?
The rest of this story is some kind of Conan deal. There’re some breasts and some blood, but it somehow still has that 80s kids cartoon feel. The fight and sex sequences both look like hairless sloths made of play-dough jello wrestling. And where is the heavy metal music? What’s this stinking orchestral score all about?
At the start of part three, a little voice in the back of your head says, “We’ve been had, mate!”
NO! Shut up you vile little voice! It can’t be! So what if not every part of the anthology isn’t great? So what if the first two parts were actually maybe even what you might term bad. Whatever. The awesome is just around the corner. Remember the poster! Remember amazon lady and her chicken-bird! Remember DEVO! D. E. V. O!!!
IT MUST BE GOOD! It simply must be! Mustn’t it?
So you keep watching. So you keep hoping. And sure there are some bright spots, a few all too brief moments where the animation and action and music all come together. In one story, robotic Micky Mouse seduces a woman. Come to think of it, is it really seduction if the woman is written so that she can only say yes to men (and male robots)? But at least there is a good sequence with some tubes. That lasts ten seconds maybe. Plus robot Micky’s spaceship looks pretty amazing. Not much of a plot. Or characters. Or point. Why are you watching this thing again?
The other segments are slogs that you forget as soon as the next one begins. Stiff and awkward action. The female character exist only to flash a bit of flesh. And whenever the rock music does kick in, it feels completely detached from what’s going on on screen.
By the time the last segment finally starts, you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that there’s not going to be any giant chicken awesomeness today. And indeed, the last segment also doesn’t look anything like the poster.
But hey now! What’s this? A warrior woman? Could it be? Could it finally be her of poster fame? Well it doesn’t look like her but who else could it be? Is Heavy Metal finally going to get good in the last 20 minutes?
But no. Of course not. Gotcha again! The film only threw her in to tease you. To remind you of what could have been.
Which is all the more frustrating because you can see the potential. You can see the bones of the that film you imagined. It’s there if you just squint hard enough. Maybe so hard that your eyes are shut.
It’s over. At last. You sit there for a while, trying to make sense of what you just saw.
So in the end the little girl from the start becomes the warrior woman? The warrior woman who never spoke a word and whose naked body the movie clearly wanted you to have been ogling for the past twenty minutes? Wow. That’s certainly… something.
The more you think, the less sense it makes. Like why did they bother with that terrible framing story in the first place? And even more bafflingly, how could a film titled “Heavy Metal” use music so poorly and have such dull action sequences? Way worse than Transformers. Yes, that 1986 feature length toy commercial made for kids was an infinity better heavy metal film than Heavy Metal! And why, just why, were all the men in the film so universally horrible while all the women were empty husks? In short, how could a movie so full of promise be so… terrible?
That universe of infinite awesomeness that you imagined before hitting play? Gone. The real Heavy Metal killed it dead. Worse than dead, for when it pulled back the curtain on that fantasy of yours, it actually revealed something tawdry and ugly and small. God damn. The filmmakers could at least have had the dignity to make that fucking orb blue.
It’s not like you’re some snob either. In fact, you love trashy movies! You love trash culture! You love it but you also tell yourself you’re not trash. You’re not like them. Not really. Right?
Heavy Metal though? Bad trash. The kind of trash that leaves you feeling dirty and stupider for having watched it. This was some 80s studio executive’s cynical ploy to get teenage boys into theaters: throw in a few breasts, a bucket or two of blood, and a few snippets of whatever BS music the kids listen to these days. And you know what? You fell for it, hook line and sinker. You’d laugh if it weren’t so depressing.
At least one thing is clear now though: the warrior woman on the poster? She’s pissed. Pissed at being used as prop to sell such dull little fantasies. Pissed at a society that gives men millions to bring such infantile fantasies to life. Can you blame her?
And you there! You thought were different? You thought all this was ok because you were only having a bit of fun? Yet when it comes right down to it, here you are, using her just like all the others.