Friday, January 30, 2015

Heavy Metal
Score Technicians: Stacey Hanlon and John Ormond

In April of 1977, the first issue of the science fiction and fantasy adult comics magazine, Heavy Metal was published by National Lampoon. It was based on a French magazine called M├ętal Hurlant, which translates to English as “Howling Metal.” Since the English version was a licensed property, we have no idea why one of the most badass titles of all time, “Howling Metal,” was tossed aside for a name that was already being used to describe a very specific form of music, one that really doesn’t have anything to do with the magazine and isn’t used to its full advantage in this movie’s soundtrack, but we will get to that later.

The anthology film Heavy Metal was released in 1981. Produced by Lampoon’s Ivan Reitman, this animated classic marks the first time that many of the animators worked on something other than cartoons for children and this is the first adult content animated film to have any kind of box office success. So, how will this film look 34 years after its release? Will it still shock and awe or will it look like a cave painting to our CGI engorged senses? It’s time for science to lead us to the final word on the subject. Let’s take a ride on Heavy Metal!
  • After a hard day of astronauting in outer space, Grimaldi makes an unshielded re-entry through earth’s atmosphere in a ’59 Corvette convertible because that’s how single dads in the Heavy Metal universe roll. = +9pts
Parachute courtesy of Umbrella Corporation.
  • In a classic divorced-dad move, Grimaldi grabs a last-minute gift for his daughter at the Space Gas-N-Go, but all they had left was a crappy Loc-Nar. =-6pts 
  • Turns out the Loc-Nar is the source of all evil. Thanks, dad! = -66pts 
Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.
  • The Loc-Nar, which can’t shut up about itself, proceeds to tell the story of its appearance in dystopian New York City in 2031. We know it’s dystopian because the radio only plays Steely Dan. = -8pts 
  • Introducing Harry Canyon: a futuristic cab driver who talks, thinks and acts like a hard-boiled detective from the 1940’s. = +4pts 
  • The beautiful, sexy, and scared daughter of a famous archaeologist and Loc-Nar discoverer jumps into Harry’s cab fleeing from her father’s murderers. Harry rethinks his “never get involved” policy. We wonder why. = -10pts
Pictured, left to right: Reasons #1 and #2.
  • The cops in dystopian New York City won’t investigate a crime unless you pay them up front. Choke holds are still free. = -7pts 
  • At Harry’s apartment, he acts very casual and disinterested in his new female friend, but, c’mon, you only play Journey’s “Open Arms” for two reasons: sexy times and fumbling around on a middle school dance floor. = -4pts 
  • Harry scores! Sexy times it is. = +8pts 
  • In true film noir style, The Maltese Loc-Nar forces a double-cross and Harry narrates himself into the sunset. = +7pts 
  • In the story “Den,” John Candy is transported through space and time into the front cover of the D&D Player’s Handbook. = +13pts 
  • There, his body is transformed from nerdy high school boy into Dr. Manhattan. His brain, unfortunately, doesn’t make the transition. = -2pts 
  • In Conan the Barbarian-esque fashion, Dr. Man-Candy performs a daring underwater rescue, sexes two sexy ladies sexily, frees an entire population from their oppressive rulers and resists the evil of the Loc-Nar. = +16pts 
  • In a sexy fashion. = +12pts 
  • Sorry if you like the next story, “Captain Sternn”—we nodded off. It may have had something to do with the Loc-Nar showing up where it had no role, served no purpose and performed no function. Like Wil Wheaton in virtually any photo. = -24pts 

Case in point.
  • “B-17” begins with the song “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” which is a damnable lie. This song, by Don Felder, couldn’t sound more like the Eagles if it were pretending to be a cowboy while snorting mountains of cocaine off of Linda Ronstadt’s butt in the lobby of the Hotel California. = -17pts 
  • After taking heavy anti-aircraft fire, the co-pilot of the eponymous B-17 leaves the cockpit to see how badly the crew is injured. Let’s put it this way: no one will be making their connecting flight. = -9pts 
  • Meanwhile, the Loc-Nar shows up taking the form of a Foo Fighter that turns the crew into animated gut-spewing, pestilent zombies. OK, the Loc-Nar is finally getting its shit together. = +25pts 
  • The pilot, having had it with these motherfuckin’ zombies on this motherfuckin’ plane, parachutes to safety. = +7pts 
  • Or not. = +10pts 
  • Our next story has all of the drug references and misogynistic “humor” that we expect from 1981. This story could easily have been called, “Cheech and Chong: Up in Space.” = -30pts 
  • Not even the voice talent of Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and John Candy can redeem this meandering storyline. = -26pts 
  • The final scenes of this piece are at least buoyed up by Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal.” Let’s enjoy this live clip from 1983 of Sammy totally rockin’ it before we move on. = +30pts 
  • So far, the Loc-Nar has talked a good game of ultimate evil, but its performance has been spotty at best. We consider screaming out of the sky and crash landing into a volcano on an earthlike planet to be a promising start to this final vignette. = +40pts 
  • The Loc-Nar spews green slime over the unsuspecting people who come to investigate the crash and transforms them into evil mutants. Although Jenny McCarthy maintains that this was caused by the MMR vaccine. = -9pts 
  • We finally have a song by Dio-era Black Sabbath backing a scene where giant bat mounted mutants overwhelm a peaceable city with laser rifles, spearguns and flamethrowers. \,,,/ = +100pts 
  • The inhabitants of Peaceable City turn on the Bat-signal, in effect, and call a Taarakian—a lone swordswoman from a legendary race of warriors—to come and defend their peaceable-ness. = +7pts 
  • Taarna the Taarakian answers the call by flying a really long distance on her adorable dino-pigeon mount to some kind of temple of power where her combat gear and weapon are stored. = +6pts 
  • Look, animators, we get that you wanted to show off your pre-computer rotoscoping skills. But we can’t help thinking that if Taarna had lived a little closer to the Temple of Thongs and Magic, she might have gotten to Peaceable City in time to save at least one of its inhabitants. = -15pts 
  • Taarna tracks some of the bad guys to a Star Wars-style cantina in the next town over. Tonight’s entertainment? Animated Devo! = +70pts
Exactly how we pictured them.
  • Taarna dispatches the mutants in the bar by executing a totally sweet triple decapitation. She then goes on to survive capture, defeat the leader of the mutants in a sword/circular saw battle and destroy the Loc-Nar. = +63pts
Do not mess with Taarakian Bitch-face.
  • Heavy Metal Fast Facts:
    • The Loc-Nar went on to star in such films as Pulp Fiction and Repo Man. = +7pts 
    • South Park did a sublime send-up called “Major Boobage.” = +40pts 
    • Dan O’Bannon, writer of Alien and director of Return of the Living Dead wrote two of the stories in this movie. = +17pts 
    • In 2011, the rights were purchased by director Robert Rodriguez. So far, no specific plans for it have been announced. = +20pts 
Total score = +278pts
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Heavy Metal delivers solid pre-computer animation, a great Rock ‘n Roll soundtrack, and even a well placed orchestral score by Elmer Bernstein. Its overall fun factor is pretty high and it definitely earns its place in filmmaking history. Where it falls short, however, is on its promise to deliver “adult” entertainment opting for less satisfying adolescent entertainment.

We gave Don Felder some shit earlier for his song, “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride),” but you just try and get that damn thing out of your head.

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