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A glowing green orb from outer space spreads destruction throughout the galaxy. Only when encountered by its one true enemy, to whom it is inexplicably drawn, will goodness prevail throughout the universe.
For more about Heavy Metal and the Heavy Metal Blu-ray release, see the Heavy Metal Blu-ray Review
Starring: John Candy, Richard Romanus, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, Rodger Bumpass
Director: Gerald Potterton
» See full cast & crew
Heavy Metal Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 8, 2011
A shadow shall fall over the universe and evil will grow in its path and death will come from the skies.
It's not the head-banging, speaker-crunching, brain-stirring stuff that has "deaf by 40" written all over it, but Heavy Metal is nevertheless a high-powered rock-out animated movie that's as distinctly 80s as it is fun. A cult classic if there ever was one and an adult cartoon that's both daring and revealing, Heavy Metal is an aggressively over-the-top slice of entertainment that seems to serve no real purpose other than to cram the screen with big-breasted beauties, bloody action, and trippy visuals. The film knows its stuff, lives by its very nature, and goes for broke with each of its six primary vignettes. Each one is centered around a mysterious green orb that will either make or break its possessors depending on how they use its strength. The six individual segments attempt to examine humanity through the lenses of several different categories such as loyalty, inner courage, honesty, war, recreation, and commitment; of course thematic importance is way down the list of reasons to watch Heavy Metal. This is a movie probably best served with a side of illegal substance, but even viewers on the straight and narrow will appreciate its boldness and the way it carries itself. Unafraid, unusual, psychedelically animated, and surprisingly as cleaver as it is entertaining, Heavy Metal might not be for all tastes but it is a slice of the peculiar, a film that might not be mainstream but is certainly one that's required viewing for cinephiles with a curiosity and a taste for the unique to match.
In the not-too-distant future, New York has devolved into one of the worst cities on Earth; dirty, dilapidated, overpopulated, crime-riddled, and teeming with undesirables -- including a problem with illegal aliens that really are aliens in the extraterrestrial sense of the word -- the city has fallen from grace and is about to get a whole lot more dangerous thanks to the arrival of a mysterious green orb at a local museum. Cab driver Harry Canyon knows how to survive it all. His cab is well-protected and he nonchalantly eliminates any and all threats to his life or possessions. Harry is witness to a murder outside the museum. He rescues the victim's daughter, a big-bosomed redhead, and enters into a partnership of passion and business to protect her father's orb from unscrupulous businessmen from Earth and elsewhere in the galaxy. The two dodge trouble and steam things up in the bedroom, but will the power of the orb tear apart even their quickly-realized but seemingly unbreakable bond?
A young boy named Dan discovers the green orb in advance of a terrible thunderstorm. He believes it to be a meteorite and uses it as part of a natural electricity experiment. When lightning hits the orb, the young boy is transported to another realm where he's suddenly matured into a physical specimen. He rescues a busty Earth girl named Katherine who surrenders herself to him in gratitude, but she's soon kidnapped by thugs working for a resistance leader named Ard who wants the Loc-Nar to secure his status as ruler over all the land. Dan -- now going by the name of Den -- resists, but is ultimately compelled at the threat of castration. Den will have to use his newfound powers -- both his physical strength and sexual allure -- to save Katherine once again and get out of Ard's clutches in one piece.
The Loc-Nar orb travels to deep space where a Federation citizen, the diminutive Hanover Fiste, is set to be a star witness in the criminal trial of space jock Captain Sternn. The strapping Sternn has paid Fiste handsomely to lie on the stand and deliver a glowing testimony in favor of the accused, but before the trial gets underway, Fiste finds the orb, which has other plans for both men. Sternn is charged with a litany of crimes, including murder, theft, piracy, fraud, rape, and a moving violation. His lawyer wants him to plead guilty, but Sternn banks on his "angle" -- the handsomely-paid Fiste -- to get him off. Things seem to be going swimmingly until the orb sets in motion its plan to bring true justice to the Federation, justice that no decent court could ever administer.
At the height of World War II, allied bombers fly through thick flak on deadly bombing runs over Axis-controlled territories. As a badly-damaged American bomber approaches its target and releases its payload, much of the crew is killed by exploding shrapnel or the machine gun fire of pesky enemy attack fighters hoping to disrupt the run. Upon its extraction from the danger zone, the bomber's co-pilot traverses the plane to count the dead. He sees a mysterious green orb trailing the bomber; it enterst he plane and re-animates the bodies of the dead airmen -- sort of. They've become fleshless zombies who crave only the nourishment of the living. The co-pilot is slaughtered and the pilot barely escapes with his life, only to parachute onto a small tropical island that carries a deadly secret.
So Beautiful and So Dangerous
Earth has been besieged by a series of unexplained mutations. A quiet scientists pushes his way past a gaggle of reporters to meet with high-ranking Washington officials at the Pentagon to discuss the crisis. He reassures his colleagues that the mutation is likely being caused by something terrestrial and that the likelihood of alien involvement is almost nil. Then, a large vessel appears over the Pentagon and retrieves the scientist and a large-chested secretary wearing the orb as a decorative pendant around her neck. The scientist arrives on the ship in pieces, but the girl seems safe and sound and, aside from some tattered clothes, no worse for wear. She meets a robot who puts the moves on her while two humanoid aliens lament their colleague's ability to work the women. With the ship back in space, they take the opportunity to indulge in some illicit recreational fun of their own.
The orb lands in a volcano where a mishmash of people travel to meet it. A green sludge emerges, mutating the bystanders; they are instantly transformed into a hungry horde of disfigured creatures for whom the deaths of all who oppose them is their one and only goal in life. They attack a defenseless city and slaughter most of the inhabitants. Unfortunately, the locals are not fighters, but a long-thought-vanished warrior race known as the Taarakians have signed an ancient pact to defend the innocents at all costs. It is learned that a single warrior, a protector, remains. She is Taarna, a big-chested and deadly warrior who will ride her winged beast into battle and avenge the lives of those she's sworn to protect.
Those six vignettes compose the core of Heavy Metal, sandwiched in between bookends that introduce and, ultimately, tie up the story, even if the last of the vignettes seems the most critical to the understanding of the arc. Still, the rest of them are fun little diversions that will appeal to most every taste; the film is built on fantasy with additional elements woven into each tale, but at its center Heavy Metal is about the unobtainable -- the strength, confidence, and heroism that mortals generally cannot attain. Other vignettes focus on the darker side of humanity, or play against the core fantasy values; greed, excess power, and hate lead to death and destruction, either via the orb or heroes chosen by or made more powerful thanks to the orb. Stylistically, Heavy Metal is unmistakably a product of its era; much of it looks straight out of a 1980's music video, and the animation is crude even by the standards of decades past. It's that rawness, that gritty, almost ugly texture that helps sell the movie. It's not a pretty movie, either, considering the way it showcases the ugly side of humanity and works in darker angles and themes that speak on man's negative innate values. The film almost brilliantly meshes that ugliness with the well-veiled themes of good and evil and, of course, the raw beauty of its naked ladies, and the contrast between the ugly visual style and what is ultimately the heroism of several characters gives the film a unique blend of the beautiful and the macabre. Still, most of the movie is grounded in gratuitous sex and violence. It works, though, because even if disrobing women and gushing blood sometimes seem like the film's only reason to exist, they nevertheless flow naturally from the stories and come expectedly given the mature and dingy styling. Heavy Metal is a unique and visually raw picture but it's not tasteless and it's not without merit. It's not for everyone, but as a slice of cult cinema and an example of adult-oriented animation, it's quite good.
Heavy Metal Blu-ray, Video Quality
Heavy Metal is an ugly film, and Sony's 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer preservers the film's natural state. There's some evident wobble, sloppy colors, questionable detail, errant noise, and spots and speckles aplenty, but such is Heavy Metal; the film would lose much of its appeal were it cleaned up and polished, and such a transfer would have been a disservice to the end product. For as visually unappealing as the film may be at times, Sony's transfer is a step up from standard definition, even if the improvement is occasionally only negligible. Clarity is certainly given a boost, and the image will retain its definition and detailing when blown up for large displays. Colors are raw and runny but stable within the confines of the source. Detail is fine; the transfer reveals all there is to see with as much clarity as the film is ever likely to display. The image is flat and soft here and there, again issues inherent to the source, it seems, and not Sony's transfer. Noise is evident too, heavy enough in some paces to the point that it becomes a distraction. All in all, though, this is a good-looking transfer of a movie that's not so pretty. To say much negative about Sony's handiwork here would be unfair, and the innate sloppiness only gives the movie much of its natural charm.
Heavy Metal Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Heavy Metal features a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that certainly doesn't want for volume. This track takes full avantage of the entire soundstage, implementing the surround channels with regularity and creating an exciting, but not always aurally satisfying, 360-degree experience. The track features plenty of energy from the get-go; the green orb rips across the soundstage as the film opens, leaving a heavy, crunchy, bass-happy path in its wake. This effect, and others like it, play as a little unrefined, but the sheer force of the track sometimes makes up for the absence of greater precision. The 1980s-style Rock music plays with an appropriate harsh and energetic edge that's reflective of the style and era, but some tracks, such as a song heard during the Captain Sternn segment, play with a distinct mushiness that takes away from the overall experience. Dialogue, too, can waver between satisfyingly clear and slightly off-balance and crunchy. Overall, this isn't a bad listen. It's fun and powerful, but fans hoping for greater overall clarity might be disappointed. Still, the slightly off-balance feel seems to fit the picture's style quite well.
Heavy Metal Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Heavy Metal arrives on Blu-ray with three primary extras, including a feature-length "rough cut" of the film accompanied by an interesting audio commentary track.
Heavy Metal Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Heavy Metal is a treasure of the cult film circuit, an oddball movie that's rough around the edges -- they don't get much more rough than this -- but deliberately so. Meshing themes of right and wrong and good and evil, the film analyzes humanity through the lens of the fantastical and cleverly creates a godlike narrator that's power incarnate and allows its holders to live or die on their own merits with no concern for external circumstance. The raw animation; peculiar story lines; gratuitous sex and nudity; fantastical, sometimes otherworldly locales; and larger-than-life characters are all a part of a unique animated experience that's surprisingly deep in thematic purpose but the film chooses to allow its deeper, thought-provoking elements to lie low in favor of the dominant visual experience that allows the movie play however the audience chooses to see it. It's a fine film, one that's not for all tastes to be sure, but it's certain to generate conversation, for better or for worse, and isn't that a hallmark of every great work of art? Sony's Blu-ray release of Heavy Metal won't dazzle its high-def audience, but the disc seems fairly good considering the inherent sloppiness of the source. A few good extras round out a must-own package. Recommended.
Heavy Metal Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Best Buy Starts Blu-ray Exclusive Page - January 31, 2011
Tomorrow, Blu-ray enthusiasts are expected to flock at the doors of Best Buy: no matter your film tastes, there is bound to be something at BB that you like and you won't find it anywhere else, as the retailer will offer over a dozen exclusive BD titles, from various ...
• Heavy Metal Blu-ray Resurfaces - As Best Buy Exclusive - January 20, 2011
Apparently today is Retailer Exclusivity Day. Sony Pictures' animated cult movie Heavy Metal, initially announced for Blu-ray release on January 25 and later cancelled, is now available for preorder exclusively at Best Buy, with a release date of February 1.
• Heavy Metal Blu-ray Cancelled - December 6, 2010
Three weeks ago, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment had announced Heavy Metal for Blu-ray release on January 25, 2011. Now the studio has unceremoniously pulled this cult animated movie from its schedule. No reason is given for this cancellation, and no new release ...
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