Based on the iconic comic magazine, Heavy Metal is the pinnacle of rock-infused animation for adults. Playing closer to an anthology film, we’re treated to one gnarly and shocking short story featuring an all-evil orb of doom and the destruction it leaves in its wake. Heavy Metal 2000 was an appreciable attempt but it lacks the originality or impressive soundtrack that made the first film so memorable. Sony delivers the Heavy Metal collection with the first film earning an excellent 4K Dolby Vision transfer and a heavy-hitting Atmos track while the sequel earns a decent Blu-ray debut. Even if all you’re in here for is the first film in 4K - it’s a pretty fantastic upgrade. Highly Recommended.
An evil mysterious green orb known as Loc-Nar (Percy Rodrigues) has traveled through time and space encountering all kinds of beings. It brings death to anyone that touches it and yet all who encounter it feel the need to possess it. After her father returns from a mission to space, one lonely girl is subjected to the horrifying stories of Loc-Nar’s travels.
There was something magical about the 1980s where adult animation was commonplace and genuinely amazing. Akira, Fire and Ice, When The Wind Blows, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin 3D are highlights of what hit theaters and rental store shelves. Even what was supposed to pass as “kid-friendly” movies like The Land Before Time, An American Tale, or The Last Unicorn were more appreciable for an adult audience. But when discussing cartoons for adults, there’s one that stands above all others. Produced by Ivan Reitman featuring the writing talents of Dan O’bannon, Bernie Wrightson, Daniel Goldberg, and Len Blum, Heavy Metal took theaters by storm. The combination of visceral graphic imagery with an incredible soundtrack featuring the likes of Sammy Hagar, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, and Black Sabbath created a unique cinematic experience that perfectly captured the raw gritty nature of the comic magazine that spawned it.
And Heavy Metal is a one-of-a-kind experience. To clarify I’m now talking about both the comic magazine and the movie. From the stories to the artwork, it’s a visceral experience that’s equally shocking and magnetic. You should be repulsed but you can’t look away. I count myself lucky that at a tender young age the counter jockey at Daves Comics II in Ann Arbor, MI put one of those huge beautiful magazines in my hands when I was all of ten years old. I think I had mentioned some Dark Horse Predator comic I’d picked up that had shocking blood and gore, and with a smirk, he handed me the latest issue of Heavy Metal, “You want shocking blood and gore?” And he just stood back and watched as I read it in the window. He did that a lot for me with titles like The Crow and Grendel. I like to think he was preserving tomorrow by corrupting the youth of today.
It was years later before I finally saw the film Heavy Metal. I was home sick with a fever and it was on pay-per-view for the film’s 15th anniversary. That wasn’t a great experience but it was memorable! Even without a 102 fever this film still shocks and haunts me every time I see it. As an anthology film of a sort, it’s difficult to pin down my favorite segment. “B-17” is flat-out terrifying and feels like it was ripped from an old EC comic while “Harry Canyon” truly feels like it was pulled from the pages of the comic magazine. But with a movie this great you really can’t pick a favorite segment, the best you can do is kick back and absorb it. 5/5
Heavy Metal 2000 on the other hand… well that’s not much to speak of. Ever watch a movie and desperately try to convince yourself it was good but then have to reach the undeniable conclusion it isn’t? Yeah, that’s Heavy Metal 2000. Obviously timed to coincide with the millennium but also the original film’s 20th anniversary, it’s a traditional animation / CGI hybrid that sadly just didn’t work. A sequel had been in the works for years and sadly culminated in this less than impressive effort. Eschewing the first film’s anthology structure, this is one single story of the maniacal Tyler (Michael Ironside) laying waste to entire worlds as he quests for immortality. After her world was destroyed and her sister is kidnapped, only the warrior Julie (Julie Strain) can stop Tyler’s evil plans.
I remember being so excited when this film was announced. Based on the story FAKK by Kevin Eastman, Simon Bisley, and Eric Talbot, with a fantastic voice cast, this should have been an easy win. I remember being so excited to get to tech the print at the theater I worked at three in the morning only to be very quickly let down. At 88-minutes, it’s a slog. It’s not that it’s an altogether terrible story or anything, it just feels like it didn’t fit as a movie. It’s just a story that would have worked better inside an anthology structure. It’s 15-minutes of story stretched to nearly 90-minutes with long stretches of nothing with a numbing unmemorable prog-metal soundtrack. By the time we reach the generic and predictable climax, the film pretty much wears out its welcome. I hadn’t seen this movie in the 22 years since its release and I was bummed to see it hasn’t aged any better. It could be watching it in close proximity to the original tainted the experience, but I still don’t like it. I know some folks that enjoyed this one but it just doesn't do anything for me except make me wish I was watching the original film again. Which I did once this flick reached the credits. 2/5
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Heavy Metal arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a three-disc 4K UHD + 2-Blu-ray + Digital set. The original Heavy Metal on 4K is pressed on a BD-66 disc with the 2010 Blu-ray that hasn’t been remastered. Heavy Metal 2000 is tacked into the set for its first Blu-ray release gaining a BD-50 disc. All three discs are housed in a deluxe SteelBook package. The 4K disc loads to a static image main menu with bonus features panel along the right side. Note: The ranking for each section of our review reflects our thoughts for Heavy Metal and is not an average of both films' scores.
Damn. I mean… damn! Before his untimely death, Ivan Reitman oversaw a restoration effort of Heavy Metal for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and it’s friggen beautiful. While the 2011 disc was decent for its day, it definitely wasn’t a stellar effort marred by speckling and persistent frame judder along with some unimpressive colors. All of that is fixed here - and more. The feeling of depth and dimension is truly amazing allowing you to fully appreciate every frame of cel animation with clean lines, bold colors, and a natural film grain structure that doesn’t look like it’s been scrubbed to hell and gone. This was the first time I’ve watched Heavy Metal and felt like I was being sucked into the picture frequently pausing just to look at the animation details.
The Dolby Vision HDR pass is also genuinely remarkable when looking at the old 2011 Blu-ray. Colore are richer with amazing primaries. The Black levels avoid the serious crush issues we could see with that first disc and whites are brilliantly captured without any blooming issues. That first time we see Loc-Nar emerge from the case, the improvements and nuances in the pulsating green light immediately show how much care and attention went into this transfer. Free of any speckling or notable damage to the source elements - every animated classic (for kids or adults) should get the same level of care and attention as Sony gave Heavy Metal. I honestly can’t see how this film could look any better 5/5
Heavy Metal 2000 makes its Blu-ray debut with this set offering a pleasing 1080p appearance but is limited by source. This was one of those late 90s early 2000s efforts similar to Titan A.E. where it was a blend of 3D CGI rendered background or objects combined with traditional hand-drawn 2D cel animation. The combination is pretty decent looking but also underwhelming. The backgrounds and the CG elements can look quite impressive with bold colors - a little artifacting expected to be seen from elements of that era - but overall quite good. My issue is how flat and lifeless the animated characters are. Their colors don’t really pop by comparison. I’m not sure how final renders were captured and elements were combined to finish the film for 35mm prints. It could be this is just how the film maxes out. It’s honestly been since I rented the DVD that I’ve seen this film and I can’t locate a copy in a timely or cost-effective manner to give a comparison. The best I can say is that it’s pretty good. 3.5/5
Heavy Metal in 4K decimates all previous home video releases with an incredible Dolby Atmos audio mix. Also included are effective DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks - but the clear winner - with one slight caveat - is the Atmos track. All you have to do is queue up when Loc-Nar speaks for the first time and cycle through the various audio options to hear and feel the instant difference in the track. Part of that is to do with some new enhanced sound effects that Reitman oversaw and approved their use of. But for fans worried about some form of extreme revisionism, don’t worry. If anything these changes are on the more subtle side of things and actually help create a more immersive auditory experience.
The amazing soundtrack has so much more power and presence now than ever before but it never overpowers the rest of the mix. Sound effects are beautifully placed throughout the soundscape with terrific uses of overhead, side, and rear channels. The extra spacing gives a much stronger dimensional presence for a fully immersive experience. Now for that caveat I mentioned, and I’ve cycled through the other audio tracks a couple of times to check and there are no other notable differences I could tell, but Stevie Nicks’ track Blue Lamp when Harry Canyon carries the girl into the police station over his shoulder is missing. The 5.1 track and the 2.0 track both feature it prominently, so I thought it could have just been mixed down compared to the rest of the film but cranking the volume louder didn’t reveal it. It’s just not there. But that’s the only instance of that I’ve noticed for this otherwise perfect track. I’ve put in a question to our Sony rep to see what happened there, but as yet haven’t heard anything back.
Atmos - 4.5/5
DTS-HD MA 5.1 4/5
DTS-HD MA 2.0 4/5
Heavy Metal 2000 comes packed with a robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Love it or hate it the soundtrack once again takes center stage. If this is your brand of metal you’re in good hands, but it doesn’t do anything for me. So it goes. As for the rest of the mix, sound effects blend nicely and fill out a robust soundscape. Channel movement and imaging is pretty good with elements traveling the soundscape nicely. Again the soundtrack - as much as I’m not impressed by it - is mixed in perfectly, staying strong and in the moment without blasting it out or overpowering the track. All around an effective mix for the film to rock out to. 4/5
Bonus features are on the slim side of things for both films. The bulk of the materials for Heavy Metal are only on the 2011 disc. The lone new bonus feature, while interesting, barely runs 9-minutes long. It’s too bad they couldn’t add in the tribute episode Major Boobage from South Park, that’d have completed the experience. Heavy Metal 2000 brings a few decent extras but they’re all holdovers from the DVD.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
2011 1080p Blu-ray Disc
Heavy Metal 2000
Heavy Metal is a genre-defining classic - in print and in film. The shocking and often beautiful imagery is iconic over 40 years later. Combined with a classic soundtrack of hit artists in their prime, the film is a terrific anthology tribute to the comic magazine that inspired it. Heavy Metal 2000 on the other hand, while well-intentioned just feels like a cheap knockoff that wishes it was as good as the first film. The story could have worked better with a similar anthology structure as the first film, there just isn’t enough here to pad out 90-minutes and personally, I can’t stand this era of rock and metal so the soundtrack does nothing for me.
Heavy Metal comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time and the results are incredible. The film has never looked or sounded better thanks to a new Dolby Vision HDR transfer and an amazing Atmos audio track. Despite that missing Stevie Nicks tune, it’s still a beast of a track but you also get DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks to rock out to. Sadly bonus features are light giving only one new very brief extra and recycling the 2011 disc for some pretty old bonus content.
Heavy Metal 2000 hits Blu-ray for the first time with a decent overall 1080p debut but the limitations of its animation hybrid style don’t exactly bring it to life. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is aggressive and impactful and redeems a lot of the overall A/V presentation. Bonus features are again pretty light with only a few archival holdovers.
Coupled together as a complete experience with SteelBook packaging Heavy Metal is a pretty great release for the first film alone. I consider the sequel its own sort of bonus feature that’s easy to ignore if you don’t care for it. Just to have this film looking this good with this impressive of an audio mix gives me hope for other 80s adult animated classics. At the end of the day, I’m calling this one Highly Recommended.