How Heavy Metal Returned as a Netflix Heavy Hitter Image

How Heavy Metal Returned as a Netflix Heavy Hitter

By Film Threat Staff | May 9, 2024

In 1981, Heavy Metal debuted to both awestruck and appalled critics. Since then, the adult anthology movie has amassed a steady cult following, while inspiring other sci-fi classics like Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, and Futurama episodes. In 2008, psycho-thriller auteur David Fincher wanted to bring Heavy Metal back, but it’d take him a whole decade to do it.

Love, Death + Robots

If you didn’t know by now, the result of Fincher’s efforts was Love, Death + Robots. It was the result of a collaboration between Fincher and Deadpool director Tim Miller, also the founder of Blur Studio. They had previously collaborated in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Netflix picked up the idea and launched the series in 2019.

The show adapted sci-fi stories by legacy authors like Harlan Ellison and J. G. Ballard, but also modern sci-fi award winners like Joe R. Lansdale and Alastair Reynolds. Its latest season pushed tech boundaries by integrating NFTs into its episodes, digital artwork that can be traded by fans. Similar art trading is common in e-sports communities, especially for weapon skits, where it’s also possible to bet on the outcome of events at a CS:GO gambling website. NFT tech can level up collectibles and art, which the show used as a stunt to get the attention of 92 million people. It also allowed showrunners and audiences to see which episodes attracted the most NFT noise. For reference, the show’s critically acclaimed season three finale attracted the most NFT activity, indicating it was a fan favorite.

It had more to offer than just techy gimmicks, however, and has taken home two Emmys since its debut. It’s rare for a project to languish in development hell for eleven years and come out strong on the other end. You’d think it’s because it had been shelved for those years, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, this Heavy Metal reimagining attracted some of the biggest names in moviemaking before its release.

Heavy Metal’s Development Hell

Heavy Metal’s development hell started in 2008 when David Fincher started to make noise about the project. Fincher had convinced Paramount Pictures of the idea, while Kevin Eastman was the owner of the Heavy Metal at the time. Both Fincher and Tim Miller were involved from the start.

Soon Paramount dropped the project, during which time Eastman talked more about Heavy Metal and the slew of Hollywood directors interested in it. Besides Fincher, Eastman confirmed that Gore Verbinski, Guillermo del Toro, and Zack Snyder all wanted their shot at the movie. Fincher then welcomed James Cameron aboard, to become an exec producer and direct a future episode.

That’s when production stalled indefinitely, as distributors thought that a Heavy Metal remake wouldn’t be suitable for modern audiences. The plan then saw its first major change in 2011 when Eastman revealed he had sold the Heavy Metal rights to Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez explained his future optimism for the franchise but as of writing, he hasn’t done anything with it since.

This rights issue necessitated a renaming of Fincher’s series, to stay away from the Heavy Metal brand. This is when Netflix found the project in 2019. Amid ballooning box office budgets, streamers like Netflix could afford to experiment and source ideas that wouldn’t get funded by big movie studios. Over time, the scope of the series grew to become a spotlight anthology that would feature prominent sci-fi short stories, instead of just building on the cult classic film. Ironically, Rodriguez’s version slipped into a development hell of its own and is still nowhere to be seen. Despite its differences, that leaves Love, Death + Robots as the closest we’ve come to a Heavy Metal successor in the modern age.

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