Movie Review: Gandahar

Posted: February 6, 2010 in Cartoon Review, Movie Review, Reviews
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Gandahar (1988 Dir. René Laloux)

Note: There is no way to avoid the nudity in this movie. It’s not that there are really that many adult themes, but there is a lot of nudity in this movie. So lets admit now this one is going to be a little NSFW and get on with our day.

This really is the first shot in the movie.

If you’re reading this in America, and you went in for odd sci-fi themed animated movies, then you might be saying to yourself “Hang on a second, isn’t this Light Years?” Well, as a matter of fact, Light Years is the cut and slightly altered version of this as it happens. Harvey Weinstein (who loves foreign cinema but hates foreign cinema fans) bought the rights and set forth to put together an English language version. He even went so far as to get Isaac Asimov to help make the new version, which got changed a bit. There were a few chops and changes to bring it over as I understand it. The end result was interesting to me, but not greatly loved by the public at large. No idea who owns the rights to Weinstein’s version, but it’s not out on DVD. I got my version through English company Eureka!’s Master of Cinema collection.

They can advance to the top of their field, but they’ve still got to dress sexy.

Wings sprouting out of your head is no basis for a system of government.

The first scene, before the credit even start, will either hook you or make you walk out of the room. This is clearly an alien world, with a very relaxed view towards clothing. If you can’t handle the sight of breasts, now would be a good time to leave because we’ll be seeing a lot of them. The artists like bared breasts and they insert them whenever possible. This makes a strange sort of dichotomy. On the one hand, the ruling government is made up of women, on the other hand the official robes of state are cut so that the official’s generous breasts are exposed and on display.

The fate of the world rests in the hands of a bishi boy.

I’m too sexy for my shirt.

The story is pretty neat though, based on a short story Les hommes-machines contre Gandahar (The Machine-Men versus Gandahar) by Jean-Pierre Andrevon. An unknown force starts attacking the people of the rather idyllic (and most naked) country of Gandahar, who send their best agent, a cat named Sylvain, to go check things out. Things do no go as well as they might and about half way to the place where he’s supposed to start checking things out, he crashes his… I’m not exactly sure what it is to be honest. Some kind of bird, made out of a paper napkin, it looks like. Gandahar uses organic technology so there are a lot of birds for vehicles and weapons that shoot like instant thorn bushes and things like that. Anyway, he gets picked up by a gaggle of guys that we will learn are called The Deformed.

Two heads are better than one, or even none as the case may be.

Notice, women with multiple breasts and a woman with no mouth. No issues with women here, all seems perfectly healthy to me.

The Deformed are a group of outcasts and so named for a pretty obvious reason. They are a pack of physically freakish mutants, which of course makes them visually awesome to look at. People with half a dozen heads on their torsos, a woman with a head at the end of her arm and her long neck, a guy with no actual head but a face on his torso… the combinations are really quite imaginative. Sylvain at first thinks that The Deformed are the enemy who have been attacking them. If the Deformed were attacking, they’d have a good right, they’re the misfires from Gandahar’s genetic experimentation. However, as it turns out, they aren’t the enemy and are even willing to help Sylvain find the real baddies.

Five minutes in, and he already screws it up.

My, what beautiful… eyes you have.

Before we go much further, I want to talk about “Was will be” which the deformed say a lot. They are terrified the present, they once had the gift of foresight, but have lost it and only have an odd prophecy left. “In 1000 Gandahar was destroyed and all its people killed. 1000 years ago, it will be saved and the inevitable avoided.” As a result of such things they live in the past and future but avoid the present. I really loved the idea of saying “I was will be” as a way of saying “I am” when I first saw this movie back in the 80s.

And like a typical guy, he bores her to death with his football stories.

Jurassic Park 7: This time it’s personal!

So when Sylvain sees the enemy it turns out that their men of metal, who turn people to stone by firing pinkish lasers from their fingers. And like a ninny, he gets petrified about 15 seconds later. Interestingly this isn’t the end of the movie because we’re only about 20 minutes in. Sylvain gets put inside a big egg, along with a bare chested woman, and they strike up a friendship. Because that’s what you do isn’t it? If you find yourself trapped in an egg with a beautiful young, blue skinned woman with only a miniskirt and necklace, you’d become best friends with her, wouldn’t you? You know, reading that over, I’m pretty sure no one can see that I was trying to be sarcastic. Yes, actually, I think I would strive to be the mostly naked young woman’s best friend.

No more talking, only kissing.

Hot! Cartoon! Nudity!

Anyway, a giant lizard sees the large eggs the metal men are using and decides that lunch is being provided. Sylvain uses on of his instant thorn bush weapons to hatch the egg, and it turns out the giant lizard was thinking more about sitting on the egg than eating it. So when they hatch out of egg, the monster takes our heroes for chicks and put them in a nest. There is then the insinuation that sex took place, because we see both of them naked, but we don’t get to see animated sex. If you want animated sex I must suggest Heavy Metal, or a hentai cartoon from Japan. However, if naked boobies are your thing than this is the movie for you. I have never seen a movie with such a high sweater kitten to film frame ratio in my life. You could probably produce a short cartoon, around six and a half minutes long, using only the ink and paint used to animate the knockers in this flick. Point is, the art guys like jugs!

At least their both naked, right? I mean it would be a shame if the women had to have their chests exposed the whole movie while guys went around with shirts… damnit.

I wonder if it tastes like Bubble Yum.

When Sylvain and his new flame go to investigate the remains of the defeated metal men they discover that they aren’t made up of anything. They are literally empty metal suits with only a small nut sized grain of some pink material in the head. The implication is that they have no hearts or minds and can’t think much. They do have some nice speeches though, as Sylvain and his lady friend discover after following the metal men to their fortress and listening to one of their motivational speakers. I’m pretty sure that there is an extremely subtle bit of anti-communist subtext going on with this speech bit, but it’s too obscure for me to get all of it what with statements like “Death only has meaning for weak beings, in love with the individual self” and “The ‘I’ does not exist” being rallying cries. They claim that Gandahar is a land of wasteful pleasure and free thinking that needs to be wiped from the map. Hard to tell if there isn’t some little bit of propaganda about how those mindsets are bad, since the villain says them and stuff. Since it’s in French and everything though, I must assume this is more subtle and sophisticated than I’m giving it credit for.

One of us! One of us!

Some people will do anything to avoid waiting tables.

After sneaking aboard a boat used by the metal men, Sylvain and Miss No Shit discover the force behind the attacks. Or do they? It turns out there is a massive brain sitting out in the middle of the ocean. The metal men report to the great brain, which sends little arms out so swallow it up. The brain then snatches up Sylvain and the girl (I really should look up her name or something) and an interesting bit begins. As they are transported through the brain, our lovers start having their thoughts read or something. The massive brain starts talking to Sylvain, and explains who it is. AH! Airelle is the girl’s name, they just said it. Their minds get read some more, memories from things they said before get repeated.

There are some things that make you wonder if maybe you should have stayed in bed.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to take the ride on the flying brain.

It turns out that Giant McBrainy Brain is called The Metamorphis and is also of Gandahar. He explains that the Metal Men think that he’s their god and that they think they’re following his orders, but that he doesn’t have anything to do with them. He then sends them back on some sort of flying brain material wing thing back to Jasper (the capital city) so they can report. When they do report, they learn that there is a connection between the metal men and The Metamorphis. The difference is that the brain material found in the metal men was vastly older then that found in the little flying wing thing. While they are learning this, the Metal Men are coming in to attack Jasper and a decent animated battle goes on. This leads to us seeing the leader and her council in battle armor (which decides against the exposed breast look) and is somewhat like insect segments. You might think I’m obsessing about the breast thing, but up until now there has hardly been more than 30 seconds without a pair of exposed breasts being shown on screen. This movie is wall to wall hooters.

I totally want a house like this, including the phallic shaped towers down there at the base. That makes the thing.

Oh no! Waist deep water, our only weakness!

After we see the battle, we learn the awful truth. The Metamorphis is actually a product of Gandahar that was abandoned in the ocean. This evidently made it a bit cranky and caused it to make men of metal, only brainy doesn’t seem to know about them so there is a problem there. Sylvain decides to go and talk to the Brain, or at least Pinky, and takes with him a powerful poison if The Metamorphis doesn’t see sense. Walking right into the brain’s clutches proves to be as good an idea as it sounds like.

I still say that you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because you’ve got wings growing out of your head.

Did I mention this queen’s name is Ambisextra? Well it is. You work out if the author had issues or not.

Actually, the Metamorphis tells Sylvain that the army comes from the future, and that they travel through a time gate. How they got this gate is not clear, but they’ve got it and they’re using it. The Metamorphis explains that the poison Sylvain has won’t hurt him now, but in a thousand year’s time it might be used to kill him. As things stand now, he doesn’t really want to be the tyrant ruler of a soulless army and would like to be put down if that happens. He puts Sylvain in a capsule and puts him to sleep for ten centuries. There is probably some social commentary about nations creating their own destruction, but being an American I just can’t fathom what it is.

One child looking at another.

He wasn’t so cheerful 5 minutes later when he discovered that flow was from the latrines.

There is another battle, but this time between The Deformed and the Metal men. The Deformed however make and electrical storm to take out the metal men and then decide to go help the people of Jasper, who are loosing their fight with the metal men. As far as Sci-Fi battles go, it’s a pretty cool thing to watch. It feels a bit distant though, you’re not really in there with them I’m afraid. The escape plan for Jasper is neat though, they break the main part of the city (the head of a giant statue) away and bird carry it off into the distance. Sadly, The Deformed get left behind again to say their little prophecy.

Always pimpin’ even in the future.

I only include this shot for the boobs. Boobs, boobies, titties, sweater kittens, tits, ta tas, hooters, racks, knockers!

We then suddenly shift 1000 years into the future, which is the longest time passage between one scene and another that I’m aware of. Sylvain wakes up into a very different world. For one thing, it’s a covered world. The Deformed lost the fight it seems, because they all got taken into the future. The Deformed were rejected and kicked back into the underworld, while the pretty and perfect people of Gandahar were drained of their lives and used to extend The Metamorphis’s life.

In the future, you will be a semi defined water colour.

He’s got like 7 mouths and no eyes, how was he supposed to fight?

Sylvain and the Deformed decide to take out the old brain and his metal soldiers. While Sylvain goes to deal with the now old Metamorphis, The Deformed start taking the metal men, apart and putting their heads in a big pile so that they can’t activate. Once Sylvain starts making his move on The Metamorphis, the remaining metal men start trying to help their master, but are thwarted by The Deformed. The Metamorphis denies ever making the deal though, but fortunately everyone works together and they kill the brain and escape through the door of time, which then vanishes like it never existed in the first place. They return to find the head of the massive Jasper stature still missing, but in the last show of the movie, it is seen returning, so that’s okay.

Notice in the middle there, again a woman with no mouth. And she has eyes in her breasts. This guy’s shrink must have a fleet of Porsches by now.

Must run faster! Must run faster!


I’ve made this a lot longer than I intended to, and for that I apologize, but I find this movie fascinating. While it might have flaws in story and animation, it’s a wonderful idea and as far as 1988 goes it’s a pretty good execution of a complex idea. There wasn’t as much money as someone like Disney would have had, but since there is 15 times more artistic integrity and invention in this movie than anything Disney has presented in the last 25 years, as well as 100% more nipples, I think we can allow a few economies in animation pass with a smile. You probably know I’m fully suggesting you buy this movie even though it’s a region 2 disc and you’ll need a region free player to watch it in America. I think it’s worth the extra effort that would be involved.

And for reasons not fully explored, the baddies sink into the sand.

And the head comes flying back in the end.

Official Score:
57 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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  1. MoviesOnline says:

    ohh … This is really the best movie review of Gandahar I have EVER seen … It is really good written .. keep the good work up!

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