“Rock ‘n Rule” is a Curious and Tragically Problematic Time Capsule of 80’s Animation

Imagine a world where the only survivors of the last great war are street animals like dogs, cats, and rats and now imagine that those animals mutated over the years and became the new dominate lifeform over the planet. Now imagine that those mutants have created an advanced technological culture ruled over by super-rockers, who sing and are worshipped by the masses.

If you imagined any of that, chances are you are probably using any number of controlled, illegal substances or you have seen the very obscure 1983 animated movie, Rock ‘n Rule.

Rock ‘n Rule follows a pair of singers named Angel and Omar. They have dreams, but their music is pretty terrible – mostly because Omar is controlling and has to make music his own awful way. Angel, on the other hand, is pretty good and catches the ear of Mok, a legendary super-rocker who (Get ready for this, kids!) wants to use her voice to summon a demon and… get revenge for a reason I’m not sure of. I honestly don’t remember if I just missed the reason or if the movie never bothered to say why.

While I will admit that Rock ‘n Rule is a curiosity, with its vintage animation and whacked out premise, that is mostly all that the movie has going for it. It’s art… the animation is beautiful, the backgrounds are astounding, and there are multiple, gloriously psychedelic sequences that couldn’t have come from any other decade. Rock ‘n Rule could have been a blood brother to Heavy Metal.

…only it sucks.

It really sucks.

This movie has problems. Problems a’plenty. For one thing, the character of Omar, the guy who is supposed to be the protagonist (even though he hardly does anything) is a completely despicable human being or whatever he’s supposed to be. Omar is needlessly rude, angry for no reason, he’s an egomaniacal narcissist who breaks promises, gets angry and runs away when he doesn’t get his way, and honestly doesn’t deserve to be the hero of the movie.

The hero is Angel. While she is, no doubt, relegated to the tired role of a damsel in distress, she simultaneously shows enough initiative to escape, manipulate the bad guy, and save Omar and her bandmates from getting killed by Mok. Sorry, Omar, Angel is the hero of this movie and the movie is too clueless to know it.

Can we talk about Mok, the bad guy? Too bad… we’re gonna.

Mok is a fascinating villain. He’s a strange and somehow more flamboyant version of Mick Jagger and he’s animated beautifully to be as slimy and vile as possible. His motivations are a complete mystery… I’m assuming he wants to destroy the world because his popularity is waning, but he’s a lot of fun to watch.

Rock ‘n Rule has huge problems with its story.  The pacing is so bad that it almost seems like the movie is missing entire sections as it suddenly lurches forward from one scene to another. It’s made even worse by the fact that characters can’t shut up for more than ten seconds. They’re constantly talking, stepping on each other’s lines, and making the dialogue next to impossible to understand.

Additionally, Rock ‘n Rule is hobbled by a tonal problem. You can tell that it wants to be adult animation, but at the same time it falls back on kiddie tropes like stupid characters, cartoony situations, and general silliness that interrupts the movie rather than enhancing it.

In the end, Rock ‘n Rule is a seriously flawed movie with a load of problems, but at the same time, the imagination behind it and the wonderful old school animation is such a pleasure to watch. The soundtrack isn’t bad either. Nothing I’d put on my playlist, but I have been humming “Send Love Through” since I watched the movie and I am not the least bit embarrassed.

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