Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)

Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)

Directors: Michael Coldeway & Michel Lemire

Voice Actors: Julie Strain, Michael Ironside, Billy Idol

It took eight people to write Heavy Metal 2000, the film I will be reviewing today, and you know how that goes, the more writers a film has, the worse the movie is going to be! And this movie had eight writers! Was the resulting script a disaster? Or did these eight writers achieve their goals of making a movie that paid tribute to one of the greatest sci-fi/horror magazines on the planet? So anyhow, this is Heavy Metal 2000 (2000), the sequel to the animated cult classic anthology film Heavy Metal (1981). Now if you know anything about the original film, then you probably know that it’s composed of various stories, all done by different animation houses. This amalgamation of talent yielded an melting pot of short films with some of the worst and some of the best animation you will ever see, so it’s interesting in that sense. Nothing stays the same for very long, just when you think you’ve had enough of a particular short, soon another artistic style and voice takes over. The soundtrack on Heavy Metal is a memorable one, including many awesome rock and roll bands from the 70’s and 80’s. Today I review the sequel, Heavy Metal 2000. The thing to remember while watching this sequel is that it’s vastly different than the first film.

In contrast to the first Heavy Metal (1981), this sequel isn’t an anthology film; Heavy Metal 2000 sticks to only one story, this immediately shatters our expectations of it. Fans of the first film expected this sequel to maintain the anthology format, so they were disappointed to discover that with this sequel, they were going to get just one feature length story. I enjoy the amalgamation of different artistic talents that an anthology brings, but I also appreciate the fact that this sequel was going for something different. In its defense I will say that even though Heavy Metal 2000 isn’t an anthology, it still manages to retain that feel of what Heavy Metal Magazine is all about. If you didn’t already know, both of these movies are inspired by Heavy Metal Magazine, a magazine totally devoted to science fiction, horror and fantasy comics. It is a magazine filled with stories that are exactly like the story we see in Heavy Metal 2000. As a fan of this magazine, I can tell you I’ve read my fare share of issues, most of the stories include half naked heroines fighting muscular evil dudes, sorcerers, magicians, aliens, you name it. Many of the stories include nudity, violence and gore in one form or another. This is why I say that Heavy Metal 2000 captures the feel of the magazine; it has all the elements you’d expect to find on any given issue. Yet even though Heavy Metal 2000 is inspired by Heavy Metal magazine and gets everything right in terms of the spirit of the magazine, Heavy Metal 2000 is actually based on a graphic novel called ‘Melting Pot’, which was written by Kevin Eastman, Simon Bisley and Eric Talbot. Kevin Eastman created the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (along with co-creator Peter Laird) and is the current publisher and editor (and has been for years) of Heavy Metal Magazine, so he truly knows what Heavy Metal is all about. This explains why he is one of the writers of the film. 

Above: Issue #4 of 'Melting Pot', the comic series on which Heavy Metal 2000 is based on 
Below: Lady Death, an example of the Bad Girl comic craze of the 90's 

So let’s keep things in perspective, Heavy Metal 2000 isn’t Shakespeare and it never intends to be. Heavy Metal Magazine has always been about the type of stories that sci-fi/horror fans love to read. Stories filled with the fantastic, the horrifying, the shocking. This magazine has always been a love letter to low brow entertainment, it’s the kind of literature that some will no doubt consider immature, and they’d be right, these stories are often times juvenile in nature, but that’s the nature of the beast. And so, Heavy Metal 2000 basks in its b-movie roots, unashamedly so. Trust me when I say that one liners will be spoken, in fact, you’ll feel that it is the only language these characters speak. In this film you will see females being treated like sex objects and the females loving it. For example, Julie Strain does the voice of the main character in the film, a bad ass lady who goes by the name of ‘Jules’. She’s you’re a-typical bad ass babe. During the 90’s Bad Girls were the rave of the comic book world; suddenly every comic book was about Bad Girls with big boobs and even bigger guns! During those days we had comics like Vampirella, Lady Death and Danger Girl. And though Heavy Metal 2000 was released at the beginning of the new millennium, it still retains that 90’s Bad Girl vibe to it. You’ll notice the emphasis on showing Jules breasts bouncing all the way through the movie, sometimes the camera will focus entirely on her ass, or take its time showing her taking a shower, it’s all very gratuitous, designed to titillate teenage boys. You should see the extras on the Heavy Metal 2000 dvd, where Mrs. Strain talks all about how much she loves being the sexy sci-fi chick and showing some skin. She’s the ultimate tease for young boys (and men in general) kind of like a sci-fi version of Elvira. She knows you like her jugs, and she’s got no problem showing them to you, in fact, she loves the adulation she gets from it. Julie Strain obviously infused the character of Jules with her own persona, so much so that they even share the same name. 

Above, Julie Strain dressed up as Jules, below her animated counterpart

On this film, Jules is out for revenge. You see, this power hungry madman who goes by the name of Tyler is on his way to a distant planet that holds the gates to immortality. Tyler has the key, and he aims to use it in order to acquire immortality. Problem is that whoever holds the key goes insane from lust of power, and so throughout the movie Tyler destroys, rapes and kills anything on his path. Too bad for him that on one of his joy rides he ends up killing Jules family and her people. To make matters worse, Tyler kidnaps Jules sister because he thinks she’s hot. Now Jules is on a race to try and stop Tyler from acquiring immortality, while avenging her people and rescuing her sister!

I’ve always had a couple of problems with this movie. Number one, the animation is not the best. Maybe it’s because its old school, but I’ve seen old school animation films with excellent traditional hand drawn animation, so maybe it’s just the animation on this show isn’t really that good. Then again, it’s American animation, which has never distinguished itself for being excellent. And they do that thing where they mix computer generated images with traditional hand drawn animation and it sucks big time because back in those days computer animation was just getting started, so whatever computer animation the squeezed into any given scene looks amateurish by today’s standards. Then again, maybe I’ve been spoiled rotten by anime films. That being said, once I got accustomed to the films look and the choppy animation, I found myself having fun with it. Same story with Ralph Bakshi films, you just gotta get accustomed to the fact that the animation is a little rough around the edges.

Heavy Metal 2000 has its moments, like when Jules and Tyler meet up on this pleasure planet of sorts, filled with strippers with six breasts and aliens from all sorts of planets, it reminded me a bit of the cantina scene from Star Wars, if the cantina scene from Star Wars had been rated ‘R’. And by the way, speaking of this films rating, they don’t even make live action ‘R’ rated films like this one today! I mean, this is a hard ‘R’ rated film! There’s tons of gratuitous nudity, profanity is common place, and the gore, well, even for a cartoon it’s over the top at times. In that sense, this film is extremely rare, it’s an animated ‘R’ rated film! You don’t see one of those every day. Last time I saw one of those was Richard Linklater’s  A Scanner Darkly (2006), another one that comes to mind is South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999). Every once in a while, an adventurous filmmaker will make one from time to time, but the truth is that the R rated animated film is rare because (with rare exceptions) they are not marketable. For a time there, animated films for adults where trying to find its corner in the market with films like Fritz the Cat (1972), Fire and Ice (1983) and American Pop (1981), but I guess it proved too difficult to get the common American adult to think of animation as anything more than the stuff of Saturday Morning Cartoons or children’s films. So Heavy Metal 2000 is a rare bird, on this one axes slice people in half, brains are blown to smithereens and sex robots can be bought at the corner of the street.

The soundtrack of the first film is one of the most memorable things about it; it included old school rock and roll bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Stevie Nicks, Journey, Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, Devo and even Sammy Hagar. So of course, the soundtrack for Heavy Metal 2000 had to amass an interesting amount of bands as well. On this sequel we get the likes of Pantera, Monster Magnet, Coal Chamber, Bauhaus, Insane Clown Pose, Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down and Puya. The problem for me with this soundtrack is that sometimes, the visuals don’t match with the music. Sometimes there’s a real hardcore song going on and it just doesn’t go with the visuals. The same thing happened when Dario Argento started using heavy metal in his horror movies, the heavy metal just didn’t mix with the visuals, thank god he stopped doing it after a while.  This is something very important on any film, the visuals have to go in accordance and sometimes even to the rhythm of the music. Not so here where songs are apparently randomly inserted into a scene without rhyme or reason. It feels like the songs where only inserted into the film in order to sell a soundtrack and not because the song is perfect for the scene. This truly sucks in my book.

The other problem I had with it is the weak direction and the editing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any movie that uses fade to black so often! This is one of the signs of amateurish filmmaking, fade to black is what you resort to when you’ve got nowhere else to go because you forgot to film a transition or establishing shot. There’s no way to flow from one scene to the next so you fade to black. Well, they do this all the time in Heavy Metal 2000 and it just reeks of bad filmmaking. So there’s unevenness in the editing and the music. Strange thing is that even with all these imperfections, I still managed to have fun with Heavy Metal 2000. Its dialog, sense of humor and mentality is so comic bookish that I ended up surrendering to it and having a blast. It’s a film made for adults who want to feel 12 years old again. It’s the kind of film in which when the masses are calling his name, the villain says “Blind adulation makes me so horny! Get me a wench!” At first I hated Heavy Metal 2000 with a passion, but it’s grown on me over the years. It’s rude, raw, loud, imperfect and sexist, but that’s exactly the way it should be, or else it wouldn’t be Heavy Metal. The original Heavy Metal film is superior in the sense that if offers a larger variety of stories and styles, the animation is a million times superior and because the soundtrack is infinitely more melodic and plain cool, but this sequel is definitely worth a watch, if you can get over the imperfections.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Sergei Kolobashkin said...

Comic book game was very strong in Russia I the late 90s. I came back from the States 1999 and I was amazed, how everything was different. It was very hard to catch a movie in a theater, because theaters were pretty dead at that point. No broadband internet. No decent video games. The thing with most content that was sold in Russia in the late 90s was the license. If it wasn't licensed - it wasn't sold. As you can imagine, it was very easy to license b-movies, old comics and shit. I literally matured with the whole vhs rental thing that was going around. Some wise folks were smuggling Heavy Metal to Russia and I was buying every issue. These comic books spoke my language. Imagine my amusement, when I rented Heavy Metal 2000. I was really looking forward to love this thing, but it turned out to be bad. A few years ago I thought that it might have gotten better as it aged. It didn't. In fact it got worse. The original Heavy Metal was so much better.

Franco Macabro said...

Wow, it must've been hell having such a difficult time getting movies, video games and comics! I myself can't live without them. Heavey Metal 2000 is a lesser film I agree, the first one is far superior. But I decided to give it a chance and lowered my expectations, I kind of decided to accept it for what it was. It's no masterpiece, but its trashy fun in my book. On the other hand I can watch and re-watch the original Heavy Metal no problem, I've loved it since day one.

There was going to be a third Heavy Metal film, David Fincher was amassing an interesting group of directors (amongst them Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron), but sadly it never came to be. Last I heard Robert Rodriguez had the rights to Heavy Metal movie, I hope he gets it made and manages to gather a good group of directors and animators to be a part of it.

Sergei Kolobashkin said...

I think that Rodriguez lost his point at some way. I remember his old stuff and it was great, but these days, you know, meh.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree with you Sergei, I love his early stuff as well, right now he is a hit or miss kind of director which is why I always go and check out his films. I hope he does something that really cooks soon, I love it when he makes an awesome movie. For me his high points have been Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado and Planet Terror.


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