The only reason that could possibly explain the making of “Heavy Metal 2000” is the cult following for the 1981 original. Unlike its predecessor, “Heavy Metal 2000: F.A.K.K. 2” uses traditional cell animation in combination with CGI, as is the trend nowadays. Similar methods of animation can be found in Japanimation films “Blood” and numerous others. But like the original “Heavy Metal”, the sequel is replete with hard rock — unfortunately I’ve never heard of a single one of them.
There’s no doubt that the Japanese are most responsible for any innovations that can presently be found in the field of animation. When it comes to turning cartoon into an art form, no one does it better than Japan. So it’s also no surprise to find that the Japanese look at animation as more than a “cartoon”, but as a real movie, with equal concentration on characters, storylines, and cinematography. Their American brethrens have either not figured this out yet, or the failures of a couple of big-budget animation movies (most notably “Titan A.E.”) has effectively delivered a death’s knell to future adult-themed animation. “Heavy Metal 2000” is certainly not the film that’s going to change that notion, that’s for sure.
The movie follows the adventures of a big-busted female name Julie (voiced and modeled after scream queen Julie Strain), whose planet is ravaged and her people murdered by the evil Tyler. With an army of former asteroid miners turned pirates (how did that happen, exactly?) Tyler is in search of a liquid that grants immortality. Since Julie’s people have small concentrations of this liquid in their body, Tyler is squeezing every little drop out of them so he can down them like whiskey shots. Besides slaughtering Julie’s people, Tyler has also abducted her sister for his carnal pleasures. That doesn’t sit well with Julie, who teams up with one of Tyler’s former henchman and goes in search of payback.
The only positive spin I can put on “Heavy Metal 2000” is that it probably didn’t cost all that much to make. Or if it did cost a lot, the producers got ripped off. I say this because the film has effectively two quality settings: one is good, but that’s only for the background animation and CGI; the other is terrible, which unfortunately describes every single character design in the whole movie. There is very little attempt to make the characters look anything remotely real. Even if they were going for the “so fake it’s good” vibe, I still can’t get over just how badly the characters are done. We’re talking cheap mid-80s quality here, and certainly nothing animators in the turn of the millennium should still be producing.
The lack of quality in “Heavy Metal 2000” aside, the storyline is unabashedly simple. The film works best when the whole thing is taken as one big joke. There’s a shootout at a bar, part of a longer spaceport sequence, that is possibly the movie’s one big bright spot. What follows is a bloody gunbattle that shows absolutely no taste or restraint, and it was a blast — the only one in the whole movie. Later, there’s an assault on a city wall that ends up being a series of chopped body parts, decapitations, and bodies cleaved in half. All potentially good stuff, if only the quality of the animation had been just a little bit better. I can’t stress enough how this one element ruins much of the film.
When the characters finally make it to a planet where the immortality liquid is being stored, we get the sense that the filmmakers were trying to go for something more ambitious. There’s a city called the Holy Land, and I swear the building where the liquid is kept opens up to form an impression of a Jewish menorah. Unfortunately any attempt at something “bigger” is spoiled by the Julie character, which is running around in bright red dental floss that shows her ample animated boobs. (Why are her breasts so big again?)
I know it sounds somewhat silly to be criticizing an animated movie for having characters that are too, well, cartoonish. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by movies like “Jin Roh” and “Akira”, but what we get in “Heavy Metal 2000” is just not up to snuff, especially in the year 2000. If anything, the film marks a big step backwards for American animation. It seems that nowadays unless an animated film is released with the Disney logo and has cute singing animals it’s doomed to failure. This is unfortunate, because as the Japanese have proven, animation allows a filmmaker to do things live filmmaking sometimes just can’t do justice to.
It’s a bit disheartening to see American animations like “Iron Giant” not get anything close to the attention it deserves. I’m not sure if the market is there for adult-themed animation in the States, but even Disney films such as “Lilo and Stitch” has begun to approach more adult-minded storylines. That has to be a good sign for all animation lovers out there.
Then again, if all else fails, Japanimation is a fine alternative.
Michael Coldewey, Michel Lemire (director) / Simon Bisley, R. Payne Cabeen, Kevin Eastman (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Ironside …. Tyler
Julie Strain …. Julie
Billy Idol …. Odin
Sonja Ball …. Kerrie