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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"Mortality sucks. Immortality sucks. Everything sucks."
DVD ReviewHeavy Metal magazine was founded in the 1980s by the publishers of the National Lampoon as an American-ized version of the long-running French fantasy publication Metal Hurlant. The magazine's presentation of sci-fi and fantasy themes with stunning artwork by such greats as Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Richard Corben, Milo Minara and Berni Wrightson achieved a certain following, helped in no small part by a high quotient of "adult" violence and nudity. Following the success of the National Lampoon feature films, an animated Heavy Metal feature was conceived and hastily executed using a number of Canadian animation studios; the R-rated film was not immediately successful at the box office, but became a midnight cult favorite and much-anticipated video release.
Heavy Metal 2000 (working title Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2) was intended to follow in the footsteps of the original film, based not on the magazine but on the similarly-toned graphic novel The Melting Pot by Kevin Eastman (of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, now editor of Heavy Metal magazine), Simon Bisley and Eric Talbot. The story concerns the invasion of the peaceful planet of Eden by Captain Tyler (voiced by Michael Ironside), a power-mad villain seeking immortality, aided by a magical fluid allowing him to recover from any injury instantaneously. From the wreckage of Eden rises Julie (Julie Strain), a tough, buxom woman determined to rescue her sister Kerrie (Sonja Ball) and exact vengeance on Tyler. En route, she encounters Odin (Billy Idol), a mysterious hooded figure, his talking-rock sidekick Zeek (Rick Jones), and the well-meaning but ineffectual Germain St. Germain (Pierre Khol). Sex robots, seedy bars, massive explosions and creepy hardware abound as Julie travels toward her destiny, accompanied by driving heavy metal music by a number of bands and artists.
At its best, Heavy Metal 2000 pulls off some impressive visuals and feels like Aeon Flux without the sociopolitical subtext. But most of the time it's mechanical and strained (no pun intended); the gore is overdone and gratuitous, the exposed breasts and buttocks completely unerotic, and the dialogue and plot clichéd and uninteresting. Its references to the first film are heavy-handed, with one segment that calls Heavy Metal's "Taarna" to mind and immediately pales in comparison. The filmmakers' admirable desire to tell one complete story (abandoning the first film's anthology format) unfortunately only serves to establish how much easier it is to get away with fifteen minutes of stunning visuals and little story than eighty-eight continuous minutes with the same handicap. Most of the voice acting is solid, with especially fine work by rocker Billy Idol, but Julie Strain's appeal has little to do with her voice or acting—her lines often sound stilted and "read", especially when they're meant to be emotional.
Visually, Heavy Metal 2000 does a few things well—its computer-rendered spaceships, planets and effects achieve a degree of visual solidity, though they don't always mesh with the cel-animated characters. The background paintings are often gorgeous and atmospheric, and the animation is much more consistent than in the original film, despite a similar degree of "farming out" to studios in Europe and Asia. I'm not sure whether any rotoscoping was used in this production, but the character animation often looks a little odd. Limbs, heads and breasts don't always follow the torso's movement naturally—the animation quality at its best is similar to that of the first film, but that's not saying much, and at its worst resembles contemporary television animation. The character designs are better-suited to animation than those of the first film, which attempted to follow multiple artists' styles, some of which just didn't adapt well; but they're also much simpler and visually less interesting.
I'm glad Heavy Metal 2000 was made, despite my disappointment in the end product; most animation today is aimed at the family market, and it's nice to see a domestic release from a major studio that revels so gleefully in sex and violence. Unfortunately, the opportunity to USE that freedom to actually say something has been lost this time around: there's no moral or philosophical content here, just a bunch of animated naughty bits thrown into a soulless, standard-issue revenge plot.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: CTHV presents Heavy Metal 2000 in its intended 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a fine anamorphic transfer. The source print has some dirt specks here and there (apparently not from the cels) and the CGI effects suffer from some shimmering on thin edges, but there are no signs of edge ringing, blocking or other distracting digital artifacts. Colors and black level are rich and deep, and little in-joke details in the artwork are clearly visible. No complaints in this department (though one imagines a direct-to-digital transfer from the production system might have eliminated the minor print defects).
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Heavy Metal 2000 features comprehensive soundtrack support, with English tracks in Dolby 2.0 Surround and Dolby Digital 5.1, a French DD 5.1 track, and Spanish and Portuguese tracks in 2.0. The 5.1 tracks are MUCH more active in the rears than the 2.0 tracks, which opt for a more front-heavy presentation that feels flat next to the extremely directional 5.1 mix. On many other films the 5.1 audio would seem gimmicky and overdone, but it seems just right for a Heavy Metal movie. Frequency range is solid, dialogue is generally clear and the subwoofer gets quite a bit of LFE attention. My only complaint is that the requisite heavy metal soundtrack cuts overpower dialogue briefly in a few spots.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dogma, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Black and White, Timecode
Isolated Music Score with remote access
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:14s
Julie Strain: Supergoddess! Featurette:
A 13-minute featurette about contemporary exploitation movie star Julie Strain Eastman, the 6' 1" star of babes-and-bullets movies (by Andy Sidaris and others) and wife of Heavy Metal magazine editor and F.A.K.K. 2 co-creator Kevin Eastman. Ms. Strain inspired and voiced the film's lead character, Julie, but this piece focuses more on her personality and career than the film itself. Interesting for Strain fans, but not particularly illuminating.
Voice Talent Featurette:
An all-too-brief look at the film's voice sessions, with footage of Julie Strain, Michael Ironside and Billy Idol recording their lines. It's interesting material, but at under four minutes it's not very informative about the process or the performances.
Isolated Music Score:
Frederic Talgorn's musical score is presented in full Dolby Digital 5.1, and comes off rather well in the cheesy-orchestral vein of the original film's score. The heavy metal soundtrack cuts are also included for your eardrum-damaging pleasure.
This is a nice extra, presenting storyboards synchronized with finished footage from five of the film's more memorable sequences. The storyboard images dominate the frame, with the finished film footage inset in the lower right-hand corner, and this feature provides some insight into the production process from staging to animation.
A few minutes of rough pencil-test footage (character movement only, no backgrounds) with a voice-over from Kevin Eastman discussing the animation process. These seem to be preliminary movement and style tests, as the fight sequence depicted doesn't appear "as is" in the finished film.
Two sections of images, one featuring a number of gorgeous background paintings, the other with a handful of photos of Julie Strain in her real-world F.A.K.K. 2 getup.
Columbia TriStar takes advantage of a marketing opportunity, including the Heavy Metal 2000 trailer in full-frame 1.33:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio along with promotions for other films likely to appeal to the HM2K audience: Dogma (1.33:1, DD2.0), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1.85:1 non-anamorphic, DD2.0), Black and White (1.85:1 non-anamorphic, DD5.0) and Timecode (1.33:1, DD5.1).
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsHeavy Metal 2000 achieves what it sets out to do, delivering animated blood, nudity and cussing in abundance, but the end result feels flat, recycled and just a little too mindless. Columbia TriStar's DVD release features a fine transfer and some worthwhile supplements, but most viewers will be satisfied with a rental. Worth seeing once if you're a fan of the original, or "adult" animation in general.
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