A prog metal album cover comes to life in Heavy Metal 2000, the direct-to-video sequel to the cult 1981 animated science-fiction fantasy film Heavy Metal, based on the popular magazine of the same name. It was released 20 years ago today, and was directed by Michel Lemire (who worked in the animation department of the first Heavy Metal) and Michael Coldewey (of German VFX studio Trixter, who would go on to work on several Marvel movies). Enter a universe of sex, death and violence, full of monsters, space ships, ancient prophecies and tall, scantily-clad, buxom women.
Unlike the omnibus format of the first film, Heavy Metal 2000 focuses on a single story, based on the graphic novel The Melting Pot by Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Set in a far-off future, a man named Tyler (voiced by Michael Ironside, Total Recall) discovers a glowing crystal while mining an asteroid. The crystal is said to be the key to a fountain of immortality, but will also drive whoever finds it completely mad. Possessed by the crystal, Tyler kills most his fellow crew members, takes over his mining ship, and sets off to find the fountain. While searching for the fountain, he comes across the planet Eden, where the inhabitants carry a small amount of the immortality fluid in their bodies. Tyler invades Eden and kidnaps the inhabitants to harvest their bodily fluids. One of the few survivors of the attack, Julie (voiced by Eastman’s wife Julie Strain), with the help of pilot Germain (Peter Kohn) pursues Tyler, who kidnapped Julie’s sister Kerrie (Sonja Ball) for his own sexual desires.
“Enter a universe of sex, death and violence, full of monsters, space ships, ancient prophecies and tall, scantily-clad, buxom women.”
Julie’s vengeful pursuit of Tyler brings her to the desert planet of Oroboris, where she meets a cloaked druid Odin (Billy Idol), the guardian of the fountain of immortality. Meanwhile, Tyler manages to conquer the planet’s lizard-people population thanks to his limited supply of immortality juice. A final war is waged as Tyler attempts to open the chamber containing the fountain.
The movie was animated in my home city of Montreal, Canada by the studio Cinégroupe, which has done animation for Teletoon cartoons largely unknown outside of Canada, like Mega Babies, What’s With Andy? and the definitely-not-for-kids series Tripping The Rift (which probably took inspiration from Heavy Metal in its sci-fi premise and big-breasted characters). The animation style of Heavy Metal 2000 is a solid improvement from the sketchy animation of the previous film, though some might prefer the old-school look. There’s some use of 3D animation, especially in exterior shots of space ships. However, it doesn’t look too good against a two-dimensional background, and with only half the budget of a Pixar or DreamWorks production, the studio wasn’t able to make the 3D graphics as slick (though I could just be spoiled at this point. I’m sure at the time it was revolutionary).
The soundtrack of the first Heavy Metal is probably more famous than the film itself. It featured the very best of heavy metal and rock artists of the era, like Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Nazareth and Sammy Hagar. It even peaked to the number 12 position on the Billboard 200 chart. Any vinyl aficionado probably has the record somewhere in their collection (looking at you, Rachel Prin!).
However, the soundtrack for Heavy Metal 2000 is less consistent and leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of sticking to classic rock bands that still hold up decades later, the soundtrack brings in industrial and nu-metal artists, who might have been popular at the time, but appeal for the subgenres quickly died down in the mid-2000s. Billy Idol and Bauhaus are the only ‘80s artists on the soundtrack who have survived the test of time. There are a few names that are still relevant to this day, like System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age, Machine Head and Pantera (though 16 years later, Machine Head’s Robb Flynn would condemn Pantera’s Phil Anselmo for yelling “white power” and Nazi-saluting at a concert). Then there’s the forgettable bands like Full Devil Jacket, Apartment 26, and Days of the New, who probably never gained much recognition beyond the soundtrack. And who could forget the questionable collaborative track by horrorcore rap groups Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid.
“Critics despised Heavy Metal 2000, perhaps because it was way too horny for its own good.”
Critics despised Heavy Metal 2000, perhaps because it was way too horny for its own good. Sure, a strip club featuring alien dancers with multiple breasts is par for the course, but Tyler‘s predatory perversions and Germain‘s malfunctioning sex robot might have been a bit much. It only has a 10% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A third film was said to be in the works. For years, there were rumors that it would be produced by David Fincher and James Cameron, and that it would return to its anthology set-up, with segments to be directed by Tim Miller (Terminator: Dark Fate), Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro. But due to the poor performance of Heavy Metal 2000, production studios were hesitant to fund a second sequel. It wasn’t until years later that Fincher and Miller’s anthology project was green-lighted by Netflix, and re-imagined as Love, Death & Robots, sharing enough similarities with Heavy Metal, like its violence and its cyberpunk aesthetic, but not tied down by its rocky reputation.
Looking back, the decision to make Heavy Metal 2000 just one story instead of an anthology was probably ill-advised. It lacks the variety, the humor and the juxtaposition of vintage and futuristic (World War II bombers in space, anyone?). It failed to garner any cult-appeal by catering to a new audience that didn’t necessarily grow up reading the comics. Heavy Metal magazine is a product of its time, considered to be the peak era for rock n’ roll. Even 20 years ago, the concept of space babes fighting off lizard monsters seemed outdated. Instead, Heavy Metal 2000 remains an embarrassing footnote in the comics’ legacy.
Did you grow up with Heavy Metal Magazine? Do you still have a copy of the Heavy Metal soundtrack in your vinyl collection? Let us know what you thought of Heavy Metal 2000 over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!