Fantasia 2017: Junk Head
A mechanized humanoid is loosed from the upper levels of Earth, deep into the under levels of what has become of far future society. The body is shot out of freefall by curious onlookers, separating head from torso. The head goes through a few bodies, with varying levels of its original memory intact. Those bodies allow the head to explore the under levels, each with their own culture and purpose. All levels have their grotesque and charming industrialized sides to offer to the head of the robotic body.
We’re told in a short opening text crawl, that humanity advanced to such a level as to achieve successful human cloning, and enslaved those clones for infrastructure and labor.
Then the clones rebelled, and took parts of the lower levels for themselves. Some offshoots of humanity and the clones took up the hard labor of keeping the upper echelon surviving. Others prey upon the innocents who stray too far.
Junk Head is the dizzying and dazzling stop-motion tale which shows us what we, now, would identify as humans, treating a cybernetic severed head as itself the last vestige of humanity to be found in the lower levels of Earth. So rare is this “human” (found to be merely a human head in a metal helmet, attached to an entirely mechanized body), the people who find it refer to it as God.
Then God gets dismantled and kicked to an even lower level, forced into menial labor when its ability to speak and exercise free will is taken by the fall.
Fittingly, the design and movement of the characters in Junk Head is eye-popping. The credits of the film play over B-roll of animators doing their work for some of the more impressive sequences, but it does nothing to lessen the “wow” factor of watching the characters so fluidly animate in front of your eyes. Scavengers bulk up and move like mythical ninjas. A failed clone skitters about like a mashup of Dr. Pretorius from From Beyond and Norris’s head spider from The Thing. "God’s" shoulders slump as he loses confidence in his journey, clomping away on his path regardless.
But the setting is what stands out—a Gilliam-esque combination of brutalist concrete, industrialized pipes and pneumatic tubes, littered with the detritus of generations long since gone. Workers toil away at sole functions, some unaware of what the purpose of the function truly is. It’s a marvel of stop-motion animation that doesn’t forget the pathos to make those design choices matter.
There isn’t enough room in this capsule to dive into the post-humanity questions the film lays out and weaves into its narrative, but there’s meat aplenty on those bones to drive a whole separate piece. Seek out Junk Head, if you enjoy masterful stop-motion, or heady sci-fi themes baked into a wonderful setting.