WARNING!-IF YOU HAVE OR ARE PLANNING ON PURCHASING THE GAME AND DON’T WANT PLOT POINT RUINED, DON’T WATCH THIS FILM!! Now…let’s go to HELL!
Don’t let the title fool you. “Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic,” (to be referred to as “DI” from here on) is a fast paced animated flick based on the game of the same name that does pretty well for adapting 8-10 hours of gameplay. Just like “Deadspace: Downfall” before it, Visceral/EA games has crafted an animated film to accompany their game. Using Starz Entertainment and Film Roman again, this time they took a different approach and instead of a prequel that leads to the game, we get an actual adaptation of the story presented. Albeit with some changes due to time constraints, it is very faithful to the game. This time around however the developers decided to go the anthology type route. It’s still one story, but it’s broken up into different art styles and has different directors a la “The Animatrix,” and “Batman: Gotham Knights.” Boasting talent from such revered Asian animation studios as DongWoo (Justice League/JLU, Ultimate Avengers), JM Animation (Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Boondocks), Production I.G. (Kill Bill Vol.1, Ghost in the Shell), and Manglobe (Samurai Champloo). Film Roman did the opening segment, and it’s just as good as the rest.
Both the game and animation are loosely based on the first part of Dante Aligheri’s “Divine Comedy,” and to its credit it’s not a bad interpretation. The original poem follows the poet Dante with his guide Virgil, author of the Aenid, through the nine circles or levels of Hell; Limbo, Lust Gluttony, Greed, Anger Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. Throughout the journey Dante encounters famous people and acquaintances that are in hell, some of which are there because of him. In the game and film, Dante is now a templar knight returning from the crusades to his beloved Beatrice, only to find her dying. With her last breath her soul leaves her body and begins its ascension to Heaven. Lucifer however, has other plans, and steals her soul and takes it to hell (Inferno as it’s often referred to).
What follows is the prerequisite chase and battles to free the soul of his lady love. What isn’t so straight forward is how dark the story gets and how not so heroic our “hero” is shown to truly be. Much like Kratos of “God of War” fame (which incidentally the game takes a lot of inspiration from that franchise), Dante is a very flawed character, and we are treated to seeing all of these flaws throughout “DI.” For a film based on a video game, loosely based on a classic poem, this story has some pretty deep moments for the character. If you’ve seen the film “Kingdom of Heaven” then you know just how over the top crusaders and especially the Knights Templar were. That will give you some idea of what you’re in store for.
The game and the film both do very good jobs at illustrating the torturous and terrifying nature of the different levels of Inferno. I’m sure it’s much more detailed in the game where each level takes almost the amount of time as the entire film, but for the glimpses we get in the film, it’s truly rather disturbing in some parts, Lust, Greed, and Gluttony especially. Some of the scenery is just as described in the poem. Speaking of the poem, they lifted lines directly form it as well. Sure some of them are in the wrong places, but it still works. This is a period piece and anyone that can’t deal with thick British accents and Shakespearean speech should probably skip this, but it really works and helps sets the atmosphere. Also much of the religious connotations of the poem have been kept, with talk about the sins, damnation and absolution. It’s all handled really well, and though it can seem heavy handed at sometimes it’s not done ‘just because’ but usually has something to do with the story.
The different art styles are just amazing, and though I liked some more than others, they all worked pretty well and also help set the tone of the segment. Animation is really crisp, and though I’ve read reviews saying Film Roman’s segment wasn’t up to par, I wonder if they were watching a different film as I was actually floored by it. I’m a big animation fan (as you’ve probably already guessed) and I’ve always preferred Asian animation over American animation. I mean look at the opening for “Thundercats” and then look at the series. Two different art styles. Can you imagine what the show would’ve been like had they used that animation instead of the American crap that came out? But over the last decade and with “DI” especially we’ve crafted some very nice looking animation of our own, and Film Roman’s segment is proof. Also there was some complaint about the different styles making it hard to keep up with who’s who. Uh no, Dante has the cross sewn on his chest no matter what the style is. So you definitely know who you’re looking at. Sure his hair grows, gets shorter, and his helmet changes but other than that he’s unmistakable, like the different iterations of Batman in “Gotham Knights.”
The film looks good, sounds good too. Aside from some dubbing issues with bad lip flap in segments it’s got good audio, and a great score. “DI” is a much better effort than “Deadspace: Downfall” and it’s pretty good as a standalone piece. I wish it had been a little longer but hey that’s just because what they put out was a lot of fun to watch. Is it great? No. Is it fun? Yes. Will it make you want to play the game? Hell Yeah! If the film is any indication the game will be a blast, “God of War” knockoff or not. So if you enjoy action, violence, gore, a lil nudity, and can take a fair amount of religious topics, “Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic,” will not disappoint. Unfortunately for extras all we get are some “animatics, ” (animated story boards to map out scenes for those who don’t know), and a trailer for the game that shows some pretty cool scenes from the game, and after watching the film scenes you may recognize. I had a blast watching this, and though it’s entirely too short, it definitely does what it set out to do; get any people on the fence about buying the game, off and to the store.
Jonathan Knight (director) / Jonathan Knight (screenplay)
CAST: Graham McTavish … Dante Alighieri (voice)
Vanessa Branch … Beatrice Portinari (voice)
Pollyanna McIntosh … Bella (voice)
JB Blanc … Alighiero (voice)
Alison Lees-Taylor … Cleopatra (voice)
Jay Beyers … The Damned (voice)
Tom Tate … Francesco / Marc Antony (voice)