EA is no stranger to producing animated films for their next big video game. They’ve done it in the past with Dead Space and now they’ve done it again with Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic. But the route taken with Inferno is mildly different than the path they chose for Dead Space, as Inferno follows the Halo Legends and The Animatrix path by bringing in six different styles of animation to stitch together the nine-part story. While it’s cohesive in storytelling, the animation change may be overly abrupt to some since the stories themselves are not really split up by anything more than the animation style and direction. Still, with plenty of talent both in the animation and voice actor side (Mark Hamill!), this is definitely a film fans of the game will be checking out (and vice versa).
Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery! These are the 9 Circles of Hell made famous by Dante Alighieri in his famed masterpiece, Dante’s Inferno, his first story of The Divine Comedy. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic will take you on a harrowing trip through Hell as Dante braves the forces of evil, slaying demons and monsters of extraordinary imagination, all to save his love Beatrice, from the clutches of Hell’s master – Lucifer. The companion piece to the hit Electronic Arts game, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, is inventively told through eyes of visionary animation directors from around the world, including Shuko Murase (Ergo Proxy) and Yasoumi Umetsu (Kite: Liberator) among others. 6 Directors, 6 terrifying visions of Hell, 1 heart-stopping epic adventure! 6 different covers – 6 different animation styles. See which cover you end up with!
I had been told that this film was incredibly screwed up. By “screwed up” I mean it was very demented and perhaps visually scarring in some ways. Granted, there were quite a few segments where it felt that way (the zombie baby-like creature sequence and the beginning of the “Lust” story were…definitely disturbing in more than a few ways), but in the end it’s possible that you’ve already seen much worse if you’ve been around the anime circuit for any period of time (or the horror movies area, as we’ve seen some equally disturbing things from that genre). So don’t go in expecting to be too disturbed…but it may happen. Or you might just be put off by the extreme gore, who knows.
In any case this was a pretty easy animated outing to connect with—man returns home to find his beloved slain and he goes to avenge her death/save her from the inferno. I guess that’s not so much something we can connect with as we’ve heard that story re-told in various mediums over the…well, centuries. This film actually reminded me a lot of Spawn:TAS, just in abbreviated form. Yes, I say every dark piece of animation reminds me of that series, but it’s not really the visuals here that remind me this time, it has more to do with the story. I mean the story is kind of the same and our main hero repeatedly screams/moans his beloved’s name (“Beatrice” for Dante and “Wanda” for Spawn) to the point where it could become a drinking game. There are also long stretches of boring sequences, which are sadly staples of both productions, sadly.
And that’s really my main issue with this piece. In animated series, it’s fine to have a few duds or slow moments along the way, but Dante’s Inferno just really dragged on and on—and it’s not even an hour and a half long. The pacing was just miserably slow at times and it was essentially the same thing with each level of hell that Dante traverses through—he enters it, proclaims his innocence and then we get a flashback as to why he’s in that particular level. It’s a learning experience, sure, but it’s also really stupid because this guy jumped in to save Beatrice and he was warned that if he had any sins that he wouldn’t be able to save her and…bam, he goes in anyway, completely forgetting about the really evil thing’s he’d done while off to war. I mean, really? Did he have Alzheimer’s or what, because those were some hardcore acts to just conveniently forget bout.
But as slow as the story progressed, the animation was always something to behold. I knew going in that it was six different directors/styles, but the transition between the two was rather jarring. The way the film progressed is it kept the same animator for the first three levels (or something like that) and then mixed it up towards the end, so you got a little too attached to that first animation style. Plus the later ones were rather questionable—the first several were high in detail and stylized animation and later ones got a bit more dumbed down. I know those were just those particular director’s animation styles, but it was still just kind of disappointing to see it start out on such a high-note visually and then to end on a slightly more mediocre one. It’s still fantastic to watch though, especially on Blu-ray. I was having fun to picking my jaw up off the floor with some of the action setups.
So is this worth seeing? Well as fun as Mark Hamill is, the rest of the voice actors are only so-so and the repetitious dialogue and monotony of the story just really began to get on my nerves by the end of it. It was also played out much like a video game, with each area having its own eventual “boss” fight, although some were more abbreviated than others. Granted I know this is based on the game (and the preview for the game showed CGI cut scenes from the thing and it looked nearly identical to what we saw in the animated film, though I’m sure there are deviations), so there will be similarities like that, but unlike Dead Space I just don’t think this one was executed quite as well. If you’re a fan of EA’s games or have already played Dante’s Inferno for the 360 or PS3, then I’d say this is at least worth a Rental as a companion piece. Going into it cold like I did, however, isn’t recommended, as it’s pretty generic as far as animated productions go. Granted there are quite a few deeper and psychological issues to make you think about here, but in that case you’re better off just reading the original piece of work that inspired this, as this animated version is a very gored-up adaptation of that.
Anchor Bay releases Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with the disc inside and a series of inserts advertising the game and other titles. The cool thing about this release is the covers—with six different directors for the piece, Anchor Bay decided to produce six different covers as well, so you get to pick which one you want (unless you order online, in which case it’s luck of the draw).
Video arrives in the form of an AC encoded 1.78:1 transfer which in layman’s terms means it’s going to fill up your entire 16×9 TV set. This is fantastic news as animation in 1080p is absolutely stunning and that certainly holds true for this transfer as well. True, the shades are almost always of a darker hue (and the occasional lava-red and ice-blue), but the animation of it all is just really the main draw of a piece like this and the transfer really shines. There was some banding, but aside from that and a tiny bit of compression during a torrential rain sequence, it’s a flawless transfer.
The audio, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, is similarly entertaining, with a robust soundtrack in the surrounds as well with the LFE output. I thought the opening sequence would never stop shaking my walls and later on throughout the film there are plenty of smaller moments where the surrounds and subwoofer kick in to create a nice little audio field. Without a doubt the key to what enjoyment I did get out of this film was from the A/V transfer as Anchor Bay did a really fantastic job with this in just about every respect. Dialogue is crystal clear, music is perfect and sound effects are appropriately gory and disgusting in nature.
The extras are where this release begins to fall apart once again, unfortunately. Included:
Animatics (Beatrice Chase, Charon, Dante Stabs Farinata, Franceso Fight, Lust Minions)
EA Game Trailer
Yup, that’s it. They’re all in 1080p, but it’s still a pretty sad set of extras. I have to wonder why the disc didn’t include a demo as well, but then again you can grab that for free off of XBOX Live and the PSN last time I checked so I suppose it’s no real big deal. Overall this is worth a Rental just for the A/V transfer, but aside from that you’ll be unlikely to travel back to the nine levels of hell…unless you want to add a tenth one of your own (boredom).
Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.