Review: 'Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic'

EA is never one to shy away from cross-platform expansion of their properties.  Their space-horror smash Dead Space produced two games, multiple comic book series, and an animated direct-to-DVD movie.  The games were gloriously gory fun and the comics, illustrated by 30 Days of Night artist Ben Templesmith, added immeasurably to the game’s mythology.  The less that is said about the appropriately titled animated movie Dead Space: Downfall, the better.

So now that EA has another potential franchise hit on their hands with Dante’s Inferno, they’re doing it all over again.  Aside from the infamous pre-release bidding war over the movie rights, they’re again producing a series of comic books, and they’ve released another direct-to-DVD movie, simply titled Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic.  Given my previous experience with Dead Space: Downfall, I prepared myself for the absolute worst.

Loosely following the events of its video game counterpart, and at times seeming more akin to Dante Alighieri’s original text, the animated movie bears more in common with efforts like Batman: Gotham Knight or the recently released Halo Legends by splitting its running time up among six different anime directors.  Where it differs from these spiritual forebears is in its plot execution: instead of a series of smaller vignettes, the movie is one continuous screenplay that follows Dante on his travels through Inferno to rescue his damned Beatrice.  The changes in art style can be a little jarring, with Dante wearing a chainmail hood in one scene and doffing it for long flowing tresses in the next, but the overall theme and tone is consistently well-executed and realized.

The decision to style the movie using anime as opposed to a more “American” animation style proves to be a major benefit.  As a game, Dante’s Inferno often relied on ham-fisted melodrama in its storytelling, with Dante’s actions and reactions coming across as almost absurdly cartoonish.  This tone dovetails perfectly with the exaggerated strokes that anime usually offers, as well as the genre’s ability to handle more blasphemous subject matter with enjoyable results.  Any Go Nagai fans in the room?  You know what I’m talking about.

In fact, “enjoyable” sums up the movie pretty succinctly.  It’s not exactly high art, and the plot takes very few twists or turns to its predictable conclusion, but there’s plenty of action, and an infectious sense of absurdity that leaves you grinning.  Never before did I think that a movie would show a man barrel-rolling a horse through the air or riding a tidal wave of blood after tearing open a demon’s mammoth heart, and Dante’s Inferno offers up just that and so much more.  Fans of animation and the source material will certainly find a lot to like in Dante’s Inferno.