To launch there explosive new video game ‘Dante’s Inferno’ Electronic Arts has also simultaneously launched an explosive new animated movie based on this game, which naturally is based on Dante’s classic poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ in ‘Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic’, a decidedly adult themed animated feature displaying boobs, blood and plenty of beheadings and head splittings, all mated to some gloriously styled animation. The thing is these animated sequences are spread across numerous animation houses which I’m guessing worked better in theory than in the actual execution.
The thing that’s kind of cool about this animated feature is how much of Dante’s actual poem it retains in telling it’s version of the story. When we first meet Dante (voiced by Graham McTavish), he is fresh from a three year stint as a Warrior for God during the crusades riding his trusty steed desperately trying to get home to get his beloved Beatrice (Vanessa Branch), while numerous obstacles stand in his way. Eventually he makes it but alas he is too late as Beatrice has been mortally wounded by an unseen enemy of Dante’s and is now ascending to the heavens.
But not so fast my friends. That ghoul of the darkness known as Lucifer has snatched Beatrice and has taken her for his own. Apparently Beatrice made a bet with Satan that her beloved would be true while he was away from her and Beatrice lost that bet. Mind you I am a bit curious why Beatrice was betting with Satan in the first place and what exactly what would she have won in this bet? No answers to any of these curious little tidbits were forthcoming.
First off Dante claims he was in no way untrue to his love and now he is on his way to hell to save Beatrice. Getting into hell is complicated but fortunately for Dante the poet Virgil is along to help him in and guide him through the nine circles of hell to save his betrothed. In the actual poem it makes a little bit of sense why Virgil is hanging out with his fellow poet Dante, here it’s just kind of strange, Virgil hanging out with Dante the Ultimate Fighter, but he’s gotta be there.
I don’t know if you know this but Satan is a total asshole, completely torturing Beatrice while continuously showing her what a loser her man is. Undaunted she waits while Dante fights his way throughout the nine circles of hell, with almost all of the sins that house the damned in these circles being an integral part of Dante’s overall personality. But will he prevail? You see Satan plans to take the Super Pure Beatrice as his wife, an angelic soul to bear his children. Satan obviously didn’t see Dante and Beatrice spooning in the lily fields like we did earlier in the movie, not to mention that illegitimate son she’s already bore him. He might want to refresh that concept of ‘pure and angelic’. I’m just saying.
There is no doubt that ‘Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic’ is one visually arresting piece of work and it also very much worth watching. Most of the animation is very, very good, the film has enough action for three movies, the level of violence and disturbing imagery is oppressive and the story builds well on Dante’s concept of Hell with some clever dialog sprinkled along the narrative mated to some above average voice acting. All of these impressive elements make this almost a can’t miss animated movie, especially for those who enjoy anime and animated movies in general, and it almost makes me want to shell out my 59.95 + tax to play the game. Almost. I’m more of a ‘Greatest Hits’ kind of guy since sixty bucks is an awful lot of money for something I may or may not have time to play. I have a brand new shrink wrapped copy of ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ still begging to go into the Elite. No time.
But despite these very good things in EA’s rendition of ‘Dante’s Inferno’ I still feel there is a glaring problem with the way they chose to tell the story. I’ve seen this technique used in animated movies prior to this one, using different animators to tell a story, but each story was unique unto itself while based around a central theme. This is one continuous story told by five different people with five different points of view and five completely different looks. In this situation that didn’t work all that well. At first it’s just confusing since Dante, Virgil, Satan and Beatrice looked completely different from segment to segment. If you’re not aware of the different animators you will be somewhat befuddled as to why Dante looks like an emaciated 70’s Rock Star when he left us before the break, then comes back looking like a pale version of The Incredible Hulk. Then there were the different ways each house would tell their story and not surprisingly each segment had a different vibe and pacing for each story and as such it severely hindered the flow as Dante makes his various trips through the Under World.
Where this movie unfortunately slides off the rails, at least in my opinion, is in the last segment, which one would hope would be the most thrilling considering that this is where Dante finally makes it to the last circle of Hell to for his mano-a-mano with Satan himself and this the most staid, fractured and least interesting, in narrative and visually, of all the segments which did end the movie on a sour note.
But still, there are enough things in ‘Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic’ that made it worth the watch and I imagine it is also a good primer for the game for those who are playing or plan to pick it up. It just fell short of the lofty expectations that I had for the tale.