Judge Steve Power wonders why no one has cooked up Canterbury Tales: The Animated Epic yet.
Our reviews of Dante's Inferno (1935) (published June 5th, 2014), Dante's Inferno (2007) (published September 19th, 2008), and Dante's Inferno (2010) (published February 15th, 2010) are also available.
Go to Hell!
The hit anime inspired by the hit videogame, which in turn was inspired by the hit classic epic poem. What? Don't look at me like that, it isn't my fault.
Facts of the Case
Dante has broken his promise to his beloved Beatrice; it seems the mass murder and mass copulation he committed during the Third Crusade was actually frowned upon by the big man upstairs, and his loving betrothed is going to pay the price. Beatrice has been snagged by the big bad himself, and pulled into the lowest levels of Hell to spend an eternity serving the rebel angel.
Dante, being a man of blind action, leaps into the abyss in pursuit; his
only weapons are his sword, his scythe, and his loud faux British accent.
I just don't know what to say here; I never in my life thought I would play a videogame based on the first arc (or cantica if you're feeling snooty) of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. As if that weren't bizarre enough, along comes the animated tie-in, brought to us by the folks at Film Roman (Dead Space: Downfall), which not only presents some pretty crazy imagery, but lifts dialogue verbatim from the source.
It all sounds pretty solid on paper; you take a classic piece of literature that presents a metric ton of unpleasant imagery and twist that sucker into a videogame. I mean, who wouldn't get behind a bad-ass European Crusader slicing and dicing his way through nine levels of hell only to go mano-a-mano with ol' Lucifer himself? Go one better, and release an animated telling of the poem with some contemporary flair and some of the twisted imagery from the game. Sadly, it never quite congeals into a digestible mass.
The biggest problem lies at the heart of the project; taking a cue from The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, Dante's Inferno is broken into several chapters, each of which was handled by a separate director, and in some cases, production house. When you're looking at a collection of disparate stories, this approach can be interesting and entertaining; however Dante's Inferno follows one narrative thread, and the switchup in styles is both distracting and off-putting. On top of that, while some of the chapters look fantastic, with some excellent animation and character rendering, other chapters are downright hideous in their presentation of the material. Dante himself goes from being armored up super-warrior, to long haired waif, to spike headed Dragonball Z cast-off in the span of the sub-90 minute run time. As enjoyable as some aspects of the show may be, the rag-tag animation is a total turn off and a very near fatal detriment, as far as I'm concerned.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In its favor, I will say that Dante's Inferno is probably the best written video game adaptation I've seen. There's not a whole lot of originality in the events, but Dante's tour of Hell in his quest to save his beloved from the horniest of horned-ones is actually a decent ride. The bursts of graphic violence are punctuated by deep personal moments where the script tells us just how much of a prick Dante was in life, while hiding behind the cross the whole time. There are some neat character turns here, and the final outcome is ultimately a satisfying one. No, it's not brilliant storytelling by any stretch, but it was enjoyable enough for me to take the plunge and snag a copy of the game for myself. Note to EA marketing department: Mission successful!
The Blu-ray treatment from Anchor Bay is also worth commending; the colors and linework of the animation just flow effortlessly off of the screen and the digital source looks crisp and clear with no issues whatsoever. Sound is also great, with tons of separation, booming voices, and great music. Not much in the way of extras, just some test animation and a trailer for EA's video game.
It's tough for me to tip the scales one way or the other with Dante's Inferno. On the one hand, it's a gratuitous adaptation of a piece of classic literature that should be immediately condemned as intellectually offensive. Then again, it's a solid production that while gimped by lackluster animation, manages to complement the source material quite well. Fans of the game will probably enjoy what they get.
Guilty, but only just.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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