In space, nobody can hear Judge David Johnson whimper.
Our review of Dead Space: Downfall, published October 17th, 2008, is also available.
Meet your maker.
In an effort to build hype and flesh out the mythology of its potential blockbuster sci-fi/survival horror video game release, EA and Anchor Bay join forces to cough up this 74-minute animated prologue to the game of the same name. Mere marketing or something cooler?
Facts of the Case
Deep in outer space, the USG Ishimura is fresh off an interstellar mining mission when an amazing discovery is unearthed on a seemingly abandoned planet—a humongous artifact that appears to be alien in nature and holds deep religious value for some.
Of course, this artifact doesn't bring touchy-feely sentiments, but rather messy, goopy bloody violence and a rapid takeover by an unstoppable alien force. These aliens require host bodies to live and make short work of the hapless victims that succumb to their devouring and/or forceful impregnation. The result: a cavalcade of human-insect-zombie things that love nothing more than causing much bodily harm.
A group of plucky survivors battle through the horde to stay alive and rescue any stragglers that might have come through the original infection without turning into horrifying creatures. Watch the cartoon blood flow!
By all accounts, Dead Space the video game rules (as I write this, I have the PS3 version sitting next to me, waiting to be played for the first time), so right away that's a benefit to the fortunes of this film. If, say, someone went through the trouble to make an animated, feature-length prologue to Zombie Rain, I seriously doubt the disc would stand a chance on the open market.
That being said, I still don't think Downfall stands on its own as a successful motion picture. It's well done, gory as all get-out and generally hard-ass, but doubtlessly an introduction to a large experience, i.e. the game itself. But to its credit, there is a self-contained story here and a small amount of closure at the end. There is however a big cliffhanger that is obviously engineered to lead directly into the guts of the video game.
The thrust of the story is essentially boilerplate survival horror: in a barren, isolated locale (a giant mining ship in the middle of space), a fearsome contagion (that obelisk-generated creature-maker), a group of heroes that systematically get picked off, improvising weaponry (some kind of laser-beam mining device), lots of bloodshed and eyeball gouging and a nihilistic denouement where—get this!—the creatures may not have been completely defeated.
Downfall is all about monsters killing people, and the violence goes down in very short order. The bulk of the film is concerned with watching the entire crew of the Ishimura get decimated by the space invaders. If you're judging the film by that degree then it succeeds with flying colors, or rather, flying color. That color? Red, of course. This bastard is bloody, about as gore-filled an animated outing you'll find. When the baddies get into their groove, the gristle flies with reckless abandon. Too bad, it's all rendered in stiff animation.
Stiff animation that looks nice in high-def. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is clean and when there are more than two colors (red and brown) on screen simultaneously the scenes pop. As crisp as the transfer is, I'm not sold that the look is leaps and bounds better than what you'd get on DVD. The TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is robust and lively and uses the surrounds effectively throughout. Extras are limited: the isolated score, a deleted scene in storyboard form, trailers for the film and video game and a concept art gallery. There's a digital copy, too.
At moments, it's a bloody good time, but mostly Dead Space: Downfall feels like exactly what it is: an incomplete introduction to a much larger tale.
Not guilty if all you're after is animated hacking and slashing, but don't expect much more.
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