Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic (2010)
By: Captain Red Eye on April 14, 2010  | 
Anchor Bay | Region B |1.78:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Directors: Victor Cook, Mike Disa, Sang-Jin Kim, Shuko Murase, Jong-Sik Nam, Lee Seung-Gyu
Starring: Graham McTavish, Vanessa Branch, Steve Blum, Peter Jessop, Mark Hamill
Screenplay: Brandon Auman
Country: USA/Japan
External Links
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The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, the epic poem first published in the early 1300s, was held in such universally high regard it was eventually given the respectful prefix – Divine – by which we know the work today. In the original text of the Inferno, the first book of the Comedy, Dante depicts himself in middle age taking an amble through a foreboding wood, uncertain of himself and beset on all sides by various allegorical dangers. The Roman poet Virgil arrives in the nick of time to act as chaperone and the pair enter the gates of Hell, meandering through nine circles of assorted grotesque sufferings before making their way into Purgatory and, eventually, Paradise.

Realising that a highly moralistic guided tour of the afterlife is unlikely to appeal to modern sensibilities, even in animated form, Starz Media and Film Roman have taken considerable liberties with the original story. Beatrice, an acquaintance the real-life Dante loved and admired from afar, is now portrayed as his wife. When she is murdered and her soul dragged off to Hell, her distinctly muscle-bound and bloodthirsty Crusader beau (voiced by Graham McTavish of Rambo and Prison Break fame) shows his disapproval by promptly opening up a can of whoop-ass on a cabal of sword-wielding demons. He then bangs his sword repeatedly on the gates of Hell, demanding entry. He roars a bit. The racket draws the attention of Virgil, himself no slouch in the pectoral department but thankfully of a much calmer mien. He quietly suggests that Dante might try praying instead of shouting. This temperate approach does the trick, and the pair quickly make their way into the Abyss.

Once in Hell however the irascible Dante shows few signs of going quietly about his business; he's having a bad day and basically just wants to destroy everything in sight. He gets an earful of attitude from the ferryman Charon, which he promptly rewards with a pickaxe to the brain. A couple of winged fiends get sassy, and are similarly dispatched. The pugnacious fellow and his Roman guide then traverse the nine circles in search of Lucifer, and as the body count skyrockets the rescue of his beloved Beatrice looms ever closer.

Based upon the EA video game, Dante's Inferno features the efforts of no less than six animation directors, each of whom is responsible for a different section of the film. This gives a pleasing variety to the visuals but can't help disguise the fact that the central figure is a tedious hypocrite, a brute, a callow murderer and, frankly, a bit of a wanker. Flashbacks are interspersed in an attempt to flesh out the story against the backdrop of the Crusades, helping break up what is essentially a simplistic and repetitive plot, but all the moralising and talk of eternal damnation becomes exceedingly grating. By the end of the decidedly unepic 84-minute runtime I wasn't so much hoping Dante would find his beloved Beatrice, as that he'd simply shut the fuck up.
Utilising half a dozen directors from four different animation studios was never going to result in the most consistent of productions, and the animation varies widely in both terms of quality and style throughout. One segment might have strong character designs but fairly uninspired fight sequences; another will features lush and painterly backgrounds but mouths that move lazily out of sync to the dialogue. In short it never really all comes together, though the colours, characters and backgrounds are very often striking and the picture quality impeccable. Even the title and pop-up menus have been cleverly designed to resemble the circles of Hell inscribed on parchment, and the assortment of doomed souls and their environs are imaginatively and hauntingly rendered.
The TrueHD soundtrack is, like the titular hero, a big, beefy and brainless affair. The score isn't particularly memorable but on the plus side every howl and groan of exertion is nicely delineated, with good separation and lots of grunt, often literally, on the fight sequences. Incidentally a good drinking game might be to take a swig every time Dante roars 'Beatrice!' in a masculine fashion. You'll be tiddly by the midway point of Act One. The voice cast (which includes Mark Hamill and Pirate's of the Caribbean's Vanessa Branch) do a fine job with the dross they've been given, and McTavish is excellent as the bullish Crusader. Bet he was sick of shouting 'Beatrice!' though.
Extra Features
With only a two minute trailer for the game and some animatics on offer, Dante's Inferno doesn't exactly excel itself in the special features department.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Presumably the first (and last) feature to be based on a video game based on a 14th century work of poetry, this is what the Inferno would have been like had it been penned by Sylvester Stallone. It's distinctly over the top and thoroughly drenched in testosterone, though the animation is often excellent and the use of multiple directors and animation styles is definitely an interesting touch. The visual rendering of barbarous medieval Christian doctrine regarding the afterlife was never going to make for pleasant viewing and the protagonist doesn't exactly draw you in with his mindless brawn and 'chop off heads first, ask questions later' approach, but at least the impressive visuals go some way to atoning for all the bombast and mindless slaughter.

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