Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unholy Marketing: Dante's Inferno (2010)

The famous poem known as 'Dante's Inferno' has been turned into a great many thing.  As regular readers may recall, it was made into a post-modern film featuring finger puppets.  It was weird, but kept the spirit of the story.  It changed the names of Hell's residents to properly reflect modern sentiments, but that was about it.  On the flip-side, there's the Dante's Inferno video game from Electronic Arts.  This massively-morphs the tale into one of lost love and a man's descent into Hell to free her from the Devil's grasp.  Oh yeah, he also kills Death itself and uses its Scythe.  To quote the police chief from The Abominable Dr. Phibes- 'Words fail me, gentlemen.'  Speaking of said game, they made a cartoon out of it too.  After all, if you're going to horribly-mutilate a timeless tale, you might as well do so as many times as possible!  The film is the collaboration several anime directors, who apparently can't agree on a character look.  As if this thing wasn't odd enough, it's disjointed as hell!  Can the non-interactive, animated medium succeed where the interactive, animated medium failed?  Get out your Hell crosses for my review of...
Our tale begins with Dante riding home from the Crusades to rejoin his lovely wife.  In the woods, he's surrounded by a cadre of animals, including a wolf, a tiger and a lion!  Holy improbable combination, Batman!  To make things sillier, he does a tic-tac jump into the air while on his horse, spinning through the air and killing the things with his sword!  That about killed me right there, but we still have over seventy minutes left.  He finds his home wrecked and all of his family and friends dead.  Just to up the rating, his wife has one breast hanging out of her dress.  Things get worse when Satan shows up and takes her to Hell in her pointlessly-topless glory.  He rides after her, but, sadly, loses his horse to a group of demons that explode out of the Earth.  He manages to get into the first level of Hell, where he meets Virgil, his guide for this journey.  Are you ready for blood, guts and pointless character redesigns?
Once Dante enters Hell, some weird shit happens.  A bunch of demon-snakes fly around him, tear up his armor and sew a cross made out of leather into his chest.  Yes, demons sewed a cross into him.  In the film's defense, there is a reason for this.  Against the film's defense, it's stupid as hell!  As the poem goes, Hell is made up of several sections where people are punished for different Earthly sins.  It's good to see that some things stay the same.  Where this film differs, however, is that the different levels are clearly written as levels in the game, even giving you an 'end boss' for each section.  In addition, Dante recalls more and more of his memories from during the Crusades as he goes on.  Recall the part about this movie being made by a group of different artists?  Well, that leads to some confusion as we see more parts of the flashbacks revealed over time.  One of the most important ones is split between two different art teams, making for a really odd lack of continuity.  Dante has long hair in one section of the flashback, but not another?  Is it illegal to send notes to each other in Japan or something?
This film doesn't really much of a narrative flow, so there's no point pretending otherwise.  Dante fights a slew of demons, sinners and skeletons.  He gets to the end of one section, fights a 'boss' (be it the monstrous King Minos or the demon-form of his father) and travels there by way of some weird transportation.  For example, he's led across the River Styx by the son of Ares via a boat.  In this film, Ares' son is a giant, armadillo-looking monster that lives in lava!  The biggest controveries of the film involve Dante learning that his wife had an abortion while he was gone (yes, they show it...eww) and his subsequent battle with a horde of unborn children...with claws for hands.  That's...somewhat past the border of good taste, guys.  Throughout the tale, we learn that Dante is a complete asshole, killing 'foreign heretics' in cold blood, cheating on his wife and letting her brother take the fall for his crimes.  The Devil turns Beatrice into a demon, but he redeems her.  He battles Satan, only to learn that he did Scratch a favor by unfreezing him.  He prays for forgiveness, re-sealing The Devil.  Yes, it's a quite literal Deus Ex Machina!  He exits towards home and tears off the cross...only to reveal that the cross was Satan in snake form.  No, really.
Holy Hell, this thing is a giant mess!  Where should I begin?  For one thing, it's about as based on 'Dante's Inferno' as the 1999 Beowulf film starring Christopher Lambert was based on its source material.  You can't just say 'Dante goes into Hell, so let's call it Dante's Inferno.'  If anything, this is a version of 'Orpheus and Eurydice,' just with a lot more killing and less music!  Mind you, this was made under the auspices of being like the game, so I can't fault them too much for doing what they were told.  As a side note, Dante gets his Scythe from a demon here, as opposed to killing The Grim Reaper.  At least that's one change for the better.  Of course, they changed it from Dante sowing the cross onto himself (painful, but logical to a certain degree) to the demons doing (not so much).  The two key problems are the confusing art-style changes between the teams and the bad story set-up.  Dante changes outfits several times in the story, going from a full helmet to long, unkempt hair and to a circlet.  Can you keep your guys 'on model' please?  Secondly, the story is very obviously just a series of levels.  Is it too much to ask for you to disguise this a little bit?  To be fair, there are some neat visuals here and fans of bloody anime may get a kick out of it.  If you like the poem, you'll not be pleased though.
Up next, I finally get to talk about the first of the two Candyman sequels.  Will I be hooked or not get a buzz from it?  Stay tuned...


  1. Ah, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.... Looooooooove it. Hope you do, too.

  2. Ah, Dante's Inferno, the horrifying butchering of an ancient work that didn't need to happen because there was another ancient work--Orpheus, as you mention--that works almost exactly with the tale they wanted to tell. O_O Seriously...always amazes me that they didn't just go with Orpheus, since they basically /did/ go with Orpheus and just change the names to Dante and Beatrice.