By Jonathan Smith
Forget Dante Alighieri, Italian poet of the Middle Ages who detailed to his readers the punishments that awaited the damned in Hell. This is DANTE, a name which can only be spoken in the most gravelly of death metal tones. Based on Visceral Games’ recent bloody action game of the same name, the film is directed by Mike Disa and includes art and animation from a few different groups (including Asian animation group Production I.G.). This “heart-stopping epic adventure” is broken up into different sin-inspired set pieces which together form the narrative of former crusader Dante (voiced by Graham McTavish) as he ventures deeper and deeper into Hell in search of his beloved Beatrice (who has been mysteriously killed and who’s soul has been taken away by Lucifer himself). As he descends into the depths with the help of the dead classical poet Virgil, Dante must confront his own past and his own sins if he’ll be able to save Beatrice and himself.
Okay, surely I don’t have to say more than once that the relationship between this Dante’s Inferno and Dante Alighieri’s three-part Divine Comedy is a loose one? The film reeks of market tie-in and seems specifically geared toward (un)suspecting anime fans who may be lured in by the pedigree of the creative names that are attached to this project’s development (though some basic research doesn’t really reveal how deep those connections actually go). The DVD edition contains little in terms of special features — a preview for the video game and some animatics. I understand there’s a BlueRay edition as well, though I wouldn’t endorse paying the extra pennies to own it. The film comes off as being the game but without the need to actually interact with it.
All obvious issues aside, Dante’s Inferno is surely (hopefully) intended for a Mystery Science Theatre-style group viewing, complete with collective heckling and inappropriate comments. If this is what you want going in, then it can actually be an hour and a half of some animated blood-soaked and even some jiggling breast-filled fun. Also, listen for voices done by both Mark Hamill (an excellent voice actor in more recent decades) and Steve Blum. The animation itself, which changes from section to section depending on the artists and studio responsible, is not terrible; there’s just nothing special about it either. Dante is often represented as being built like a brick wall and blonde Beatrice spends 90% of her “screen time” in the nude, so that’s something if you’re into superhero-style bodies and gratuitous animated nudity. There’s also enough phallic, vaginal, and sphincter imagery to make a Freudian analyst delirious. Dante’s Inferno brings to mind everything from death metal album covers to Japanese tentacle porn — it’s unfortunate (?) that it doesn’t really succeed in representing any of them particularly well. However, all that said, if one approaches it with low expectations, then it’s a great way to kill a Saturday night with friends and booze.
(Anchor Bay Entertainment)