Dante's Inferno - Mania.com

DVD Review

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 17 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 26.97
  • Running time: 88
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     April 01, 2010
Release Date: February 09, 2010

Dante's Inferno
© Manga Entertainment

To save his one true love, Dante must go to the depths of hell to rescue her.

What They Say
Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery! These are the 9 Circles of Hell made famous by Dante Alighieri in his famed masterpiece, Dante's Inferno, his first story of The Divine Comedy. Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic will take you on a harrowing trip through Hell as Dante braves the forces of evil, slaying demons and monsters of extraordinary imagination, all to save his love Beatrice, from the clutches of Hell's master, Lucifer.

The companion piece to the Electronic Arts game, Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic is told through eyes of visionary animation directors from around the world, including Shuko Murase (Ergo Proxy) and Yasoumi Umetsu (Kite: Liberator) among others. Six Directors, six terrifying visions of Hell, one heart-stopping epic adventure!

The Review!
Dante's Inferno comes with a pretty good English language mix to it with a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. The feature has a good deal of action to it which gets used pretty well with this kind of mix with directionality and depth at times but it also has some good moments with the ambiance, such as little sounds here and there in the depths of hell and the way other creatures populate the soundstage. There's a lot going on in the feature overall and the design of it is very good and it's one that's free of any real problems.

Originally released in 2010, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Much of this feature is dark and grimy as it descends further into Hell but the transfer holds up pretty well as detail is kept relatively well and it doesn't get smudged and it doesn't end up with a whole lot of noise or macroblocking. Because of the change in studios for each of the segments, there's definitely an uneven feeling to all of it. The more vibrant colors of Hell come across well but they also work well for the darker ones, such as the red on Dante's chest and the cooler colors of Virgil's character animation. This isn't a film that's going to have a great consistent look throughout it but it's not that bad, at least on DVD.

To stand out on shelves, this release has a cardboard slipcover for it which is far better than the DVD cover itself even though the artwork is the same. The DVD cover simply does not leap up and grab your attention with its colors. The front slipcover has lots of raised material on it as it has Dante standing in the midst of Hell with flames all around him and the ghostly hands of spirits rising up from below as well. Darkened rocks around and the oppressive grays with it add a lot to the overall feeling. Dante himself is really nicely done with a hardened look but also quite muscular and appealing. The back cover is pretty dark but does a decent job overall as it has a good summary of the premise and makes ample note of the production staff and what they directed (such as Ergo Proxy and Kite: Liberator) in order to draw in the anime fans more. Unlike a lot of anime covers, the shots from the feature are of a good size so you can ese some of it and having the names of the levels floating about is a nice touch. The bottom is a standard layout from titles we see coming from Starz/Manga with everything listed cleanly and clearly, though they would be wise to include that it is English language itself, even if it's a given. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for Dante's Inferno are both good and bad when first looked at. The good side is that it's definitely a nice in theme menu and it has the right kind of feeling for the content itself. The bad side is that the actual menu navigation isn't quickly visible as it blends into the background material too well which made it slightly frustrating at first. The layout has the various circles spread out in front of us under the flaming logo with the navigation within that. The sound of flames plays out lightly but it's not a huge mood setting piece. There's some animation within this in addition to the logo with one of the circle wheels moving along and a slow moving line of spirits moving towards the inferno itself. The layout is alright once you realize where the navigation is but it just doesn't stand out. Submenus load quickly and I was appreciative that they included a full on subtitle track both for English and Spanish subtitles.

The only extra here is about twelve minutes worth of animatics, which is essentially a series of storyboards from the film that showcases some great pencil roughs and layouts for the scenes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For better or worse, there are surprisingly few adaptations of Dante's Inferno to a feature length presentation. This one is definitely different from all the rest in at least one regard and that's that it is essentially a spin-off of the game of the same name. I haven't played the game so I can't make any correlations to it and have looked at this feature as something that must stand on its own. Initially, I wasn't even sure that I was going to watch this but with the mix of Korean and Japanese animation studios participating in it, I was curious to see how it would come together considering some of the other productions of this nature done in the last couple of years, notable by Warner Bros.

I'll make this even worse for any literary fans that may be reading; I've never read the Divine Comedy either. And honestly, I have no interest in it. The core ideas of it and the nine levels of Hell have been co-opted in so many different places over the years that there are obviously many familiar elements here. And there's certainly been a lot of it brought into the comic book world from which I started many years ago, particularly with the DC Universe and its Vertigo books.

Dante's Inferno tells the story of a holy knight of the Crusade's named Dante who has raced home from war torn Jerusalem to see his future bride to be, the beautiful Beatrice. But something has gone wrong during that ride back and he knows that there's something out of place when he arrives at his home where his father watched over her for him. To his shock and horror, everyone there was killed and Beatrice is laid out in the front of the house covered in blood. Struck with rage, he's suddenly taunted by Lucifer himself who has come to claim the innocent Beatrice. With the offer made to him to come to Hell itself to try and rescue her, Dante now finds himself on a dangerous journey.

It's not a journey he takes alone though as an ancient Roman named Virgil offers up his services as a guide, one that can't physically interact and help him along the way. Virgil provides him guidance after Dante has a cross sown into his chest and is transported across the initial gate to Hell. It's from here that we see the various levels flow by us, each one animated by a different studio which gives Hell a very varied feeling and has Dante himself looking considerably different at times. This works well as you can make the leap that each new circle of Hell alters Dante in some way, physically and mentally, though the uneven nature will certainly bother some. Right from the start you know what you're getting into though when the demons from hell sew a cross onto Dante in a fairly brutal fashion.

Each of the circles of Hell brings out different creatures that either rule the circle or live in it and are abused by it. Each of the layers runs about seven or eight minutes in length, though some are a little shorter, as it has Dante working through it so he can get closer to Lucifer in order to retrieve Beatrice from him. What makes this work for me is that throughout each of these layers, Dante is exposed to the understanding of the sins he's been involved in and how it relates to Beatrice. Dante's belief at the start that he is free of sin, particularly as he believes that the priests have absolved him of it, is where the fun lies as we see how each new thing is exposed and how his belief in absolution subconsciously allows him to go forth and sin as he knows it can all be so easily forgiven. After all, questioning that means questioning the church and that'll send you to hell faster than anything else.

Going through the different levels of Hell was certainly fascinating as it goes into the various kinds of things that each of them is related to. The things that would send someone to Hell and what they would go through there. I had watched this a few days after re-reading On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony and going through that variation of Hell and how Satan has used the system to his advantage with there being no real salvation for any soul that ends up doing there. While I can't say how close this hews to what the original work dealt with in terms of the circles of Hell, what they have here is certainly disturbing as it paints a morality that doesn't apply to the world today, or at least large parts of it. So much if deals with things that may have applied back in the days of the Crusades, especially in how the men of the church wanted to keep power, but now it's something that you can view as completely controlling and cruel, something where it's all about fear and obedience to unattainable goals.

While Dante's Inferno has a number of production studios working on it, I was more curious to see how they'd handle it as a Western storyline done by Asian animation studios. There've been any number of works done in this manner before, but things have felt like they were changing in the last couple of years after properties like Animatrix where the approach is more serious. As many issues as there are with the variations in consistency between circles, it's really quite good. The anime style works very well here as it has a much darker and violent tone to it that doesn't pull back nor does it look poorly animated or choppy. The character designs are striking and the animation fairly fluid throughout with some really neat visuals in the background designs or some of the ways that the demons move about. In all honestly, I went in expecting utter crap and came away very pleased. The last non-Disney western animation show I purchased was Dragonlance and that had soured me on watching most anything else for quite some time.

In Summary:
Perhaps my expectations going into Dante's Inferno were so low that almost anything could have come across as decent after that. The story for this is pretty decent as the past is tied in well to Dante's journey through Hell and he realizes he's nowhere near as innocent as he thought he was. The things he felt he was absolved over isn't the reality of the situation and Lucifer is showing him full well that his actions have caused suffering for all those that he cares about. The past plays a significant role here as it plays out. The Crusades gets a few good scenes and the familial relations are well done as it helps to tie it all together. While there are uneven parts throughout it, I have to say that I enjoyed it a fair bit as a whole though I'm not sure I'd watch it again any time soon since I find that the morality used throughout it, based on a society some two thousand years gone as of now, has so many simply offensive things about what is worth of going to hell that it doesn't warrant more viewings.

English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Animatics

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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