October 24, 2008

Alive in Dead Space: Downfall

Review

tentacle rapeThere are a lot of problems with Dead Space: Downfall. As an animated movie bridging the gap between the Dead Space comic series and video game, its plot is mostly a foregone conclusion. With the game being the main ticket, and Downfall coming two weeks later, the middle of the story won't really be the middle for most people. The comic set up the backstory - the takeover of a colony of humans by savage monsters. The game, as revealed in most previews, has you exploring the remains of the Ishimura, a ship that arrived at the colony shortly after the incident. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to infer what happened between the comic and game.

That wouldn't be a problem if Downfall was more solid. The callbacks to the backstory from the comic and game are fun. The setting is the same as the game, complete with recognizable areas like the morgue in chapter 2. In fact, Downfall's biggest accomplishment is that it never contradicts the other parts of the Dead Space universe. That's something few crossmedia projects accomplish. For that much it's to be commended.

dead space downfall
The opening scene is quite similar in the game, comic, and movie.

Dead Space fanboy fellating aside, the movie stands as the weakest piece of the puzzle. I think there's a certain expectation of maturity with an animated movie made for adult audiences, but no amount of blood and gore could pull Downfall above Saturday morning cartoon status. The dialogue and actions of the characters play out like a greatest hits collection of sci-fi cliches. There are no shortage of officers grunting about "doing our job," captains demanding "a sit-rep ASAP," and doctors who sound like mad scientists. Within minutes we're treated to a brief montage of the lead suiting up and declaring that it's "about fucking time." No one ever runs out of bullets until it's time for them to die.

The production values aren't great either. The animation is jerky, but that's to be expected with the budget they were on. The backdrops bounce between corny CG and what appears to be a more traditional approach. But it's those extra-detailed, and typically extra-gory scenes with lightly animated characters that left me continually reminded of Cartoon Network's Metalocalypse. It's hard to take something seriously when it reminds you of a 10-minute Adult Swim segment about a death metal band.

chapter 2 morgue
Many locations look very similar to their counterparts in the game.

Downfall marks possibly the greatest underachievement in crossmedia since The Flood - a Halo novel that retold the gameplay of the original Halo game over 300 pages. Not only is the movie poorly written and animated, but it doesn't serve the rest of the story. It manages to avoid contradiction, but it doesn't add much either. If you absolutely must consume each last ounce of Dead Space media, a rental is in order. For the rest of you, skip this one, and check out the comics instead - Downfall is a downer.

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