Game tie-in brings too much talking, not enough story
Anyone with a thorough knowledge of Alighieri's poem can check that burden at the door, as this film (and likely the game as well) considers the original work to be inspiration more than anything else, turning Beatrice (who appears in the later segment of the poem as Dante's guide in Paradise) into Dante's girlfriend, who gets killed while Dante is off fighting in the Crusades. As a result of a vaguely referred-to betrayal on his part, Beatrice's soul has been claimed by Lucifer, and in order to save her, Dante must follow her into the nine circles of Hell, guided by the spirit of the poet Virgil. Along the way, he takes on the demons in each circle, who help reveal some of Dante's backstory, the reason he's in the predicament he's in. It's actually a pretty nifty way to add extra depth to the character, while keeping it tied to the story.
Though he faces off against some rather powerful, and creatively designed creatures, including the massive three-headed Cerberus in the third circle of Gluttony, and the disturbing vagina monsters in the Lust circle, those battles feel half-hearted in comparison to the game, buried beneath mounds of dialogue that could be considered either Shakespearean or Asgardian, they are so over the top. There were several points when I thought, "Just shut up and fight!" It's unfortunate that it feels this way, because there are plenty of impressive voice talents involved, including Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson and Grey DeLisle. Just because it's set in the middle ages, doesn't mean the characters need to talk in a way that will likely bore audiences.
Aside from the dialogue, the thing that will quickly strike anyone who has played the demo is the quality of animation, which is provided by several different anime studios, following the trend set by The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight. This animation falls far short of what is seen in the cut-scenes of the game, which is absolutely gorgeous, to the point where it looks as impressive as a Pixar or Dreamworks effort. The movie animation is a touch more in line with the Mike Mignola-style in-game animation, which works well in attempting to display an animated version of old illustrations, but feel far lower-budget. As a result, some of the styles are less detailed than the others, but on the whole they are interesting to look at, especially the segment directed by Jong-Sik Nam, who actually worked on Gotham Knight as well.
The ending is incredibly anti-climactic after building energy through Dante's journey through the levels of hell, to the point where it seems to have been the result of the creative team simply running out of time. When you see it, and the epilogue that follows, there's a chance you'll feel like you ran into a wall. If perhaps the rest of the film was a bit more cohesive, that would be a real problem, but here, it's just one more thing that makes this a disappointing take on what looks like an entertaining game.
The audio is delivered in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that doesn't skimp on the aural power, making every battle scene sizzle with slices and smashes. There's not a lot of directionality at play, but the separation between the channels is clean, resulting in some nice side speaker effects and strong music when the score kicks up. There's a ton of dialogue to listen to, and it all comes across nice and clean, whether you want to listen to it or not.
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