- Mike Disa-Supervising Director
- Victor Cook-Sequence Director
- Sang-Jin Kim-Sequence Director
- Shûkô Murase-Sequence Director
- Jong-Sik Nam-Sequence Director
- Lee Seung-Gyu-Sequence Director
- Yasuomi Umetsu-Sequence Director
- Charlie Adler-Voice Director
Followed by a figure on horseback, Dante (voiced by Graham McTavish) arrives home from the Third Crusade to his beloved Beatrice (voiced by Vanessa Branch) dying of a stab wound. When she finally succumbs, Dante witnesses her turn into a spirit and begin to ascend into Heaven until Lucifer (voiced by Steve Blum) swipes Beatrice from the sky and takes her to Hell. Now with the help of Augustan poet Virgil (voiced by Peter Jessop), Dante must journey through Hell itself to save her soul.
They included “animated epic” in the title and it mostly lives up to that in scope and feel. This is a videogame-based film that is in turn based loosely on Dante’s Inferno which is the opening portion of writer Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. Pretty high-minded stuff and usually such things when applied to something that is mind rot for the masses fall apart but this is actually surprisingly good. I know very little about the work upon which it is based but the movie itself is fantastic and succeeds in being deeper and more intellectual than one would think a promo movie for a videogame should or would be.
The assorted circles of hell each have a different animation style owing to the different studios that produced the segments to create this film. The proportions, clothing, and general features of Dante and Virgil will vary from circle to circle. Some have been bothered by the changes, but I actually like this. It is an easy visual cue that tells the audience that Dante has entered a new realm. As someone ignorant of the source material and even (at the time) the videogame, it was a welcome thing.
The film proceeds through the nine circles of as presented in the Divine Comedy and does not deviate from their overall theme in the source. (I had to look that up.) They are:
- First Circle (Limbo)-Here Dante encounters virtuous pagans and unbaptized babies and learns that Beatrice was pregnant with his son while he was gone in Jerusalem and suffered a miscarriage.
- Second Circle (Lust)-On the Island of Lust Dante realizes he did break his promise of fidelity to Beatrice when he raped a woman in exchange for stopping the guards from beating her imprisoned husband and the absolution of all sin by the priests meant nothing.
- Third Circle (Gluttony)-Those that lived with gluttony are doomed to an eternity of want.
- Fourth Circle (Greed)-Dante encounters his father, who had been greedy in life, Alighiero (voiced by Mark Hamill) who was killed in the attack on the estate. Alighiero was been promised gold and 1000 years free of torment if he stops Dante. We also get a look at Dante’s life and the abuse he and his mother suffered at Alighiero’s hands.
- Fifth Circle (Wrath)-The actively wrathful are locked in never ending fighting.
- Sixth Circle (Heresy)-Heretics burn in fire and are tortured for all eternity.
- Seventh Circle (Violence)-The souls of the violent are boiling in the blood of their victims. This circle is also about violence to yourself and suicides can be found here and this is where Dante meets the soul of his mother who had not died of a fever as he had be told but rather had killed herself.
- Eighth Circle (Fraud)-This one is lightly touched on and barely shows any imagery. Instead they use it as an extended moment of Dante reflecting on his own shortcomings.
- Nineth Circle (Treachery)-Here in the final circle Dante encounters the real Lucifer only having interacted with a shadow of the Prince of Darkness before.
There is plenty of action in this film as Dante encounters demons and souls he once knew along his journey. The fights that accompany those encounters are definitely inspired by Japanese anime which can be an occasional drawback. The blood in those battles make this one of the more gruesome animated movies I have seen. They do not skimp on the blood and guts nor on the entrails. There is also heavy sexual imagery at multiple points as well which is a little unusual for animation. I find some of it reminiscent of The Wall in how graphic and over the top it can be. The Island of Lust portion especially so.
I would almost expect them to go soft on things visually considering this is an animated feature aimed at a videogame audience some of which are presumably younger children. I did not think they would have wanted to upset parents, but they did not seem to have skimped much here. They held nothing back and in doing so created something that rises a bit above its intended purposes.
The film does not go soft on the religious tone. God and other religious (mostly Catholic) concepts are front and center here. I say this as someone that has never read the original work which I understand to be pretty religious as well as a bit of a commentary on the world of the time. Again this is unusual for a bit of promotional material released into an ever increasingly secular world.
The script is very good with a steady pace and the voice acting comes off as a bit Shakespearean in cadence. I think we reflexively expect that whenever a story predates the Renaissance. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way it works here.
Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic is a very good and at times disturbing film. It is a beautifully animated movie with a good story that manages to be deeper than one would think it should be. Watch it and enjoy.