Saturday, October 4, 2014

MR Dead Space Downfall

For some reason, every new Dead Space spin-off ends up a prequel of the last material. And this one's no different.

This could have been much worse... but it could have also been better.

Movie: Dead Space: Downfall 
Directed by Chuck Patton
Release date 2008
Genre Science-fiction/horror animated film
Country USA

Produced alongside the game Dead Space, in order to turn Dead Space into a multi-media project, Dead Space: Downfall is an animated film.

Part of a sort of trilogy of Dead Space spin-offs taking place prior to the main game, starting with the comics which followed the dig team around the alien artifact called "the Marker", then this animated film and finally Dead Space: Extraction - all taking place before Isaac's arrival in the main game.

All this was was developed by Electronic Arts to expand and enhance the experience of the game.

Dead Space: Downfall was directed by comic book artist and animator Chuck Patton (the creator of DC characters Vibe and Gibdy) and animated by Film Roman along with EA. With Anchor Bay Entertainment distributing it on home release.

Downfall  is both a prequel to the original Dead Space game and also takes place shortly before and around the same time as Wii rail shooter prequel Extraction.

It originally aired on SyFy before making it to DVD and Bluray.

Like most of Dead Space installments, the story was once again by well-known popular comic book writers. This one being written by long time Jonah Hex writers (and all-around great authors that have played with all kinds of genres really) Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. To my knowledge, this is their first proper foray into horror (done around the same time as their Friday the 13th comic and long before Last Resort).

This feature-length film is pretty similar in tone and style as the Chronicles of Riddick animated spinoff, Dark Fury.

The story takes place shortly before the whole Necromorphs invasion, just before the outbreak and contamination of the spaceship USG Ishimura.

A strange alien artifact, called the Marker, was found on the planet Aegis VII. And it's identified to be the long searched for artifact the huge Church of Unitology movement has been looking for years.

The mining ship Ishimura is called to retrieve it. But it turns out the whole operation is a shady Unitology plot, outside the government. Most of the crewmembers are in on this.

Violent outbreaks are taking place in the colonies planet-side. Chief Security Officer Alissa Vincent  wants to investigate the colony before the Ishimura brings the Marker onboard, but her request is denied. Soon the Ishimura extracts a huge chunk of the planet to pursue their mining operations while getting the Marker aboard the ship.

There's a lot of violence amongst the miners. First thought to be an isolated case, they bring a man in the hospital deck to study him. The man appears completely insane and starts mutilating himself. There's also something amiss with the wife of a miner, Colin Barrow. She kills herself. Colin get her aboard a ship and flees to the main spacecraft... It's too late for the quarantine, soon the madness is spreading across the entire ship!

Our security team try to isolate these... things. But these corpses are being turned into monsters! What are those creatures!?

Tension arise between the head doctor of the ship and the Captain of the Ishimura. This entire operation is a mess! The Church of Unitology had it all wrong, this won't be peace to humans but is a sign of doom to mankind! The captain considers it only a test of faith...

They must take out the entire ship to prevent those Necromorphs from ever reaching Earth!

The Captain grows increasingly insane.

Ultimately Vincent finds herself alone, near the Marker. She records one last video log (the one from the beginning of the film) and only has time to activate a distress beacon as she clears the entire deck into the vacuum of space.

The last thing we see on sight is Isaac & co from the USG Kellion arriving too late on the scene - setting off the events of the original Dead Space...

Dead Space Downfall stars Nika Futterman, Bruce Boxleitner (Tron!), Keith Szarabajka, Jim Cummings and Kelly Hu!

This animated prequel ties in and takes place simultaneously with the Wii game Extraction. The story is a bit confusing at time, and doesn't expand much on the background as you'd expect from such a story. Specially it seems to be missing much info on the whole religious aspect - which is a shame since it revolves around the discovery of the Marker.

The story is somewhat decent if a bit stereotype, which is kind of a shame when you realize who wrote this film! Telling the events how things came to be the way they appear to Isaac's crew is fun enough. It's a pretty decent story, but it feels like this could have worked much better from a single narrative, without all these side sub-plots.

But the main problem is that Downfall feels a bit cheap at times. The art and the animation are a bit on the cheap side, the animation specially comes off as pretty cheap and closer to TV productions rather than a stand alone film. The modern designs seem to be lost through a simple animation closer to old cartoons, and they try to make up for it by relying on way too much CGi thrown in here and there. 

There's not much horror here, since it's animated and due to the art style, nothing is really that terrifying nor scary.

My main issue with this film was the designs, a sort of "fusion" style, in between modern animes and Western animation. I really think this could have come out much better had they decide to completely embrace an anime direction, similar to what Microsoft did with the Halo franchise given to the hands of Japanese animation studios for Halo Legends.

It feels a bit cheap at times, almost like mindless Saturday morning cartoons quality animation. The character designs are pretty solid but the animation just seems off, really cheap at times specially for such a production maybe they should have made it shorted like aforementioned Dark Fury... Maybe it's a bit too long, I believe it would have much better had it been shorter, on a much tighter pacing, surely that would have also resulted in better animation overall had it been about 40 minutes short.

It does seem to lose some steam in the middle, but starts great and the final act is pretty good.

There's also not much variety in the creatures, but that's to be expected from something like this to be honest. They couldn't come up with much and the best creatures had to be surprises for the game.

Despite the attempts to reveal some secrets behind the game, it doesn't feel very ambitious.

It's a decent attempt to expand the franchise, but it could have easily been so much better!

While the game has a great atmosphere, perfectly in-between Alien and Event Horizon, Downfall goes for a more action-oriented direction (which strangely enough the later games would do as well).

There's a ton of profanity to make up for the rating... I'm not sure that was entirely necessary either.

Finally the film has a pretty decent score composed by Seth Podowitz - which the DVD provides a bonus "isolated track".

Overall, Dead Space Downfall is not that great. It comes off as a pretty strange mixed bag for a standalone film on its own. Check it out if you're a fan of the series, really.

It's decent, and somewhat entertaining, sure, but it feels pretty lacking and all over the place.

All in all, the story and art is pretty ok. But this feels like it could have been so much better. This comes far from being the definitive Dead Space movie (hopefully, we'll get that someday...).

It's fun, okay, not really that terrible, but it's certainly not on par with the original game. Like EA didn't spend too much to get this done on time for the release date. 

It's pretty graphic and violent like the game though, I'll give them that. It was not watered down for the audience! Some details really look strange in the film, and I know they come from the game but they could have been left there as simple game mechanics... Like the "health bar meters" on everyone's back! But I guess that is part of the lore...

It tries going too much for the action and the spectacular while it would have worked much better with a simpler claustrophobic tone. The action on screen looks fairly generic at the end of the day. Nothing really stand out much.

Downfall would be followed by a second animated film in 2011, "Dead Space: Aftermath", to tie-into the release of Dead Space 2. And of course, it followed directly Downfall's plotlines, but preceding the second game, bridging the gab between the first two games.

I give it:
2 / 3 DonPatchis!

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