Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic
by Jef Burnham
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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Not to be confused with 2008’s animated Dante’s Inferno (which was animated entirely with puppets), this multi-director, multi-animation studio effort’s release was timed to coincide with the release of the multi-platform action/adventure video game from Electronic Arts. Both game and film depict the quest of the 14th Century master poet turned monster-scythe-wielding, mass-murdering psychopath with enough testosterone rage to fuel a dozen bar fights, Dante Alighieri, in an attempt to rescue his beloved Beatrice from the depths of Hell. There are enough mutated vaginas, dead fetuses, and metaphysical molestations in this intellectually void interpretation of The Divine Comedy to ruin most anyone’s evening.
Never mind the glaring inconsistencies between Dante’s original poetry and this radical reinvisioning, the greatest offense of this feature is its socially irresponsible embodiment of a perverse, rampant, unqualified sexism, presenting women solely as abject horrors or potential rape victims, defined by their “monstrous” genitalia and their subservience to men. Take for instance, our female lead, Beatrice. When Beatrice, “a pure soul,” is murdered in the opening, one of her breasts is hanging out of her shirt for no apparent reason and she remains naked and perpetually defiled in Hell for the remainder of the film, unable to be freed except by a man. “But why is Beatrice in Hell if she is a pure soul?” you ask. Obviously it’s because her beloved Dante, perplexingly no longer a poet but a soldier in the Crusades, traded someone’s life for sexual favors from an “infidel” woman. And as if to blatantly insult women, once in Hell, all female forms are endowed with large, bare breasts and vaginas that serve as weaponry and modes of transportation. The filmmakers make no attempt to place these anti-feministic sentiments in a social context, and even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. The audience this is geared toward is the 15 to 20-somethings that will be playing the EA video game and enjoy anime. And, even were the filmmakers to justify such content with a social context, a 15-year-old is most likely going to take this dreck at face value.
I have to admit, were I able to ignore this content, I would still look unfavorably on this movie. It is poorly animated, with constant recycling of animation, laughable lip-syncing, and wildly fluctuating character and weapon designs. Moreover, it is based on a video game, and we all know that video game-based cinema has a less-than-sparkling track record. But this is the worst of them I have encountered. By far. Yes, even worse than Mortal Kombat Annihilation. That may have sucked, but it was ostensibly harmless. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, on the other hand, is culturally corrosive filth.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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