Twelve minutes into Dante’s Inferno, Dante comes across a living boat that will help him cross into the next circle of hell. Dante looks at his partner Virgil and proclaims, “I don’t like the looks of this.”
To put that line into context, you need to understand what happened before. Dante’s love Beatrice is killed, and she is sucked into hell by Lucifer himself. Dante follows into the underworld, only to have a bunch of tentacles stitch a cross into his chest. He fends off zombie/demon things with a huge sickle, splitting them into bloody debris.
So, why does a giant boat with a talking head suddenly make his cautious? This inept, ridiculous dialogue permeates Dante’s Inferno, and it doesn’t help that the acting is delivered like a free digital comic that belongs in the bonus features. The sheer amount of religious babble is enough to offend everyone, and not because of the discussion of the Crusades or the slaughter of non-believers. No, this is offensive to anyone who wants to appreciate a story, and not an excuse for more incomprehensible action. Claiming this plays out like the poem it is based off is rather ludicrous.
Released as tie-in for the Electronic Arts video game, Dante’s Inferno feels rushed, with wildly inconsistent animation and zero structure or flow. It is laid out like the game itself, each new circle of hell given a place card as if a new level has been entered. Dante cuts through some minions, a brief flashback occurs, some type of boss is fought, and he moves on.
This is little more than overly gory promotional drivel, released to sucker someone in who thought the cover art appealed to them. It makes no serious attempt to draw anyone in, and after the first ten cries of, “Beatrice!” no one watching will likes the look of this either.
There are numerous problems with this AVC encode from Anchor Bay, the most prevalent being extensive, irritating banding. At times, it becomes so bad, vertical lines are evident on every character, and backgrounds are littered with artifacts. The black, smokey title cards announcing a new level are rife with posterization. The sepia-like flashbacks are the worst, especially with Dante’s father beating his wife.
An odd, possible encode error at 46:53 has a bright red line running down the left side of the screen for no apparent reason. Many shots carry an intentional haze or blooming, robbing the picture of depth and sharpness. Those that appear pristine, besides the compression problems, show some aliasing on the generally simply animation.
Colors are muted, certainly appropriate for the subject matter, although some can be quite rich. Blood is vibrant, and the molten orange innards of the gargoyles during the boat attack is quite vivid. Greed takes place in a room filled with gold, shining bright and effectively. Black levels are typically flat, and backgrounds are usually soft, lacking definition.
Not surprisingly, for as loud and aggressive as this animation can be, the TrueHD mix (the only audio option) is fairly impressive. The only lacking aspect is the bass, which is not only wildly inconsistent, but rarely deep when it is utilized.
Surrounds capture quite a bit of activity. In the beginning, wolves howl in the surrounds. Once into hell, falling souls are a constant source of rear and stereo activity. Numerous traveling audio effects are used, cleanly progressing from one channel to the next. Demons chasing Dante screech in the appropriate channels.
Blood splatters freely, and the effect is sold through the audio. Swords clanging during a brief visit to the battlegrounds of the Crusades are impressive. Plenty of scenes offer positional dialogue, well prioritized in the specific channel.
Special features include five scenes presented as animatics, and a trailer for the video game. Sloppy, the presentation deserves flack, not allowing subtitles to be turned on with the subtitle button, but requiring the pop-up menu selection.