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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Movie Review: Dead Space Downfall

Put on your spacesuit and depart into space.


RATING: 3.5/5


As part of EA’s new multi media release approach, Dead Space Downfall is a rather fresh – and unique concept. In Downfall we see a thoughtful and impressive attempt at providing a prologue to EA’s recently released survival horror game Dead Space instead of yet another videogame to movie transition which fails to fill the boots of its source material all too often.

Downfall explores the last few hours of the lives of planet mining vessel USG Ishimura’s crew members as the freaking-fearsome-aliens-with-claws Necromorphs invade and attack the ship prior to the arrival of the videogame’s playable protagonist, Issac Clarke. If you have played the game, and are interested in discovering a little more about its plot, then you should definitely grab the DVD. If you have not played the game, but are interested to play it later, then it should be of no question that you grab the DVD as well so as to enlighten yourself before embarking through the game. If you have neither played the game nor intended to experience it later, then Downfall would be an entertaining watch too – if you don’t mind the plot loopholes and cliffhanger ending, that is. Although Downfall was crafted as a somewhat propitiatory fan service, the fact that the film appeals to both gamers and non-gamers is remarkable.

Gamers who haven’t played the game before and non-gamers shouldn’t be too lost in Downfall as the film does a great job at providing a reasonable amount of information from the get-go. The crew members of USG Ishimura uncover a strange huge pointed artifact while on its routine planet mining. Apparently, the artifact is mysterious enough to justify the Captain’s decision to bring the artifact abroad the ship and transport it back to Earth for research. Curiousity proves fatal as the crew members are unknowingly and gradually affected by the untold powers of the artifact – so much so that they start hallucinating and murdering others around them. In the process of mining the particular planet, one of the Necromorphs has also sneaked on board the ship, and began infecting others and turning them into one of its own. Both events spawn a series of disasters on the ship – a situation further exacerbated by the surviving crew members’ panic and rashness. The survivors are split among themselves and the truly good ones must now prevent the ship from becoming a space graveyard – which we all know, is impossible because there wouldn’t be Dead Space the game if things went right.

Like any respectable thriller-horror movie should, Downfall doesn’t give everything away from the start so that there’s a consistent pall of suspense and mystery throughout the duration of the film. Even after the film has ended, there remain some loopholes. And that’s one disadvantage of this film – though one couldn’t really put a finger on Downfall as it’s merely meant to a prologue. For example, it was never explained how the Necromorph species was born. And why the Necromorphs were afraid of the artifact. In this regard, it is unfortunate that non-gamers may never find out about unfilled gaps.

For today's Biology class: How to dissect a human

But the action here more than compensates for the loopholes. Downfall constantly dishes out spectacular gunfights and visually pleasing gore. Everything is executed with such sadistically satisfying precision: Crew members slice through Necromorphs with laser saws like skilled butchers and tear their limps off with buckets of bullets, while the aliens extricate the innards of the crew members and make jigsaw puzzles out of them. Additionally, bodies are given vertical dissections and jaws are stripped from their owners. The perfect pacing here lends itself to mass killings occurring seconds apart from each other – it’s a showcase of good and bloody entertainment – literally. How I wish this film could be animated in 3D (ala Resident Evil Degeneration) or shot in live action, but as it turns out, it’s nothing more than a 2D animated feature, but the action here is still captured just how it should be – unpredictable, intense and fun.

The incredulity of Downfall’s first scene hurts, though. For example, when a crew member discovers that his girlfriend is about to silt her throat, he does nothing more than to remain emotionless – content to stay riveted to the ground. And after his girlfriend has indeed silted her throat, he runs to her side and cries more like a wimpy child who has broken someone else’s window while playing baseball. It’s every bit unrealistic and removes quite an amount of believability from the film. Fortunately, this does not appear again in the remaining duration of Downfall.

The only other gripe I have with Downfall is its unnecessary religious subplot that draws a connection between the artifact and a certain Church of Unitology. The fact is injected – but yet, this subplot sees no further expatiation beyond the scene it is introduced in. This leaves me wondering why there was an effort to even bring the topic of religion into the film in the first place. While the fact that the writers seem to want to pave the way for more depth in Downfall is appreciated, the religious subplot ends up as nothing more than an incoherent piece of mess – something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and certainly something that shouldn’t even be roped into the film.

Final Comments
Dead Space Downfall is created for audiences who have played the game and audiences who have not played the game, but plan on playing it later – but it is surprisingly accessible to non-gamers as well – and that’s the selling point of this film. While the few loopholes in the plot here and cliffhanger ending might be disadvantageous to non-gamers, the constant suspense and mystery and the unpredictable, intense and fun action are more than ample in making this a really enjoyable watch for all. After watching Downfall, I felt a certain urge to play Dead Space. Put on your spacesuit and depart into space with this DVD.


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