Last weekend a new title on the shelves of the DVD section at Target caught my eye and quickly became a part of my animation collection. The film is titled DEAD SPACE: DOWNFALL, and it is a feature-length prequel to the EA Game DEAD SPACE. The subject matter, violence, and gore of this film make this an animated feature for adults as it tells the story of a crew in space aboard the USG Ishimura. They come across an ancient artifact that they think might have some connection to their religious beliefs. It is brought on board ship, but as one might expect from a space horror game, the artifact is not connected to a form of religion that is benign. Instead, the object unleashes an alien race that viciously attacks and transforms the crew into alien killers themselves.
Although the film is surely designed as a means of furthering the profit margins associates with DEAD SPACE there is much that is commendable with this animated film. It comes in at a respectable 74 minutes in length, the animation is respectable showing the influences of Japanese anime, and the narrative provides for an interesting story in its own right as well as a compliment to the videogame.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film’s narrative is a strong religious element. The ancient artifact is associated with some kind of evidence for God’s existence, mention is made of a religious group called the “unitologists,” who are said to have their own church and collection of sacred scriptures. Not surprisingly, the storyline reflects an ambiguous if not negative understanding of religion, but it is interesting to see an animated prequel and a videogame which features a strong and consistent religious thread in its narrative.
DEAD SPACE: DOWNFALL is but the latest in a trend in animated features connected to films or videogames. ANIMATRIX with its connection to THE MATRIX series and the involvement of some of Japan’s top animators was one of the most ambitious animated films connected to a major motion picture. Similar ventures include THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK: DARK FURY, VAN HELSING: THE LONDON ASSIGNMENT, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT, as well as a small but interesting collection of animated comics associated with I AM LEGEND. Filmmakers have discovered that animation can serve not only as a means of generating further profit associated with a given storyline, but also provide creative opportunities to develop the narrative in different directions beyond the main cinematic exploration. I hope this trend continues since it gives animation and fantastic film fans additional opportunities to stretch the imagination.