‘Dead Space: Downfall’, Reviewed. A Post From Guest Blogger, Jonathon WilsonPosted: February 14, 2011
Dead Space: Downfall
Released: October 28, 2008
Running Time: 75 mins.
It’s a widely accepted fact that videogame adaptations make terrible movies. We need only to look at the work of German filmmaker Uwe Boll to see many examples of respected intellectual property butchered, for want of a better word, in its transition to the big screen.
The task of transforming a piece of interactive media into a product that can entertain and excite without the need for agency is undoubtedly a difficult one; video games succeed or fail depending on how well they adhere to their own language, rather than the language of film or other, non-interactive mediums.
The key in crafting a successful video game-to-film adaptation is simply setting the bar low. Trying to create the next big-budget blockbuster invariably fails unless you have the money, time and talent to see it through. Rather, play to the strengths of your license and understand exactly what you want your product to be. Such forethought yields infinitely more favourable results.
Take Dead Space: Downfall as an example. Developed b,y Team Roman in collaboration with Electronic Arts, this animated movie functions as a prequel to the events detailed in the original Dead Space video game, it’s closing moments set within minutes of the game’s opening.
It’s quite clear throughout the 75 minutes running time that Downfall isn’t a self-sustained narrative experience. Rather, it is to be taken as a portion of the overarching storyline of the series; although its culmination ultimately serves as a catalyst for the events in the first game, it doesn’t need to spend time establishing mythology and backstory – the meat of the exposition can be found in Dead Space.
Because, however, Downfall is an independent work separate from the main series of games, it’s important that we employ a different critical lens in the interest of fairness. In that regard, Downfall has several narrative shortcomings, the most prevalent of which being its hasty summarisation of important aspects of the universe which deserve more explanation. An 8-10 hour video game has the liberty of drip-feeding us context without spoiling the pacing, but a 75 minute movie has no such advantage.
We’re presented with a lot of questions and few answers are provided – we’re told about the Church of Unitology, it’s desire to uncover an alien Marker from a dead planet called Aegis VII, and the fact that several of its sympathisers or members have been planted on the USG Ishimura, the “planet-cracker” sent to lead the excavation of the artefact. We’re then required to accept these facts at face value.
Once the concept has been established, though, Downfall launches into a wonderfully drawn survival story. As the alien Marker begins to corrupt the members of the Ishimura, transforming them into hideous, savage creatures called necromorphs, security officer Alyssa Vincent must lead a ragtag group of her crewmates on a mission to summon help and, more importantly, prevent the Marker from being taken back to Earth.
Downfall’s primary selling point is its excellent art and animation, with an intentionally muted colour palette lending the dark, mechanical corridors of the Ishimura a real sense of place. The action, when it comes, is exciting and visceral, and the inevitability of the crew’s demise brings with it a terrific feeling of urgency. You know bad things are going to happen, you just don’t know when, or how, or to whom, and as a result many of its slower scenes are wracked with the suspense of the unknown.
The characters, while sometimes unconvincing, are nonetheless interesting to follow. While there are a few too many self-sacrifices for my liking, as dementia begins to set in it becomes a guessing game of who is going to succumb to the effects of the Marker next, and what the consequences will be.
As a huge fan of the Dead Space universe, Downfall was a highly-entertaining prequel for me. My foreknowledge of the finer narrative aspects allowed me to enjoy the movie for what it is, and that’s an exciting science-fiction story of desperation and the will to survive. If you’re a fan of animation this is definitely worth a look, and if you’re interested in the videogames, I’d even go so far as to call this a must-see.
A post from guest blogger, Jonathon Wilson, founder of Dynamic Loading :
- Dead Space: Aftermath Trailer Isn’t As Much Fun As Playing The Game (cinemablend.com)
- Dead Space Aftermath, EA’s Latest Animated Feature Has A Release Date (g4tv.com)