"Dead Space: Downfall" DVD Review

October 28, 2008 by James Harvey

Considered one of the most highly-anticipated games of the year, Dead Space is currently ripping through video game consoles. And, given the major buzz behind the game, it's no surprise that a tie-in comic book and direct-to-video animated feature have been cooked up. The direct-to-video animated feature is essentially the prelude to the game, and, to be honest, it's a great little story. Nothing original, but still engaging. It's your typical story, with all the characters making all the wrong moves, but, still, it has enough to keep the casual or die-hard viewer engulfed for the running time.

An ancient religious artifact has been recovered by a deep-space mining ship, and the crew of the USG Ishimura, life just became a living hell. Unearthed on a far-away planet during a mining operation, the relic is worshiped by some, even seen as proof of God. Soon, the crew find themselves at odds with each other. But when it's removed from its resting place and brought on the ship, the artifact unleashes a long-dormant alien race, one bent on ripping apart -- and taking over -- every human aboard. Their screams can be heard in space...but only the slashers are listening. This is Dead Space: Downfall and the terror has only just begun!

We have zombie-like alien creatures! We have hard nail military personnel! We have overzealous religious types! And we have lots and lots of blood. And cursing, too! All in beautiful 2D/3D animation! Now, of course, you'll be completely lost when this movie kicks up, but that's just part of the game for the movie's story. And yes, that was my weak attempt at clever wordplay.

So, just how is the movie? Well, it's your standard sci-fi movie. We get the usual sci-fi terminology tossed left and right, usually with us having no idea what they meant, and, at the same time, we have a sci-fi threat knocking off people one by one. And, as with any sci-fi movie, we get the usual array of characters that I mentioned above so, in actuality, it's all pretty safe. That is, until the blood starts flying left and right. And, yes, there is an obscene amount of blood. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw so much red splashed across my screen. Dead Space: Downfall leaves little to the imagination. If there's any scene where there should be blood, even a drip, it is splashed across the screen by the gallon, all animated quite well, I might add.

In fact, I'd say the first half of this movie is animated really nicely, but it does loose itself a bit toward the end. There's a few moments when the movie comes across as rushed, resulting in subtle animation tricks and camera moves to make everything appear smooth. It is distracting at times, especially during a few key scenes toward the end when a lot of movement and motion is involved.

The story and acting isn't anything special, to be honest, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It was probably for the best to play this movie as safe as possible, especially given the video game this movie leads into. They can't really deviate from plot of the video game in any real way so, they play it safe, and it works. It doesn't make for a memorable film, to be honest, but it does prove to be an adequate lead-in for the game itself. I will say though, the dialogue from the story can get a bit repetitive and tiring after awhile. Chunks of expository dialogue seem to be repeated quite a few times and the adult language tends to go really off the handle a few times. In fact, there are a few times that the obscene language goes just over the top to the point that its distracting. I understand it's done to spice up the story and the on-screen action, but it doesn't help when it actually hinders the story.

I will say, it's easy to just ignore the safe, not-so-special script because, to be honest, it's easy to get pulled in by the incredible amount of violence here. There's some pretty great looking action scenes which manages to make the duller parts of the movie more tolerable.

Dead Space: Downfall is a fun movie for avid video-gamers and a more older audience, but the required cliffhanger may leave the casual viewers feeling a little cold. It's a ball-busting movie with some really good animation, but, in the end, it's just a prequel to the game and if you want any type of resolution, you're going to have to pick up the game. But if you want to see some good animation, for the most part, and some absolutely brutal action sequences, then look no further. Yes, the story doesn't offer any real surprises and the dialogue can be a bit weak, but it's still worth at least a Rental for those interested in the video game for which its based and probably a purchase for those who really love the Dead Space game.

The DVD:

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment has given Dead Space: Downfall a nice little package. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray feature a foil embossed slipcover with artwork matching the cover insert artwork. The release also features a promotional insert for the video game release. Oddly enough, just the Blu-ray includes a free digital copy of the main feature.

The audio and video transfer for Dead Space: Downfall is excellent. The audio transfer mix uses all the speakers, although, as usual, the majority of the sound comes from the center speaker. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and the action and loud and boisterous. The video is good for the transfer. I noticed a few moments of artifacting and pixelation, but nothing noticeable. As one can expect, the Blu-ray release features a more aggressive audio and video transfer, easily surpassing the quality of the DVD, but, still, the transfer on the DVD is pretty solid for this release.

The extras are pretty fair, to be honest. The extras on the DVD release include a deleted scene, a trailer for the Dead Space: Downfall movie and Dead Space video game, a photo gallery, and, surprisingly, an isolated score for the movie. There's also cheat codes for the Dead Space video game hidden in the menu systems on both the DVD and Blu-ray releases, but, with a little digging, you should be able to find them. It's a standard set of extras, no real frills and a few missed opportunities. It would have been nice to at least have a demo for Dead Space on the Blu-ray release, for example, or at least some behind-the-scenes information on how both the movie and video game, and even the comic while they're at it, came to be. The Blu-ray release features the above extras plus additional BD-Live content.

Overall, it's a good DVD release for Dead Space: Downfall. Given that it is a direct-to-video release, I wasn't expecting much, both in terms of the main feature and bonus content, but was surprised at the final result. The main feature is your typical over-the-top bloody animated action movie, and the special features are pretty standard for such a release. True, there could have been more extras, and likely their should have been, but what we get here isn't too bad. Overall, for the casual reader, you may want to give this title a Rental before purchasing, but, for the video game enthusiasts, I'd have to recommend this release, especially with the cheat codes features here on the DVD and the Blu-ray. Dead Space: Downfall doesn't break any new ground, but at least it makes the same old path enjoyable.

Dead Space: Downfall is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.


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