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TAC Reviews...Dead Space Downfall & Aftermath

 

If you have read my reviews of the games then you’ll know that I really like this franchise, so much so that I went out and brought a console so that I could play the rails shooter game Extraction.

 

It seems that EA were not happy with just creating a game franchise, they also seemed to recognise that this could become so much more, as a result Dead Space has spawned comics, graphic novels, prequel stories, novels and animated films.

 

Dead Space Downfall & Aftermath

 

The first of the animated films entitled Dead Space Downfall was released in 2008 but after the game had been released. It was a prequel story that showed what happened to the Ishimura after the Marker was discovered but before Isaac arrived.

 

The sequel to Downfall entitled Aftermath followed three years later and bridged the gap between Dead Space and [then] the upcoming Dead Space 2.

 

I haven’t at time of writing this introduction to the two films [16th June 2015] actually read any of the comics, novels or the graphic novels but they are on my: “To Do” list so sooner or later I’ll get round to looking at them, but for now I am just focussing on the films and obviously the games which I have looked at in the TAC Reviews…Games section of this site.

 

TAC Reviews...Dead Space: Downfall

 

Dead Space: Downfall is a 2008 Prequel anime film that tells the story of the Ishimura’s infestation before everyone’s favourite mute engineer arrived to carve his initials into monsters with highly powerful mining tools. It is based upon the Dead Space game released by EA that has subsequently spawned novels and comics.

 

Dead Space: Downfall Poster

 

If you haven't yet, quickly skip to the games section of this website and read my reviews of Dead Space 1, 2, Severed and 3, go on this review will still be here once you have...

 

Read them??

 

Excellent - so it should come as no surprise that I was looking forward to watching this film. I wanted to see how the horror gripped the Ishimura before Isaac arrived. I wanted to see areas of the ship that I hadn't seen in-game and witness those that had gone truly insane in the game when they still had their sanity.

 

Did Downfall deliver on these promises and live up to the potential that I had built up for it??

 

Nope - so why did the film not live up to my expectations??

 

Before Dead Space the game begins the Ishimura is performing a routine planet crack when a mysterious artefact is discovered that starts to cause outbreaks of murder and insanity on a deep space colony. Soon afterwards the colony below is attacked by vicious blood thirsty monsters. A survivor of the colony returns to the ship, and unknowingly unleashed a vicious alien species that reanimates the flesh of the dead.

 

Dead Space: Downfall opens with the security chief Alyssa Vincent (voiced by Nika Futterman) recording a message in which she explains the horror that has befallen the Ishimura and that the ship and a mysterious artefact recovered from the surface needs to be destroyed immediately.

 

The film goes back several days to a time when an object known as the ‘Marker’ has been discovered on the surface, an artefact that is later brought up to the ship. In short order the colonists go bat-shit crazy slicing themselves and each other up before the colony suddenly goes dark, and two miners head there to find out what is happening. One disappears during a blackout whilst the other, Colin Barrow (voiced by Bruce Boxleitner) searches the colony for his wife. He finds her only moments before she slices into her own throat with a laser pick-axe after saying “they want our bodies”.

 

Barrow, in complete denial of her demise, races through the colony with her in his arms, he makes it to a shuttle unaware that an alien life form has made it onboard. He is refused permission to land on the Ishimura but crash lands in the hanger moments before his reanimated wife attacks him. The shuttle is found by a security squad to be empty and the rest of the film basically follows the security team as they struggle to kill the monstrosities onboard the ship as they are picked off as easily as After Eight mints at the end of a dinner party.

 

The insanity that affected the colony and the resulting infection rapidly begins to spread as those onboard the Ishimura are brutally attacked by the reanimated necromorphs and insane members of the crew.

 

Dead Space: Downfall charts the events leading up to the beginning of Dead Space before Isaac Clarke and the Kellion arrives. It seems that being an anime means that it can be as violent as it wishes, and even horror fans might have trouble holding their stomachs. Even though this film is an animation the violence is extreme and very graphic, the unfortunate crew are ripped to shreds before the audience’s eyes. Blood splatters freely across walls, ceilings and flows across the floors as the security team are torn to shreds with increasing frequency. I don’t object to the extreme violence but Downfall falls into the prequel trap, a trap I will look at in more detail later.

 

The back story that happened on the Ishimura before Isaac arrived was told during the game through a series of audio and visual logs. There is a distinct discrepancy between the two. In the game, it seems that the infection spread through the Ishimura slowly taking several days as the crew struggle to come to grips with what is really happening. In the film, everything happens much faster with the ship and crew overwhelmed in a matter of hours. The layout of the bridge is also different between the film and the game which seems to suggest that the makers of the film didn’t bother to play the game before they made Downfall. The more cynical part of my brain immediately screams that this was done as a shameless cash-in on the Dead Space label and whilst I cannot completely dismiss this complaint I cannot deny that Downfall is still pretty entertaining.

 

A perhaps small niggle are the changes in voice cast. In fact, Keith Szarabajka as Dr Terrence Kyne is the only actor who voices his character in both the film and the game; everyone else is replaced for the film. I cannot understand why this was done, surely it would have been far better to bring back the original cast for the film. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes brought back the original cast of Metal Gear Solid back so why exactly have the makers of Downfall not bothered to do the same??

 

I am a big fan of the Dead Space franchise and I feel that a real opportunity was missed here to make something great. It could have been a slow, atmospheric, and creepy story in which the audience see characters like Mercer (a key antagonist in the game) before they went insane, and witness their slow decent into true madness. The film misses so many details from the game, a log is found at one point in which a crew member mentions it has been two days since the captain died, and a fellow engineer has gone off to repair something, has not come back, so the man making the log assumes that he is dead. That is how used to the slow infestation of the ship the survivors have become, a member of the crew hasn’t returned so the survivors simply assume that he is dead. In Downfall the crew are overwhelmed so fast that there is no way that the crew managed to survive for days rather than hours.

 

Key game plot elements are also omitted from the film, the captain’s body is in the morgue where Isaac finds it in Dead Space but the bridge crew transport it there and back through a heavily infested ship off-screen. The Marker is in the cargo bay in the game but in the film it is in the hanger at the end. So how did it get from the hanger to the cargo bay where Isaac finds it?

 

The inconsistencies go on and on.

 

But it is not the prequel that it could have been, and now we are getting to my problem with prequels. The only character that we are familiar with from the game is Dr Kyne so the audience knows that he is going to survive the events of the film, but no one else in the film is seen alive in the game, so it is a pretty safe bet that we are spending an hour and a half watching dead men walking. In a prequel anyone that we are unfamiliar with already might as well have a bulls eye painted on their forehead or are so unimportant that they disappear never to be mentioned again.

 

Dead Space is a game that spawned both a comic book series, a prequel film, two game sequels and another film. The opportunity to make this a truly great opening chapter to the events of Dead Space has been completely missed so we are left with a stomach churning slice of anime horror which has little to nothing to do with the game apart from being set on the same ship.

 

Regrettably there are too many inconsistencies between the film and game to make Downfall a must watch for any fans of the game. However, despite that, fans of the anime genre in which the boundaries of graphic violence can stretch a little further than during live action films will get more than their fill of blood soaked action.

 

The final rating therefore leaves me with my Thumb indifferently Horizontal

 

 

6/10 - Graphically violent prequel which could have added an extra dimension to the game. But, the inconsistencies rob this film of its rightful place as a terrifying insight into the horror onboard the Ishimura before Dead Space began.

 

TAC Reviews...Dead Space: Aftermath

 

Following the success of the prequel Dead Space Downfall in which the audience witnessed the events leading up to the Kellion’s arrival to the Ishimura, EA presents another adventure, one that takes place in between the events of the two games and lets us know what happened after Isaac dropped a chunk of rock the size of a continent on Aegis VII. So we have Dead Space: Aftermath a film that was released in 2011 and features traditional anime plus computer generated 3D effects.

 

Dead Space: Aftermath Poster

 

I am a big fan of the Dead Space franchise as you know, you should also have read my review of Downfall and are aware that whilst I did like it I felt that it did miss a huge opportunity to really create something very creepy that fitted like a glove into the Dead Space universe. Now the sequel does not have the limitation of being tied directly to the events in the first game so it can create something new and original, so the question is: Does it??

 

…the fact that my head has just slumped forward and hit the console before me suggests not…but let’s dive in anyway…

 

A small marine ship the Braxus arrives to discover the USG O’Bannon in an asteroid field, heavily damaged with only four survivors onboard. The corridors are awash with blood and at least one of the survivors seems to have gone completely insane. After taking the four survivors onboard, the O’Bannon is destroyed by the Braxus and one by one the survivors are taken from their cell to be interrogated.

 

It turns out that following the end of Dead Space in which Isaac Clarke witnessed the massive chunk of Aegis VII crashing back into the surface, the entire planet has become unstable. However, the USG O’Bannon, the first on the scene (after collecting a group of engineers) has orders to use gravity stabilizers to hold the planet together long enough for a team to search for any fragments of the Marker.

 

Each survivor tells their own story, from their own point of view, and it gives the audience the whole grisly picture following the events of the O’Bannon’s mission including the destruction of the planet, the infestation of the O’Bannon and the new nightmare born from a single fragment of the Marker.

 

The audience also is given a fleeting glimpse of The Sprawl, the setting for the eagerly awaited Dead Space 2.

 

If we are being honest Downfall did have a difficult task before it, on the one hand there were going to be fans like me who wanted to see a slow, creepy, atmospheric film which showed how the Ishimura was infested but that would have only appealed to fans. I think the reason Downfall went for fast paced gut-wrenching horror was because it was trying to go for mass appeal to anime fans. Perhaps the idea behind it being that if someone was not a fan of the game and they saw the film then they might track down and play the game…I don’t know…in the case of Aftermath no such restrictions were there so the developers could have literally have done anything they wanted to further the story, unfortunately, just like the first film I really don’t think anyone could be bothered to do it.

 

The events of Dead Space only gave the gamers hints into the full horror that slowly gripped the Ishimura prior to the arrival of Isaac Clarke and the rest of his team. Unfortunately, this contradicted the events of Dead Space Downfall in which the infection and subsequent fall of the Ishimura happened in a matter of hours not days. In the game enhanced slashers could be created in moments by an infector, however, other creatures (such as leapers) seem to take longer to be created. In Aftermath leapers can be created just as quickly as enhanced slashers were in Dead Space, which once again contradicts the events that the audience have witnessed in the game.

 

Animation wise Aftermath is different from Downfall, when the survivors are first seen and during their subsequent visits to the real world the animation is computer generated 3D, whereas when each survivor is telling their story the animation is more in the traditional style seen in Downfall. The characters themselves change according to each flashback, their design and appearance change, however this is undoubtedly more to do with the story being told from a different point of view rather than anything else. The animation during the flashbacks is as graphic and flawless as it was in Downfall, regrettably the 3D falls rather flat, and the audience may find themselves wishing the whole thing had been made using traditional animation. Why the filmmakers chose to make Aftermath like this could have been because they didn’t want the audience to get confused between the real world and the events of the flashbacks but surely the makers should have had more faith in the intelligence of their audience and trusted in their ability to follow a story which is basically just a rehash of the rapid infestation the audience have already seen in Downfall.

 

As for the voice cast, they all do their jobs well and Stargate SG-1 fans will recognise the voice of Christopher Judge as Nick Kutter, a man who has direct contact with a shard of the Marker and goes completely crackers.

 

Basically Aftermath gives the gist of events between Dead Space and Dead Space 2 and like its predecessor Dead Space Downfall it may leave the audience with more questions than answers. For example: if the Hive Mind (which controls the necromorphs telepathically as seen in the events of Dead Space) is now dead thanks to Isaac then who or what is controlling the necromorphs? Without the Marker can necromorphs exist? What happened to the Ishimura following the end of Dead Space? Hopefully Dead Space 2 will provide the answers to some, if not all, of the audience’s questions.

 

I really wanted this film to do something different but basically all we have are four stories in which a group of survivors get steadily picked off one by one. As we are seeing the story from four perspectives from four survivors what do you think happens to the other members of the group?? Some just die but the majority seem to be trying to have the most selfless death possible with the captain sacrificing himself whilst another member of the group fights the monsters whilst urging the group to leave her and flee.

 

In truth Aftermath is simply a rehashing of the first film, the infection happens in a very short space of time and we get a group of survivors being killed one after another which is exactly what we saw in the first film except here there are survivors that make it off the ship alive.

 

My Thumb here is Horizontal mainly because this effort just seem to be lazy, some of the animation is good, but there just hasn’t been put enough time and energy put in to creating something that was different to the first film.

 

 

5/10 – This film is too lazy and ultimately leaves more questions than it answers, plus the 3D falls rather flat. The audience may also have to wait until they have played Dead Space 2 before all their questions are answered. A character from the film would subsequently appear in Dead Space 2 but in all honesty you don’t need to have seen this film before diving head first into Dead Space 2.

 

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© Chris Sharman