Apparently, Dead Space the video game was successful enough to warrant a sequel, which is being released later this month. This normally wouldn't matter one iota to me, since I don't partake in survival horror video gaming, but since a sequel to 'Dead Space: Downfall' was also created to tie-in to the game release, I counted myself as interested. 'Downfall' wasn't a bad film, by any means, and it had its moments of pure fun for sci-fi horror fans, so how could 'Dead Space: Aftermath' go wrong?
Sadly, the answer lies in how this film was conceived, playing copycat to films like 'Batman: Gotham Knight,' 'The Animatrix,' or 'Halo Legends.' Yep, another animation anthology, where numerous studios contribute portions, which are then presented together with narrative rubber cement to create one unit entirely lacking cohesiveness. Done right, this style of animated film isn't all that bad, even if it constantly draws the viewer out of the experience. Done wrong, however, the result can prove to be painful to finish, even if it is relatively short. 'Dead Space: Aftermath' may only last 77 minutes (a few longer than the original), but they most certainly aren't 77 easy, fast, or enjoyable ones.
After the disaster/catastrophe/nightmare that was depicted in 'Dead Space: Downfall,' where a mysterious alien artifact caused the corpses of the dead to reanimate and mutate, the 137 man crew was decimated to the point that there was only four survivors. Rescued from the slow, painful death that would be starvation or suffocation, Nickolas Kuttner, Alejandro Borges, Isabel Cho, and Nolan Stross discover that the worst isn't quite behind them, as the government interceptor ship and the commandos that rescued them aren't looking out for their best interests. They want to know what happened, who to trust, and who is expendable, as they interrogate and torture the survivors. As each one takes their turn describing what happened, we see their individual stories aboard the O'Bannon, and even on the planet Aegis 7, and find out when and where each one was doomed.
If you paid good money for this disc and put it in your Blu-ray player, I can tell you precisely when you were doomed: the moment the film began. Doomed to a drawn out, redundant, boring story that lacked the fun, dread, and atmosphere of the original. Doomed to wonder how quickly this disc could be flipped towards another film. This experience is not for the easily distracted or picky. It probably also isn't for fans.
The biggest problem is the manner in which it's told, as things get repetitive real fast. As we go from one survivor to the next, each one goes through the same routine in the interrogation, as they're exposed to their greatest fear, so that giving the dirt on what happened, reliving those horrible moments won't seem so bad. This would be all well and good, but wouldn't at least one survivor just want to get it over with? Why do they all have to go through this garbage, other than to give the animators something to do? The flashback stories link together fairly well, though one has to wonder why these few "lucky" ones had so much contact with each other form the start. As each flashback is told, the animation style changes, where the scrawny suddenly become freakishly muscular, and any sense of continuity is thrown out the window. Heck, Borges goes from looking hispanic in flashback to pale white in CG, while Kuttner's deceased daughter changes from a white girl in a photo to a black girl in her appearances a la hallucination. It just seems that no one gave a shit.
Sure, the film has its problems other than the animation, including some simple logic gaps. Why four survivors of an alien massacre are never decontaminated, cleaned of the random blood splatters covering most of their bodies escapes me, particularly since anyone on the interceptor frigate would have had no knowledge as to what exactly triggered the destruction. Why weren't any alien corpses brought along, too, to be studied? They would have more information than the few humans who were left, and in flashback, they don't really seem to be in short supply. I'm sure there were plenty of corpses that were jettisoned when hulls were breached, dead just floating around. Heck, some probably would have bumped into the viewing screens of any ship out there. Since the entire point was to secure anyone who had contact with the artifact, wouldn't that have been kind of a wise decision?!?
Ah well, I suppose I'm thinking when I should be just taking what's shoved in front of me and drooling like a simpleton. My bad. 'Dead Space: Aftermath' may require as much from you, the viewer, to enjoy the film. With no real terror, some pretty goofy scenes that are supposed to be serious depictions of failing mental states, and very few cool moments, this film is a bust, doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do: draw fans more into the series, and prepare them for another chapter of the game. I haven't played Dead Space, but no amount of critical acclaim will lead me to want to risk experiencing anything as convolutedly moronic as this nonsense.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Dead Space: Aftermath' is housed on a Region A BD25 Single Layer disc, held in a cut-out eco-case that contains an advertisement for the second game, as well as a Dead Space novel. The slipcover for this release is as bad ass as the one for the first film, as it is holographic and embossed, looking way cool. There is only one pre-menu trailer before the main menu, obviously pushing the video game. The menu itself has a large chunk devoted to the options (possibly too much), with the rest of the picture being full motion. There is no audio option besides the default of this disc, and as such, the only options in the setup tab are for subtitles.
Wow. It's been a long time since I saw a film that looked like this.
No, that isn't a good thing. 'Dead Space: Aftermath' is one ugly critter. Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, the movie is cobbled together from five different sources, with each flashback being handled by a different animation company, while the non-flashback footage is handled in an altogether different manner, fully animated through CG. The effect only amplifies the ugly that is this disc.
On the bright side, the banding issues found in 'Dead Space: Downfall' aren't as big of an issue here...alright, that's a lie, I'm sorry. Banding is pretty damn awful, obvious, and sometimes long lasting (like a piece of gum beneath your shoe). At least characters don't become detail-free blobs at medium distances. Sadly, that's about the only compliment I can give this wreck of a release. Shimmering and aliasing are constant issues, to the point that entire objects look distractingly, hideously ugly and bizarre, where items like tables become so damned ridiculous you can't even focus on anything else in their shots. Lines go jagged and stair step frequently, particularly in Cho's hair in the CG footage. There is some archaic ship and character designs that seem straight out of a computer film made in 1996, rather than 2010. Faces lack any detail, though, to be fair, some of the random backgrounds are amazing in their sheer static carnage. Best yet, CG characters feature random speckles, created due to the fact that the animation is absolute shit (to be more technical, it's probably an overlapping polygon kind of thing, but damn!), and this issue pops up frequently.
I'm sorry, but this is 2011. I understand animation can look shoddy when done on the quick and dirty, but this is crazy. Since there is literally at least one problem in every moment of the film, I'm amazed I'm not going any lower on the scoring. The disc is not innocent in this mess, even if the film itself is to blame for a large portion of the unadulterated butt-ugliness that is 'Dead Space: Aftermath.' Soft hand drawn lines and features are never good, but when they're a step up, you know you just watched an awful disc.
The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track for 'Dead Space: Aftermath' is hardly demo material. That said, it does lack any flaws that would distract viewers from the experience, and has a few nice moments that make it an above average track. Dialogue is always clear and consistent (and, despite the constant changes in animation, always voiced by the same people), without any lines lost or muffled, or even sounding odd or out of place. Bass use is average for a film like this, with some good thump in space, and some random moments in the film to give a sense of dismay or terror. Changes in angles in shots create some localized dialogue that hits the proper channels, though this effect is used lightly.
The only thing really working against this track besides its minimalism is the lip sync. There doesn't seem to be any moment in the film where voices match up to the animation properly. Mouth movements seem added on with no concern for what words need to be spoken, just so we don't have mime characters, it's pretty damn ridiculous. Still, this is an issue with the animation, not the audio.
The lone feature is a pile of HD trailers, marked as "Also on Blu-ray," featuring the same Dead Space 2 video game trailer as is found before the main menu, 'Dante's Inferno,' 'Let Me In,' and 'The Bleeding.'
And the winner for worst looking animated Blu-ray title since the cropped and smeared 'Gulliver's Travels?' Drumroll, please! If you guessed 'Dead Space: Aftermath,' do yourself a favor, and steer clear! A solid audio track doesn't make up for the horrible video, lame film that is completely lacking compared to the original, and the complete lack of extras. Sure, the slipcover looks amazing, but please do yourself a favor and don't judge this book by its cover!