There are several ways to know that a movie is going to be bad. Here are a few:
- If it’s anime
- If it’s billed as a “companion” to a video game
- If it’s based on the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, more commonly referred to as The Inferno
- Or if (God forbid) all of the above are true, as in this case, they are.
You know it’s coming, so here it is – your review of the 2007 anime production, Dante’s Inferno.
As one undoubtedly cringes to imagine, in Dante’s Inferno, the author Dante is reinvented as a Crusader and thrust into the role of protagonist in a bit of artistic license as subtle and classy as a sumo wrestler clubbing a baby seal. Before we’ve even entered hell proper, the movie takes bold and immediate steps to establish that our bastardized protagonist is incapable of interpersonal relationships, even with demonic entities, and undoubtedly needs years – nay, decades – of intense, inpatient therapy.
Take, for example, his interactions with Charon the Ferryman, whom the animators felt inclined to anthropomorphize into the figurehead of a bizarre barge. Don’t ask me why or why they felt an entire barge was necessary. Apparently, the “Congratulations, you’re damned!” cruise has grown inordinately popular. Regardless, Charon has no arms, no legs, and no capacity to do much of anything save transport the souls of the miserable from point A to point B while making cryptic pronouncements. Still, for pointing out that Dante was still living and, as a result, really not the sort of clientele the underworld was aiming for, our hero bravely jams his weapon into Charon’s skull, thereby slaying an oversized sentient canoe with no ability to defend itself.
This is to become a recurrent theme throughout the feature. Dante encounters an overworked, underpaid member of Gehenna and, regardless of whether they attempt to actively impede him or not, waves sharp implements at them in a generally hostile fashion until another help wanted sign appears in the windows of hell. By the end of the movie, Charon, Minos, and Cerberus are all pushing up the daisies, and that’s just to name a few. If nothing else, one must admit it raises the interesting theological question of what hell does when it’s short staffed. Close for a day? Bring in some temps? Outsource? Clearly, synergies need to be leveraged. Maybe they could merge a circle or two to cut costs? Just throwing out ideas here.
Speaking of throwing out ideas, Dante hasn’t rampaged through too many realms of eternal torment before something becomes abundantly clear: namely that several of the animators slept through the part of the meeting where it was discussed how they would be drawing Virgil’s hair. Literally on a scene-by-scene basis, his ‘do goes from appearing as though it was hewn from solid granite to the “stuck my tongue in the socket” anime staple to the “Hey! Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi?” special.
Dante himself takes this in stride – likely because the animators cannot come to a consensus about what exactly he is or is not wearing in terms of armor. For much of the movie, he’s sporting a sort of Hell Boy metal armguard…except when he’s naked from the chest up…or when he’s back in his full Templar regalia. No wonder Virgil seems impatient at points – Dante can walk by anything except a dressing room.
Beatrice, author Dante’s paragon of womanhood, was also dragged into the hell that is this film, both figuratively and literally, but the animators were a little more united as to the nature of her apparel. Specifically, they were in agreement it should fall off – as often as possible and for no reason other than drawing attention away from how awful the rest of the movie is. Sort of deus ex cleavage, if you will.
At this point, we’ve covered more or less all the principal players in this lovely crap-daptation with the exception of Dante himself who, I’m proud to say, is portrayed one-hundred percent authentically. He’s a Crusader sent to liberate the Holy Land who, over the course of the movie, knocks up his fiancée, cheats on her, starves innumerable prisoners, slaughters them all, lets someone else take the blame for it, denies everything to his fiancée while she’s on her death bed, and… Alright. Seriously, people. Who put this together, and have they been subjected to a less-than-random drug test?
Still more inexplicably (if that’s possible), after going through the trouble to establish Dante as a lying, prideful, mass-murdering, adulterous womanizer, the movie assigns to him the power to brandish a ginormous crucifix (that he can somehow touch without being obliterated by a freak lightning storm) and release souls from hell pretty much on a whim. When he does so, comments tend to be made about said soul being unjustly condemned.
Most major religions would have me believe that the pearly gates have some sort of quality control. How the !@#$ are we explaining this? “Oh dang – Dante found another one that wasn’t supposed to be there. Wow…you know…sorry about all those years of unending torment and whatnot. We were reorganizing the department and, you know, Phil told me he had the paperwork, but it must have gotten lost and…yeah… So! Now that we have that cleared up, here are your wings! There’s St. Peter! Have fun!” It’s enough to make hell, even badly short staffed, look like a bastion of efficiency.
In the spirit of efficiency and finishing this article in less time than the movie, let’s just cut to the end. Eventually Beatrice, in a completely logical and believable plot development, becomes the bride of Satan. I am not kidding. Luckily for us, Dante, problem solver that he is, opts to forgo his usual stabbity-stabbity response to this development and instead brandishes his comically large wrought iron cross, which magically turns Beatrice from an almost naked demonic entity to a completely naked spiritual entity. (If I had to assign a soundtrack to this scene, I’m pretty sure it’d be Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” but I digress.) Hovering there buck naked, the movie finally realizes that Beatrice, like an old oil derrick, has been completely exploited, and so an angel descends to cover her with its wings (marking the first scene she hasn’t done entirely in the buff) and carry her to heaven. Hopefully, it does so by way of an Old Navy so the woman can buy a pair of pants.
This, of course, leaves Dante to descend to the final circle and confront Satan, who revels this was all part of his plan to invade purgatory and, by extension, heaven. Since, you know, that worked so well for him the first time. Long story short, they meet, and Dante screams at him for awhile, the usual stabbity-stabbity occurs, Dante ostensibly repents – five seconds of prayer atoning for his years spent as a philandering psychopath, God intervenes, Lucifer is trapped, Dante enters purgatory, the HR department for said realm starts getting a bit fidgety, and…the movie tries to set itself up for a sequel. God forbid. No pun intended.