Dead Space: Aftermath

Cinema31 - Dead Space: Aftermath
Director : Mike Disa
Writer : Joe Goyette, Brandon Auman,Chuck Beaver,Mike Disa
Stars : Ricardo Chavira, Yorgo Constantine and Curt Cornelius
Genre : Animation, Horror, Science-Fiction
Release date: jan 2011

Trailer : 
Review: Film Roman is at it again. This time, they have gone back to the "Dead Space" Franchise and crafted yet another prequel similar to their prior work on the prequel to Dead Space 1 called "Dead Space Downfall". Dead space Aftermath is a loose prequel to Dead Space 2 that utilizes the "animatrix technique" of having different animation studios do different segments of the show. While Dead Space downfall was not exactly an animation Masterpiece, Dead Space Aftermath takes it all down a notch.

Set after the events of Dead Space 1, The USS O'Bannon is sent to the planet Aegis VII to prevent it from destabilizing. This is a cover for their true mission of retrieving fragments of an alien artifact presumed destroyed in the first game. Contact is lost with the O'Bannon until it is rescued by a team of space marines. Within, they find a hell house of mutilated horrors only four survivors who are promptly captured and taken for interrogation. As each survivor reveals the horrific events that transpired on the O'Bannon, each of their flashbacks are rendered in four unique Korean animation styles from some of the teams that worked on Dante's Inferno: an Animated Epic.

The problem here is that unlike Dante's Inferno which had a central character that was developed over the course of the movie, Dead Space Aftermath has four central characters that remain one dimensional and wholly forgettable throughout. They are typical stock characters seen before in so many space based horror movies.

The "present day" framing story footage is rendered in cel shaded CGI by South Korean "Digiart productions" and "Fx Gear studios", the company that made that cringe worthy "Shark Tale" ripoff called "Shark Bait". While the rendering on spaceships and the Marine suits in the dark look quite good, the human characters set against the detail-less backgrounds look like they belong in the late 90s. Movements are stiff and lifeless, hair looks like play-dough worms, clothing folds are non existent and the flat colors just make it all worse. It looks less like Appleseed and more like the worst episodes of Jimmy Neutron or Clone Wars.

The flashbacks too are of varying quality. THey each detail different parts of the doomed mission from the characters' individual point of views and it is up to the audience to piece it together for the whole story. The different animation styles and slight inconsistencies actually work here as they represent the highly subjective and bias prone nature of personal recollection. For example, the strong willed Doctor Cho sees herself as this tall leggy hot babe in her flashback while Stross sees her, his extramarital girlfriend, as a manipulative slut with heavy make-up in his flashback.

First up is the mentally unstable token big black man, Kuttner, who suffers from hallucinations of his dead daughter. It is done in a decent American-ish art style with good quality animation by Dong Woo Animation studio (Masters of the Universe 2002, Ultimate Avengers) and Tokyo Anime Award winner Tae Ho-Han (Africa a.F.r.I.c.A). Stargate SG1's Christopher Judge masterfully portrays the broken man pushed over the edge of despair and desperation. Its only flaw would be the extremely slow first half which is all talk and no tension. Boring.

Next is a flashback courtesy of the stereotypical tough guy, Borges, who seems to alternate between being Hispanic or white with each new segment. Curiously, his version of his scuffle with Kuttner shows him putting up a decent fight while in Kuttner's version, Borges went down in seconds. Anyway, this segment is done by the same team who also did the "Fraud" level segment of Dante's Inferno(JM Animation studio and Kim Sang Jin), arguably one of that film's worse looking segments. Borges' flashback is also the worse looking here. A higher level of art detail and rich colors is offset with unnatural character movements, some animation shortcuts and ugly anime-styled character designs (what big teeth they have) which tend to go off model. Not to mention the CGI ships and fake looking flames effects which clash horribly with the traditional 2D animation.

Stross, the half crazed scientist having an affair with Dr Cho, is the third flashback. Jong Sik Nam and Dong Woo Animation, who did Batman Gothma Knight's Deadshot segment and the "Lust" segment of Dante's Inferno, present the most fluidly animated Dead Space Aftermath flashback. The atmospheric colors, creative shot angles and highly detailed artwork (a cross between Aeon Flux and typical Korean Anime) add a dynamic touch to Stross' brush with artifact induced insanity. THe tension and action finally amps itself up, but if feels a little late. The segment's only shortcoming is in some obviously unfinished background art.

Doctor Cho's flashback connects the O'Bannon mission back to the opening scene of the movie. This one is, while not the worst, a mixed bag. Cho's voice actress has a tendency to over act a lot to the point of cheesiness. The animation is rife with short cuts and "jitter camera" effects while stylized character designs look like dragonball Z rejects, all overly beefy and stuff. But at least it had a high level of detail and some good action.

The varying quality of the entire movie makes giving a rating hard.Two great segments are offset by three not so great ones. It lacks the deeper philosophical themes and character development of Dante's Inferno. It also lacks the straight forward violence, plot consistency and sense of tension of Dead Space downfall. Ultimately the entire production feels mediocre and lifeless, almost as if Film Roman could not afford better CGI artists or first rate studios animation like Manglobe or Production IG. The story is inconsequential in its lead in to Dead Space 2 and filled with a lot of wasted potential.
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