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Thursday, January 20, 2011

DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH -- DVD review by porfle

Coinciding with the release of Electronic Arts' new videogame "Dead Space 2" comes the animated outer space epic DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH (2011), which combines a compelling story with fantastic animation to create one of the most intriguing and action-packed sci-fi/horror adventures of recent years.

The four survivors of a catastrophe in deep space are found aboard their wrecked spaceship, the O'Bannon (in a nice nod to the late co-writer of ALIEN) amidst the bloody remains of the crew.  But for Dr. Isabel Cho (Gwendoline Yeo), security chief Kuttner (Christopher Judge), research specialist Stross (Curt Cornelius), and chief engineer Borges (Ricardo Chavira), the nightmare has just begun as they are subjected to brutal interrogation and forced to relive the horror of their recent ordeal. 

The object of all this is a shard of an alien artifact recovered from doomed planet Aegis VII, which is coveted by the powers-that-be for the scientific secrets it holds.  On the journey home, the shard first begins to wield an unearthly influence upon those who touch it, then reanimates the recent dead and transforms them into hideous bloodthirsty creatures.  What happens next is recounted in flashbacks by the four survivors as they are mercilessly grilled by their interrogators.

With each segment executed by a different animation director under the supervision of Mike Disa, the unique looks of the four flashback stories reflect the changing perspectives of the narrators.  All are painstakingly detailed and beautifully rendered examples of animation art which are directed with style and creativity. 

Character design and animation are strong--the faces are expressive and the body movements fluid.  The artwork displays a pleasing combination of western and Asian styles, with the framing scenes aboard the rescue ship done digitally.  Voice work is particularly good. 

The outer space scenes are dazzling, as is a superbly suspenseful sequence in which the landing party tries to escape from the surface of Aegis VII as the planet breaks apart around them.  The spaceship O'Bannon's attempt to outrun the shockwave and debris from the exploding planet is another highlight.  Later, the battle between the humans and the creatures is consistently exciting. 

Brandon Auman's script gives the main characters sufficient depth, with security chief Kuttner's story of particular interest.  Having recently suffered the death of his daughter, he begins to have visions of her after touching the shard, and sees his fellow astronauts as monsters trying to kill her.  This, as we discover in graphic terms, leads to all kinds of trouble as his segment reaches a moving climax.

Meanwhile the unstable Strosser, who views aliens as mankind's deities, invites disaster by exposing himself to the shard's power and allowing its influence to spread throughout the ship.  His personal story is ultimately much darker than even Kuttner's.  Dr. Cho and Borges are strong characters as well. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  No extras besides a trailer for the "Dead Space 2" videogame. 

Some will probably regard DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH as nothing more than an elaborate commercial for the videogame.  Since I haven't been much of a gamer since the Atari 2600 went the way of the mullet, this doesn't affect my view of it either way.  I simply see it as an impressive, visually stunning animated sci-fi/horror flick that's a lot of fun to watch. 

Street date January 25

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