In the latest bit of synergistic marketing, "Dead Space: Aftermath" arrives on DVD shelves on the same day that the eagerly anticipated "Dead Space 2" arrives for gaming consoles. Sound familiar? It's the same strategy that brought the original "Dead Space" game forth in conjunction with its companion piece DVD "Dead Space: Downfall." Well, who's to look success in the face and not try to replicate it? I'm a bit torn in what to say about "Dead Space: Aftermath." A perfectly acceptable adventure, by all rights, if not particularly distinguished--this will obviously appeal (or not appeal) to different people for different reasons. If you are a "Dead Space" enthusiast, then--I might rank this production at four stars for a built-in audience. If, however, you're completely unconnected with the gaming experience--I'd probably put this at closer to two stars. I also think that if you were to watch this for free, you might think it a perfectly harmless entertainment--as a game extra, it might be awesome. However, when laying down your DVD dollar, your expectation might be higher.
Enough convoluted analysis, though. Here's the story. "Dead Space: Aftermath" tells the story of spaceship USG O'Bannon. O'Bannon responds to a secret and dangerous mission to attend to a planet in distress (if you've been to "Dead Space," you'll recognize the setting). The planet, however, is extremely volatile and soon the rescue party is fleeing--but not before uncovering a strange and hallucinatory rock. Back on O'Bannon, the rock starts affecting those on the ship. Before you can say "what the heck is going on," the crew is engaged in the ultimate battle for survival. Horrible creatures start to attack just as critical characters are sinking into dementia, it's not a pretty sight! The story of "Dead Space: Aftermath" is revealed in interviews from the four survivors of the O'Bannon. But are the survivors really safe? Or are they a part of a more nefarious conspiracy? And the film's final moments tie into the upcoming "Dead Space 2."
For me, the best sequences in "Dead Space: Aftermath" involve the interrogation of the survivors. Creepy and visually inventive, these segments really stand out. However, the whole story of what transpired lacked a real freshness. I felt like I'd seen it before--and better! As someone who really enjoys a good narrative gaming experience, I'll say that the plot requirements for a game aren't necessary as stringent as they need to be for a movie. So plotting-wise, "Dead Space: Aftermath" felt a little half-baked (for my taste anyway) as a feature film. However, I will say again--some individual moments can be quite compelling. And vocal performances (especially by the survivors) are effective to very good.
The film is a collaboration of several directors. One of the more intriguing aspects of "Dead Space: Aftermath" is that each of the survivor's stories is told from a different directorial vantage point and/or a variation of animation style. Characters can look completely different depending on who's telling the story. I found this strangely distracting, at first, until I just went with it. But while I appreciated this unique approach, I don't necessarily think it enhanced the viewing experience. Overall, "Dead Space: Aftermath" is more enticing as a game supplement than as a stand alone venture. Not a disaster, by any stretch, but in the ever expanding options in the worlds of animation and anime--there are fresher choices available. KGHarris, 1/11.