Required Reading--Dead Space: Downfall

"Required Reading" is an ongoing series where we look at some of the ancillary media related to our favorite games; from books, to comics, to films. We'll take a look at the story behind the creation of the piece, if any, and review the quality of the work as a whole. Finally, we'll discuss whether it adds anything of substance to the narrative of the franchise. Today, we'll be taking a look at...

Dead Space: Downfall

If you find this recording, the artifact and the Ishimura must be destroyed.

The original Dead Space came out during a time of change for EA. The now departed John Riccitiello, CEO of the company at the time, was spearheading a movement to change the public's perception of the publishing behemoth. The main thrust of his plan was to move away from endless repetitive sequels, a tactic taken by EA's major competitor Activision, and move towards crafting new experiences and new franchises on the newly released generation of consoles. With this statement, EA announced Mirror's Edge and Dead Space. EA also announced plans to further enrich their franchises through ancillary media; namely movies, books, and comics; that would deepen the universes players enjoyed and extend their stories to people that normally wouldn't have the opportunity to experience them. Ultimately, both of these movements would fail, despite vocal support from fans. While EA games still receive the odd comic book or anime tie-in, they aren't given the emphasis they had been before. Dead Space has just barely managed to stay profitable as the series has gone forward, and Mirror's Edge is nowhere to be seen, amidst rumors of a cancelled sequel shortly after the release of the original game. Despite this, the Dead Space franchise and Downfall itself are successes, in their own way.

The only planets we ever found in all of space are dead. Earth was a fluke.

The captain always goes down with his ship.

Dead Space: Downfall was released just over a week after the launch of Dead Space. While that game saw series' protagonist Isaac Clarke make his way through the doomed spaceship USG Ishimura, Downfall relates the events that took place before Isaac ever stepped his RIG onboard, showing how the ship and crew were infected, attacked, and tortured, and setting the stage for many of the sequences in the game. These days, it seems like most video game movie tie-ins are styled after anime. Those influences can be seen in parts of Downfall, but it stands apart by being more reminiscent of a high-budget version of early-'90s American Saturday morning action-cartoons along the lines of X-Men or Gargoyles. It's a style that isn't found very often, and even less so lately, but it manages to fit the gory horror tone of the franchise pretty well. Like all cartoons released in the new millennium, Downfall also includes a bit of CG--mainly for exterior shots of the spaceships--which aren't too distracting and manage to emphasize the size and complexity of these space-faring vessels. Normally, I find the liberal use of CG distracting or unpleasant to look at, but I wasn't offended by its use here. When used appropriately, and with a light touch, Downfall shows that it can be an effective tool in animation.

As a direct prequel to the main game, Downfall doesn't really expand on the fiction all that much. For the most part, we are just seeing explicit scenes that are implicitly stated to Isaac through audio, video, and text logs later on as he scours the derelict ship in search of his girlfriend. Despite this, though, and taken as a visual treat rather than a compelling or thoughtful addition to the Dead Space experience, Downfall manages to be fairly entertaining. It's cheap to just show us situations that we've already heard about, but there is also a morbid thrill to seeing all of the violence and destruction take place in front of our eyes. One pivotal scene in particular that's mentioned in Dead Space logs, is the showdown between Ishimura captain Matthius and the resident science officer, Dr. Kyne. Seeing the two most respected members of the ship fall under the influence of the Marker, and seeing how the situation slowly builds before the inevitable explosion, is exciting and visceral, to say the least.

Just another of the many bloodstains that Isaac tramples over in Dead Space.

As mentioned before, this movie absolutely nails the excessive gore of the franchise. Blood is spilled in every other scene, and when it is, it comes gushing out of the Necromorphs' victims. Kills are executed in interesting and unique ways, and despite being a regularity in Japanese animation, it's still somewhat surprising to see in an American animated release. With the good "maturity" of the franchise comes the bad, unfortunately, as much of the dialogue comes off as mostly amateurish. It seems like the writers tried too hard to come off as "adult", as much of the dialogue between crew members is overwrought and filled with crude sexual references.

In the end, the story isn't that deep, but the film is visually interesting in an "all hell breaks loose" kind of way. For fans of the franchise, it might feel weird to go back to its roots now, especially given how far the franchise has come, both tonally and plot-wise, but for anyone looking for a fun and mindless way to spend 80 minutes, you could surprisingly do much worse than Dead Space: Downfall.

Someone or something put that thing here for a reason.

Like all installments in the franchise, Downfall has a big body count.

For the most part, Dead Space: Downfall doesn't add much to the overall Dead Space narrative. It aims more to illustrate characters, locations, and events that Isaac will later investigate through the course of his adventures, but it ultimately does so in an entertaining way. There are a few inconsistencies between this film and some of the other franchise installments (particularly because a number of them take place concurrently), but they're the sort of thing that would only be noticed by the most diehard of fans.

Two characters in the film, Irons and Kyne, manage to give a bit more depth to Unitologists as well, in that both of them are fairly reasonable and noble individuals, despite their faith in what amounts to an evil cult. For the most part, this manages to be a more realistic and subtle representation of the religion than you ever see in the games or other Dead Space fiction, and for that, it stands out. With characters like these as members of the Church of Unitology, it makes it a little easier to believe that someone that's not a total monster could believe in the tenants that the Church spouts on a surface level. Aside from that, there's a small non-speaking cameo from Isaac's girlfriend Nicole, which is a nice little nod to fans, but not much more than that. In the end, for fans of the franchise, animation fans, or someone who just likes a plain old gore-fest, Dead Space: Downfall is a halfway decent outlet. For that reason alone, ultimately, the film is a success.

For the initiated, Dead Space: Downfall can be found on Netflix Instant Streaming, or on YouTube in its entirety.

Have you watched Dead Space: Downfall? Do you plan to? What are your thoughts on the movie or the universe as a whole? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

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Posted by Daveyo520

Hmm this is on Netflix, I should probably watch it.

Posted by living4theday258

I might go watch this now.

Posted by ThunderSlash

I saw this a while ago when I was looking into Dead Space lore. I found the movie to be pretty mediocre. The animations were always off and the events that the movie portray seem to conflict with what happens in the games (how the Captain dies comes to mind). I'd say that if you are gonna watch one of the Dead Space animated flicks, choose this one over Aftermath. That one was just bad.

Posted by Wrighteous86

@daveyo520: @living4theday258: Let me know what you guys think of it if you do!

I saw this a while ago when I was looking into Dead Space lore. I found the movie to be pretty mediocre. The animations were always off and the events that the movie portray seem to conflict with what happens in the games (how the Captain dies comes to mind). I'd say that if you are gonna watch one of the Dead Space animated flicks, choose this one over Aftermath. That one was just bad.

Overall the movie is mediocre, but given that it's a straight-to-DVD animated tie-in to a video game, I came away fairly impressed. It's not a great film, but I found it somewhat entertaining and at a level above what I expected of it. There are some minor conflicts with game/comic canon, but nothing that I found too outrageous. For the most part, I just thought it was kind of fun in a mindless way.

I'm getting to Aftermath soon, but remembering what I do of it... that will be a painful Required Reading.