February 25, 2009
So long as we’re talking about classic literature morphing into monster movies, let’s take a moment to look at Dante’s Inferno, a new video game, um, loosely based on The Divine Comedy:
EA’s take still features Dante as the protagonist, but the poet-philosopher is now a hulking veteran of the Crusades. He returns home from war to find Beatrice, the subject of his love and admiration, murdered. When her soul is “kidnapped” by Lucifer himself, Dante dives down to the very depths of hell, armed with Death’s scythe, to win her back…
Dante’s Inferno stands in a rather awkward place. The source material is a treasured piece of culture, yes, but it’s far less likely to incite fanboy wrath than would a videogame adaptation of a contemporary movie or comic book series. Liberal arts majors might be shocked to find Dante morphed into a hypermasculine action hero. Other people won’t care…
On the bright side, the story behind Dante’s Inferno was pretty much fleshed out back in the 14th century, detailing hell’s nine levels and many of the potential boss characters, so the development team likely just needs to fill in the blanks.
Look, classics get adapted, translated, bowdlerized all the time. But it’s important to remember that in popular culture, people don’t remember the original — they remember the bowdlerization. I bet in a few years, we’ll start to see college students who “know” that Inferno is about Dante rescuing Beatrice from Hell.
All the same, if they get the centaurs and the lake of boiling blood right, I am there. And who knows? Maybe some of the kids might even learn what “simony” means.