There are few descriptions of the afterlife in fiction that can’t be traced back to Dante’s imaginative journeys. The whacky afterlife universe depicted in the movie R.I.P.D (Rest in Peace Department) can’t shake off the legacy.
Robert Schwentke’s 2013 fantasy comedy R.I.P.D would be a total waste of most people’s time it it weren’t for its Dantean inspiration. Instead, the movie is just a waste of time. Another reason why good literature doesn’t always lead to good movie-making.
When a Boston police officer is killed by his renegade partner, he is immediately whizzed up to a questionable Heaven where he discovers that everyone has to answer for past crimes in the thereafter – or join R.I.P.D, Inferno’s police force. The task of the R.I.P.D is to catch ‘Deadoes’, the souls of the deceased who refuse to accept their fate and instead return to the world of the living in order to spoil it.
The ascent to where R.I.P.D resides is a helical ride for the recently departed, a cocktail of two shots of Inferno, half a Purgatorio and one of Paradiso.
Sitting under the department of ‘Eternal Affairs’, R.I.P.D is run by a female chief whose role is to give the new recruit a Vergilian tour of the establishment. The movie seems to suggest that if you’re not simply visiting Hell (like Dante the pilgrim), then you’re either a convict or an (infernal) law-enforcement officer, whose job is to keep the damned away from the living.
Dante’s circles of Hell are alluded to in the prison cells of the R.I.P.D precincts and in its staff’s crammed offices. Hell is other people – working in the next cubicle. Something even a film as bad as this one can have us ponder.