“No-one gets out alive”
Directed by Andrezej Bartkowiak
Starring Karl Urban, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson and Rosamund Pike
When something attacks a research base on Mars, the USMC Rapid Response Tactical Squad send a crack team through the Ark – a portal between Earth and Mars – to rescue company property and maintain quarantine. As the situation worsens and a deadly infection spreads, Dr Samantha Grimm and her brother, one of the marines, begin to realise that the scientists at the base have uncovered something evil, and unleashed something deadly.
What’s wrong with it?
Based on the video game (Doom 3, specifically), this has most of the hallmarks of a bad game license, including cardboard cut-out characters and a series of action sequences linked by sections of dialogue that are barely worthy of the name exposition.
The lighting is ‘moody’ to the point that some sections are largely invisible and the monsters – which are mutants, rather than the game series’ demons – move so fast that they are hard to make out.
The early scenes with the marines almost hilariously try to capture the rough camaraderie of the chopper scenes in Predator, and while that schtick has been done worse, it has also been done much better; not least by Predator. The same could be said of a great deal in this film, apart from the bits that are knocked off from Alien.
What’s right with it?
The film does avoid one of the worst features of many game adaptations. Its plot basically sticks to the source (aside from the mentioned non-infernalism), with some alterations for a larger cast, and without any unnecessary complications. As a result, the film doesn’t overextend its premise.
The cardboard cutouts also have a little variation from the norms, in particular the fraternal bond between the quasi-adoptive brothers, Duke and Destroyer, is played lightly and surprisingly effectively.
There is an odd twist for an action movie derived from the notion that the magic gene’s effect depends on a person’s core morality, even if the distinction that it draws between killers and soldiers is eventually just a nod to a better movie (Predator again).
How bad is it really?
Doom is… much less terrible than I was expecting. It is a long way from being a good film, but by sticking to a pretty simple core concept it minimises how much it can actually screw up. It even has some decent lines of dialogue, and occasionally shows signs of thoughtful creation.
John ‘Reaper’ Grimm: If they were so smart, how come they’re dead?
Samantha Grimm: Maybe they just went with time.
John ‘Reaper’ Grimm: You don’t shield a baby from time.
Although in the name of balance, they do also suggest that the unmapped 10% of the human genome is the blueprint for the soul, which is so corny it’s awesome.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Simply because it’s basically unique, the FPS sequence at the climax of the movie is very memorable.
What’s up with…?
- Sarge’s total breakdown from professional soldier to serial murderer? It’s kind of sudden, although I guess not unflagged.
- Portman’s extreme obnoxiousness? How has this man not been drummed out of the core as an insubordinate threat to squad cohesion years ago? Hmm… It occurs to me in retrospect that this may have been deliberately flagged, not just in the attitudes of the other marines, but in the fact that no-one has ever given him a callsign. He’s just ‘Portman’, while even the Kid is ‘the Kid’.
- Toying with the infernal origins of the game’s monsters? The enemies in the movie are mutants created by alien genes, but there’s a nod in Reaper’s statement that “[Mars] is Hell; it always has been.”
- The children? The movie loses traction with me for the implied slaughter of children offscreen, especially as there was no pressing reason for there to have been any children in it.
Production values – Some decent effects are wasted in the impenetrable dark of the mood lighting, but the Ark and the nanowalls are nicely done. Sadly, most of the action scens are just some shooting, although the FPS is a nice quirk. 9
Dialogue and performances – The dialogue is hardly Shakespeare, but the actors seem to know that and the performances, while not brilliant, are well geared towards the material. The sub-Predator squad joshing is a low point, and Pike’s accent is somewhat flaky. 11
Plot and execution – The plot of the movie is some men with guns shoot at bad things. The twist is that some of them become bad things, while others do not. what there is is done reasonably well, but it’s the fights that fill the run time. 15
Randomness – The film mostly sticks to its metaphorical guns, which also happen to be actual guns, with the occasional digression into theology. 5
Waste of potential – As licensed computer game movies go, this is actually pretty sweet. It was never going to win many awards, but there are worse ways to spend an hour or two. 10