Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Cast: The Rock, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, DeObia Oparei, Ben Daniels, Raz Adoti, Richard Brake, Al Weaver, Dexter Fletcher, Brian Steele

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence/gore and language)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 10/21/05

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Review by Mark Dujsik

If one were forced to watch a movie adaptation of a video game, one could do much, much worse than Doom. The 1993 computer game was revolutionary (if you're into knowing that kind of thing), but the movie is simply another no-brainer shoot-'em-up. If you've played the game and are looking for a fair adaptation, look elsewhere, and if you're looking for a well-made action flick, also look elsewhere. The unsophisticated plot of the game has a single Marine facing off against demons in hell, but the adaptation has a group of Marines facing off against partially-mutated scientists who run directly into gunfire. Is it me or do most game-based movies end up like this? Let's face it, good games do not make good movies and vice versa; they are two completely different media. Video games depend upon giving players an interactive experience, whereas movies are completely non-interactive. Obvious, yes, and yet here's another example. Despite these inherent flaws, for a brainless, gory romp through a scientific research facility on Mars, Doom has its moments.

We open on Mars—barren and lifeless, with the exception of Olduvai Research Station somewhere on the surface. Something besides the researchers is there, and in the prologue, a group of them are slaughtered as they try to escape. When something goes wrong on Mars, of course the only people to call in are the Marines. Sarge (The Rock) is the head of the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, whose job it is to take the portal from Earth to the research facility and neutralize the threat with extreme prejudice. The squad is the usual one-dimension bunch: Goat (Ben Daniels), the creepy one, The Kid (Al Weaver), the new guy, Grimm (Karl Urban), the one whom Sarge doesn't want to go but who goes anyway, and the rest. When they arrive, Sarge orders the portal closed, and Grimm begins to think perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to go after all when he discovers his estranged sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike) has her own orders to retrieve vital research data with the squad's help. The threat, needless to say, is a bit more challenging than Sarge thought, and soon, his team slowly turns from hunting the strange creatures infiltrating the station to becoming them themselves.

Supposedly, the creatures are the result of the mixing of an extra chromosome with an unmapped part of the human genome that theoretically may hold the soul. In practice, they look and act for the most part like your typical movie zombies. Well, what you can see of them, that is. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts have filmed the movie with a continuous level of murkiness—in moments to the point of incomprehension. The movie is so dark that the eventual bursts of gunfire are almost blinding. And there's no shortage of firepower. The movie contains a weapon called the BFG, which has a technical name, but it's best to think of it in terms of the first initial standing for "big," the last one for "gun," and the middle one, well, use your imagination. Essentially a big blue blob fires into the air and melts away anything in its path. With such weaponry, one would assume the job would be easy, but instead, our heroes make the typical dumb moves of wandering around alone in dark places, just waiting to get picked off by the monsters hiding throughout the facility.

Somewhere along the line, things get even rougher for the Marines, as Sarge takes his orders to the extreme. You see, not everyone who is attacked by the mutants turns into one; it all depends on the content of a person's genetic soul. The resulting moral dilemma faced by the troop is a pleasant surprise in a movie that seems to be focused on loud noises and BFGs, and it gives The Rock the chance for a malicious turn—another surprising move. Screenwriters Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick even give him a great, winking exit line that unfortunately doesn't end up being his exit line, but the point remains, the movie takes a few unexpected turns that keep it from progressing on tedious, bullet-ridden autopilot. Eventually, of course, the movie devolves into an extended first person sequence that plays like a haunted house and is only present because fans of the game will be expecting as much. Why the guy in the wheelchair ends up transforming into the most grotesque creature of the bunch is something left for us to decide, I suppose.

The ending credit sequence perhaps sums up the majority of the movie, as the names of the people involved are destroyed shooting gallery style as they scroll onto screen (if I remember correctly, the names of the screenwriters are left unharmed). There are video games out there that could reasonably be turned into movies. Doom shows, once again, that most of them, though, are best left in their original form, allowing people to get their visceral thrills in the way they're accustomed—with a control pad.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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