Something has gone terribly wrong in Olduvai, the secret underground facility on Mars. A level 5 Quarantine puts the site in shutdown mode. An elite unit of Marines, the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, is dispatched to rescue the scientists and solve the problem. The question is, what exactly has gone wrong? Has the complex been beset by dormant Martians, alien invaders or something more sinister?
Come to Poppa!
Doom revolutionized the video game industry when it burst upon the scene in 1993: with its improved first person shooter concept Doom allowed players to actually see things from their character’s perspective. While it was light on plot, the game combined great sound effects with a scary pantheon of foes, featured rich and often gory visuals, and most importantly boasted a dizzying array of weapons. What’s not to love? Red-blooded males around the world became totally absorbed in its cathartic fantasy world for days on end, and I must confess that I was one of them. How hard could it be to turn this into a movie?
After having been immersed in film festival movies for the past five weeks, I was totally stoked for some truly mindless entertainment: think “Sixty million miles away, 1000 feet underground, 100 scientists, 20 monsters, 8 marines and blood blood blood (you have to intone it in that Monster Truck voice to get the effect). And after the opening sequence, I had high hopes – there were some gory deaths, and glimpses of creepy creatures. Once the marines arrive, however, Doom commits action movie suicide - it slows down and flounders in banality for the next 60+ minutes in a sad attempt to flesh out some semblance of a plot. The writers throw in some sibling rivalries, evil corporations, militarism and the nature of man (and by extension Martians – apparently it crosses species) and succeed in killing the pacing. This has serious implications for the cast, and none of them good.
Every time I’ve seen Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” in an interview, he comes across as polite, well spoken, intelligent and positively oozes charisma. This, along with his trademark cutting sense of humor has served him well in his previous roles, and has left many ready to crown him as the next action superstar. Johnson tries his best here, but, Sarge, a foul-mouthed tough guy with a bad attitude and flagging morality at the best of times, provides him with little to work with. Karl Urban who plays John Grimm, Sarge’s second in command, faces similar hurdles and despite his best efforts can’t overcome his lame dialogue. Surely you’re thinking “Who gives a damn about dialogue – in 'Doom' it’s the guns that do the talking.” I couldn’t agree more.
There is some kick ass action, with beasties getting splattered about, and the first person shooter sequence is sweet. Yeah, I said it, and I’ll say it again. I also enjoyed the scenes with the BFG, every Doom junkie’s favorite weapon (and its discovery by Sarge is most amusing…) The monsters also looked appropriately nasty – not something I want to meet in a dark sewer (why I’d ever be in a dark sewer is another question altogether…). The main problem is that the action doesn’t really get going until the last 20 minutes of the movie and we don’t get to see enough of the monsters. Finally, some of the CGI sequences are poorly rendered.
I fully expected 'Doom' to be bad, but in a good way. As it turns out I was half-right. Through some misguided notion the writers tried to turn this into a film, when it is meant to be a popcorn flick with little dialogue, lots of action and loud explosions. I won’t even mention the fact that they changed the game’s actual story (I’ll leave that to the fanatics flooding the chat rooms). While the movie has a built in audience, I predict a precipitous decline for the coming week’s box office.