October 24, 2005

Doom1 1/2 Stars

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Many of you believe that Doom is adapted from the popular video game of the same name but few realize it is actually based on one of Virgil’s lesser known works. That’s how I know it anyway. Of course that’s a complete lie but it should be obvious to anyone seeing Doom what they’re getting into. This is not a great cinematic masterpiece but at least it never pretends to be.

There’s trouble a-brewing at the Olduvai research station on Mars. Something is attacking the scientists so Sarge (The Rock) and his group of RRTS (Rapid Response Tactical Squad) Marines are sent in to contain the situation. And of course the squad is made up of colorfully eccentric people whose sole purpose is to be picked-off one by one. Thankfully travel between Earth and Mars is instantaneous do to the Arc, a mysterious Stargate-like device buried on the two planets long ago. Complicating matters is the strained relationship between the Marine, Reaper (Karl Urban) and his Mars based scientist sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike). Their archaeologist parents died on Mars many years ago making his newest mission a psychiatrist’s nightmare. After stalking the dark creepy halls of the lab, the Marines encounter scientists transformed into monsters. There’s an explanation as to why but really are we supposed to care?

Doom is one of those movies that is so bad that talking from the audience actually makes it better. But how much greatness can we actually expect from something based on a video game? The history of movies is marked with terrible video game adaptations but somehow someone in Hollywood keeps making them. Recalling Super Mario Brothers still sends shivers down my spine to this day and I find it tragic that the late great Raul Julia’s last film was Street Fighter. Clearly Doom was made for fans of the game in mind and just from the audience’s reaction the greatest thrill came from seeing a gun called the “BFG.” So when the emotional high point of the movie comes from seeing a gigantic gun, it is pretty clear where the film stands in terms of quality. At least it never shies away from the video game that inspired it. The film’s score, which amps up in moments of action, could easily have been lifted directly from the software. Most importantly we get a 4 minute gun point of view sequence where the hero terminates some Martian bad guys. It is so ridiculous that the only adjective for it is: brilliant.

The greatest shocker, if you want to call it that, comes from The Rock’s character not being the hero of the movie. The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) is most easily compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of acting styles. For both men the less dialogue they have the better. But there’s something very comical about The Rock which makes it hard for him to sell lines like “If it breathes, kill it.” No doubt The Rock is as jacked as Arnold was in his prime, but the Governor has him beat in terms of stone faced intimidation.

Despite the ridiculous plot and terrible acting, the film has remarkably high production values. Some very talented set designers and make-up artists worked on this film which is too bad when considering what their efforts went towards. Hopefully they got a nice paycheck and will move on to better things.

What makes the film frustrating is that it’s not terrible enough. It should go to the other extreme and be something so bad that it would attain “I’ve got to see it to believe it” potential. Those are the film that make IMDB’s bottom 100 and earn a place in the pantheon of film’s greatest misfires. Doom is just ordinarily bad without any real camp value to justify its existence. To say I’ve seen worse is actually one of the nicest compliments I can offer.

Archived article by Oliver Bundy
Sun Staff Writer