Benjamin has been reviewing films for sixteen years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Doom is a sci-fi action horror film released in 2005 and it's loosely based on the video-game series of the same name. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the film stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in an early role and Karl Urban as soldiers sent to secure a science facility on Mars after contact is lost. Ironically, the film's development resided in development hell for a number of years as the rights to the franchise were passed around from studio to studio. Eventually, the rights returned to Universal and the film began production in 2004. Despite a $60 million budget and the presence of future A-lister Johnson, the film bombed at the box office with global takings of around $56 million. Hopes were high for a sequel if the returns were good but it is unlikely such a film will be green-lit any time soon.
What's it about?
In the year 2046, a science station on Mars is mysteriously attacked by forces unknown. With a distress message sent to Earth, a heavily-armed military team arrive to investigate the circumstances behind the assault and rescue any surviving members of the science team. Led by Asher "Sarge" Mahonin, the team quickly begin to secure the facility while another marine, John "Reaper" Grimm heads off to one of the labs with one of the resident scientists - his sister, Samantha. Once there, he discovers a dig site which contained bones of a previously unknown genetically enhanced species.
Attempting to treat one of the injured scientists, Sarge and his team find themselves led into the station's sewers by a strange creature. It soon emerges that the station is home to a veritable army of monsters that begin to ruthlessly hunt and kill Sarge's team. As Sam and John search desperately for answers, Sarge is faced with an uncomfortable decision...
John "Reaper" Grimm
Dwayne Johnson *
Asher "Sarge" Mahonin
Dr Samantha Grimm
Gregory "Duke" Schofield
Marcus "Pinky" Pinzerowski
David Callaham & Wesley Strick *
Release Date (UK)
2nd December, 2005
Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Johnson)
What's to like?
Given that the first game in the Doom series was released in 1993, it was perhaps unwise to create a film that would only appeal solely to fans of it. If anything, the film borrows heavily from the hugely successful third game that was released in 2004 which revived the franchise after years of stagnation. This was a smart decision - instead of being a crude, one-dimensional shooter, the film uses multiple opportunity to scare the bejeezus out of the audience. Well, that's the undoubted intention and for viewers oblivious to horror film clichés, the film might work as a genuine chiller.
Sadly, it isn't as innovative or boundary-pushing as its video-game inspiration. The closest Doom gets to innovation is a hugely impressive first-person perspective towards the end of the picture - many years before the likes of Hardcore Henry used it for an entire film. Unfortunately, it isn't enough to save the movie from being a poorly made horror shooter that wallows in stereotype. Perhaps if the budget had allowed, making the whole film first-person perspective would have proved more immersive and involving for the audience. Instead, they have to make do with constant violence, bloody effects and a story that makes little sense.
- The legendary BFG gun is found in a locker marked IDKFA, the in-game cheat code used to unlock all guns, ammo and keys. Two BFGs were made for production that vibrated when fired, both of which were kept by Johnson.
- Vin Diesel was offered the lead role but rejected it. Johnson was also originally offered the role of Reaper but chose Sarge instead, believing the character to be more interesting.
- The scientists Dr Todd Carmack and Dr Willits are named after co-owners of id Software (the company behind the Doom games) and developers of Doom 3 which formed the basis for this film.
What's not to like?
Anyone hoping that Doom would be the film to break the notorious curse of video-game adaptations are very much barking up the wrong tree. For starters, the games weren't known for their narrative depth and the film struggles to stretch the premise beyond an hour or so. Characterisation is also jettisoned in favour of awkward nicknames and macho posturing, apart from Pike who has little to do besides get herself in predictable peril. In the end, the film boils down to your generic slasher movie where you place bets on which characters will survive and who is next to die in gruesome fashion. The only difference is that instead of a memorable villain like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, you get a bunch of poorly animated CG beasties.
The cast don't help the cause because hardly anyone injects their role with much charm, personality or enthusiasm. There is a plot twist towards the end when one of the characters suddenly starts acting like a tool with nothing to indicate that such a twist was coming. I found it jarring until I realised that the sole purpose of the heel turn, in wrestling parlance, was to give the hero somebody to scrap with in a finale showdown. But the film's ham-fisted storytelling and lack of anything really interesting meant that I was simply relieved to have finished watching it. It feels like a throwback and in this post-Matrix world we're living in, that simply doesn't cut it.
Should I watch it?
I wouldn't bother. The film is one long pursuit in the dark of monsters we can't see properly until they decide to start hunting the characters who are dumber than rocks and about half as interesting. There are plenty of references for die-hard fans of the games to enjoy but for your average viewer, Doom does nothing for those who are still waiting for a decent movie based on a video-game. Trust me, the wait goes on...
Great For: hopeless fans of the games, undemanding action fans, mocking The Rock
Not So Great For: actors like Pike who deserve better, horror lovers, studio executives wondering which game they'll ruin next
What else should I watch?
They are two paths you could go down at this point. Hollywood has a long and inglorious history of peddling relentless violence in the name of entertainment from the likes of Rambo III and Commando. On the other hand, Hollywood has an extremely chequered history adapting video games into blockbusting films. Ever since the mind-bendingly awful Super Mario Bros. confused gamers all over the world, we have endured efforts like Resident Evil, Street Fighter and countless Uwe Boll disasters. It says something when nonsense like Mortal Kombat is generally considered one of the better video-game adaptations.
Personally, I prefer to have my action movies with a plot that can't be written on the back of a beer mat. Both The Terminator and its ground-breaking sequel Judgment Day are brilliant examples of a decent and complex story interwoven with startling action scenes that still stand the test of time. The Matrix offers viewers a gripping trip into cyberspace as Keanu Reeves and the others dodge bullets and perform kung-fu in zero gravity. And while it might look a little rough around the edges these days, the original RoboCop offers plenty of action alongside a surprising amount of satire and philosophical musings of the nature of technology and humanity.
© 2017 Benjamin Cox