Scientists at a remote facility have been messing around with some scary stuff again, and before you know it (or perhaps even before the movie begins), monsters are popping up to cause mayhem. Cocky military types are sent in with plenty of bravado but little information, and soon their corpses are piling up alongside the scientists'. Ultimately, saving the day (and probably the world) falls to a single badass hero. Toss in a taste evil megacorporation and a bit of excessive of violence, and you are now experiencing the film Doom, based on the hit games from id Software.
If this plot sounds extremely familiar, that is probably because it is. The basic structure is that of James Cameron's masterpiece, Aliens, in turn copied by numerous works since (such as the Resident Evil games and movies). And since Doom is already a movie based on a game that has little in the way of plot to begin with, its lack of originality is anything but surprising. It is merely the latest incarnation of a long line of horror/SF sharing a common central plot.
The bulk of Doom takes place on Mars sometime in the future, at a research facility where something is killing scientists. A crack team of marines led by Sarge (The Rock, minus his infamous eyebrow moves) and Reaper (Karl Urban of The Lord of the Rings and The Bourne Supremacy fame) is sent in to investigate. Rosamund Pike (who appeared opposite Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day) rounds out the cast as a scientist who happens to be Reaper's estranged sister.
For the action junkies in the audience, Doom offers plenty of decent action, and even a few campy jokes. The visuals are impressive and gruesome, but sadly unambitious. I was personally drawn to the film by the previews, which were full of point-of-view shots that effectively mimicked the classic first-person-shooter view found in the Doom computer game and its offspring, and hoped to see it mostly shot in such a manner. Sadly, Doom features only a single sequence (five or ten minutes in length) from this FPS perspective, while the rest of the film uses relatively conventional filming techniques.
In Doom's defense, that single FPS sequence is quite interesting to watch, coming across almost as a ride, as we viewers find ourselves seemingly marching through hallways, shooting zombies, and searching for survivors. The FPS perspective here, just as in an FPS game like Doom, is an attempt to put the audience in the shoes of the protagonist—but now without any ability to actually control that protagonist. And whether or not the makers of Doom intended it to be so or not, that experience is a relatively rare one in filmwatching.
Doom may find itself struggling more with the game's avid fanbase than with average moviegoers, though, thanks to a variety of little omissions. The supernatural elements of the game (like gateways to hell) are gone, replaced entirely by the SF aspects of the genre, and if you know what cyberdemons are, you may be sad to find that Doom includes none. Even the violence, while certainly excessive and hard to watch at times, is neither extreme nor frequent by today's standards—any action or horror movie buff will have seen far more and worse.
But Doom's most serious flaw is its overall serious tone. Unlike some previous movies based on video games, Doom is almost joke free, and what little camp there is often seems unintentional. Doom spends so much time in darkness and killing that it mostly forgets to utilize all that gore for a little slapstick and poor-taste puns. And when you are a video game movie with a plot that has been used in dozens of SF stories before, it seems like a mistake to take yourself too seriously.
Neil is a an aspiring writer who dreams of being a movie critic someday. He writes part-time for a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, while washing dishes full-time at night to pay the bills and writing movie reviews on the side.
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