Doom (2005) / Horror-Action
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, gore, and language
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: The Rock, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, DeObia Oparei, Raz Adoti, Richard Brake, Al Weaver, Dexter Fletcher, Brian Steele, Yao Chin, Robert Russell
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Screenplay: David Callaham, Wesley Strick (based on the "Doom" series of video games)
It's a safe bet that I'm in the minority when it comes to movie reviewers that are willing to give Doom a recommendation, albeit the slimmest one I can. I'd also guess that I'm also in the minority of critics that plays video games, and to further the fragmentation, I've also played the games on which this movie is based -- a lot. I wouldn't say that I am a "Doom" fanatic, but I am a fan, enjoying the creepy atmosphere, fluid gameplay, and dark and demented storyline enough to immerse myself in its world for seemingly endless hours and rarely tire of it.
However, I'm not here to review the video game, as there are many other sites for that, I'm here to review this movie adaptation. There is a difficulty in doing so, as I could easily review this to see how well the creators of this film have delivered the goods in terms of pleasing their target audience. On the other hand, while there are millions of people around the world that have played the games, there are many more that never have. With this in mind, I've decided to review this on whether or not I think it holds up as a standalone film, even though I feel I have sufficiently revealed beforehand that I do like the games.
The premise is that there is a scientific research station on Mars where things are going haywire. Earth sends the RRTS (Rapid Response Tactical Squad), a group of elite Marines, to investigate. They soon find themselves in the middle of madness, where scientists cower in fear, apparently under attack from mutated creatures that are either possessed by demons or are infected with a grotesque virus. The Marines have orders to contain the area, but never knowing who is going to turn into one of the creatures leads them to think they may have to exterminate all life in the compound before it gets out to the mass population.
There are many different types of audiences out there, and many different reasons why such audiences may be attracted (or repulsed) to Doom. I will break up my review to try to include some of the major groups, and hope this helps in your decision as to whether or not to waste time and money on this one.
"Doom" fans -- If you love the video game, it's likely you'll be entertained in the interpretation to find it a mildly interesting adaptation. There is little in the film you haven't seen first in the video game, but the creators of the film do add an interesting twist to the story that the games haven't explored (I won't use spoilers here). There is even a particularly inspired sequence where the film turns into the video game itself, in first-person mode, providing some welcome comic relief amidst the grime, blood and constant gunfire.
Fans of The Rock (Be Cool, The Rundown) -- If you love The Rock but aren't really familiar with the game, or you usually eschew zombie films, chances are that you will come away with some very strong mixed feelings about Doom. The Rock does show good screen presence, and definitely fits the role of the sergeant well, but he isn't really on screen as much as you might think from the billing, and he also isn't the most interesting character of the film. You'll want The Rock to kick some ass, and he does -- let's just say that you may not exactly like the role he chose to play in this one.
Sci-fi fans -- Doom is definitely science fiction in that it is set in the future, has space travel and other futuristic elements, and advanced technology, but it isn't really appealing to science fiction geeks in the way that another best-selling video game, "Half Life", is. Although the reasons as to the mutations seem more scientific in the film than in the game, you will most likely find it fairly skimpy.
Horror fans -- There's definitely plenty of blood and guts on display in Doom, and there are sufficient scares throughout. The monster models are creepy and faithful to the game, although not much different than other horror movies from which this draws inspiration. You'll still like it for what it is though.
Action fans -- Those that just want to see good action, Doom will probably deliver the most to you. It does contain one of your favorite actors in action, The Rock, and it is directed by one of the better directors in the genre, Bartkowiak (Cradle 2 the Grave, Exit Wounds). There is a nice look to the production, albeit a bit on the dark side (very much like the game), but the action is handled with finesse, and the confrontations are engaging enough to keep your interest. You'll probably add this to your collection come DVD time.
Everyone else -- For those that don't really fit into the above categories sufficiently to get a good feel as to whether this movie is for you, it is my belief that you'd do better to pass on this one. This is a film strictly for fan boys and genre fanatics if there ever was one, and definitely is not one to please every demographic. If you want a good original story, solid characterizations, or to see something you've never seen before, look elsewhere.
My final verdict
While I like the action and do think that the movie captures the video game on which it is based very well, there is one fundamental problem with Doom, and this problem is also the same for most video game adaptations as a whole. Basically, it is this: while there are movies that may be based on video games, these games are almost wholly derivative of movies in general. Whether you play "Doom", "Tomb Raider", "Alone in the Dark", or "Resident Evil", the essential ingredients of all of these games comes from the fact that they are immersing you into a cinematic story that you are the main actor of. Movies based on games that take their style from other movies are merely recycling ideas that are already recycled, and that is precisely why movies based on video games, to put it frankly, suck.
Doom has one or two clever ideas, and even as a derivative movie, it isn't nearly the worst of its ilk, but make no mistake, this is a movie based on a video game that liberally borrows ideas from sci-fi, action and horror movies. As long as you know that you're going to see plot elements, story backgrounds, and characters similar to other, better films, you will be in the right frame of mind to enjoy Doom strictly as b-movie entertainment and nothing more. Doom is a so-so movie that has its moments, some good and some awful, but isn't anywhere near the landmark work in the world of movies as it was when it changed the video game scene forever back in 1993.
©2005 Vince Leo