Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Doom (2005)

The (soon to be space) marine squad of Sarge (The Rock), consisting of people will charming nick names like Duke (Razaaq Adoti), Destroyer (Deobia Oparei) and Goat (Ben Daniels), are sent to the Mars science base on a search and destroy mission. You see, something horrible has happened in the genetics lab there, and now hungry things are around you probably wouldn’t want to get back to Earth, nor to the main part of the Mars base.

Odd man out in Sarge’s team is Reaper (Karl Urban), who is basically an intellectual – at least in comparison -l who gave up on these pursuits because of the expected family trauma and is slumming with the psychopaths now. Reaper’s not too happy his estranged sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike) is coming with the group to rescue some research material, but if you think this isn’t the kind of movie that’ll end with a nice bit of family reunion, you’ve never seen a film before.

Of course, before new peace between siblings the gods have put a bunch of genetic mutations that need killing, and the revelation of the fact that mindlessly following orders leads to evil. Go figure.

I know, by all rights, I should be quite set against Andrzej Bartkowiak’s adaptation of First Person Shooter godfather Doom but I do have a heart for Aliens lite movies about shooty guys and monsters running through dark corridors. And that, if you ask yourself this highly important question, is exactly the sort of movie this is.

It’s a bit of a disappointment that Doom keeps away from the insane hell parts of the game series’ basic plot and replaces it with the usual dumb and careless experiments with alien DNA (oh, spoiler), as is the related fact that the more beloved monsters from the game make cameo appearances and most of the monsters our protagonists spend their time fighting are of the usual infected and alien suits type. However, it’s pretty clear something more lavish just wasn’t in the budget, and the film does do its best with the things it can afford, resulting in many a tight action scene, lots of shouting, and a smidgen of blood and goo.

If I say it’s all in good fun, I’m probably again sounding like I’m damning with faint praise, but Doom really is a fine bit of corridor shooter (oh, hi, Doom 3 meet Doom). It’s well paced, and using the genre typical character archetypes well. You wouldn’t exactly call the characters three-dimensional. or the treatment of their types subversive, but they do work well in the context of the film they are in. The script even surprises once or twice by being slightly more clever than strictly necessary. First when it slowly shifts its bad ass protagonist from Sarge to Reaper (a trick that probably worked even better in 2005 when the audience wasn’t used to Karl Urban as a leading man), and a second time when it actually starts to argue that, you know, shooting and explosions is fun and all, but from time to time you should probably think through the ethics of what you’re doing; which isn’t a thing you’d expect to find in this sort of shoot ‘em up film, and is even integrated into the plot well enough it actually works.

I also can’t help but feel sympathetic towards a first person shooter adaptation that includes a perfectly silly and cheesy, yet also intensely loveable, first person shooter sequence; I’m pretty sure Paul W.S. Anderson was quite put out when he saw Doom and realized he could have used over-the-shoulder cam in one of his Resident Evil films (which might explain a certain backwards slow motion scene in one of his RE films as a very particular kind of overcompensation). There’s really something irresistible about a film that uses that sort of scene without really breaking its perfectly straight (if one-liner lined) face for me.

Plus, the violence is fun, fast, and plenty, leaving Doom a much more entertaining piece of cinematic art than I’d been led to believe.

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