The live action version of the popular ‘first-person shooter’ videogame hits theatres and is surprisingly entertaining. The trailers for Doom had been pretty weak. It looked like a carbon copy of the recent batch of abysmal game adaptations. Doom is a far more accomplished film. It establishes real tension and has a few twists that caught me completely off guard. That coupled with the extreme gore and unmitigated violence will leave any action lover with a smile on his or her face. Granted, my expectations were extremely low, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the filmmakers made a decent film.
The story takes place in the near future where a gate to Mars called the “Arc” has been discovered. Scientists establish a research facility and discover the bones of a lost race. These creatures were quasi-human, but had an extra chromosome that gave them super strength and other enhanced abilities. An accident at the post forces a quarantine of all travel through the Arc. A military unit is dispatched to recover the scientists and ascertain what happened. Duane Johnson aka “The Rock” stars as “Sarge”, the hard-as-nails leader of the team. His second in command, “Reaper”, is played by Karl Urban; primarily known for his role in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Reaper has an estranged sister (Rosamund Pike) stuck with the scientists on Mars. She helps the team get to the bottom of the mysterious accident, which unfortunately for them involves fighting a lot of homicidal monsters.
Doom initially sticks to the story of the videogame, but smartly deviates from it when the plot starts to become cliché. It goes in an unexpected direction and the result is a much more captivating film. Fans and newcomers alike should find this change refreshing. It’s not forced and actually adds a bit of depth. It segues the plot into the ‘first-person’ part of the film; which is obviously done as on homage to the game, but ends up being very cool and well done. The trailer made these scenes look terrible, but this is not the case at all. Director Andrzej Bartowiak (Cradle 2 the Grave, Romeo Must Die) knows how to shoot an action film and skillfully pulls the ‘first-person’ aspect off.
“The Rock” is on familiar ground, action-wise, with Doom, but brings a much harder and darker edge to this role. Doom is rated ‘R’ and his attitude reflects it. He curses like a drunken sailor and kills just about everything in his path. I can see why he would choose to make this film. His fans expect him to be an action star, but have never seen him quite like this. Hopefully he will continue to pursue edgier roles and not become another muscle-bound action has-been.
Doom is not Shakespeare and anyone walking into it must be aware of that. It’s ninety-minutes of carnage wrapped around a better than expected plot. The legions of gamers that spent hours mindlessly blowing away mutants should adopt the same attitude with the film. It’ll deliver the same primal satisfaction without the sore thumbs…hopefully.