2005Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: The Rock, Karl Urban
remember playing the original Doom over a decade ago. Our sound card didn’t work and even at the time my computer was outdated, so the movement of the game lumbered awkwardly along while the music blared out heavily distorted blips and bleeps. The game was truly monotonous and predicable, but (and this is key) it entertained me immensely. In such a way, the movie version of Doom serves up a partially faithful adaptation, exhibiting a film that is both monotonous and predictable, but, unlike its source material, not so much entertaining.
Understandably, the act of reviewing such a film seems somewhat futile since most of us possess the foresight to identify its awfulness. I won’t lie to you-- I never once expected Doom to surprise me with a complex storyline or focused acting. However, sometimes a film achieves such a level of absurdity that it transcends its status to become entertaining and worthwhile in an entirely different way. This same notion drove the posthumous success of Ed Wood’s movies, and even now has the potential to elevate an otherwise shoddy film to the level of cult classic.
It was possibly an error to assume that Doom possessed such potential, but it seemed like just the kind of train wreck that might spark a few laughs. Unfortunately, Doom contains no discernable value either literally nor ironically, and at its core it appears as barren as the surface of Mars, which, by the way, we never see in the movie.
Instead of getting a good look at the red planet, we spend most of the film trapped in narrow corridors (yeah, just like the video game) with a group of marines that represent not characters, but numbers to later be exterminated by nasty monsters. Oddly enough, the opening half of the film does an adequate enough job setting up the tension, if only because it rips off countless other films that follow the same premise. But it hardly seems worth commending for following that tired formula of numerous false scares preceding the emergence of the real threat.
For some reason the movie supplies a far more complicated plot than it needs. Of course, since the screenplay falls just short of passable high school creative writing, the more in depth the explanations become, the more illogical the whole thing appears. Fans of the video game will be saddened to learn that the invading monsters are not in fact the hellspawn the trailers make them out to be, but rather genetic mutations resulting from an extra chromosome. Apparently the population of Earth used to dwell on Mars but after the effect of adding a 24th chromosome (which I assume they created synthetically) to their genetic makeup started turning everyone into monsters, they built a portal and fled to Earth, apparently leaving all those extra chromosomes behind.
I don’t know why I’m even bothering to explain all this, since as the film plods along it abandons much of this premise in favor of mind-numbing action. The Rock approaches each scene with the only facial expression he seems to have perfected: general confusion. Perhaps that would explain his inexplicable character shift later in the film, but that’s already looking too far into the matter, since identifying a shift in character suggests that there were noticeable character traits to begin with (and no, barking orders at each other and yelling profanities does not constitute acceptable character development).
To be honest, I have no idea who the intended audience for this film is, exactly. It certainly won’t appease those who come in for the action, since all the most violent scenes play out in a muted, uninteresting tone; I don’t expect it to actually scare anyone since the creature effects are of poor quality; and for fans of the original video games, that’s an entirely different story altogether.
What Doom fails to comprehend is that while playing a repetitive video can be entertaining, watching someone else play it doesn’t have quite the same charm. This concept escapes director Andrzej Bartkowiak when he supplies a gratuitously long and pointless scene shot in the classic Doom first-person perspective. Why? As bad as the Super Mario Bros. movie was, it didn’t contain a side-scrolling scene in which Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo bounced from head to head of their adversaries. No, this decision is not a successful attempt to please the fans, but a reflection of the mind-boggling choices the writers and director made that resulted in this monstrosity being unleashed onto an unsuspecting public.
Though it’s by no means unexpected, it still saddens me that during the same week that both Good Night, and Good Luck and Capote came out, Doom clinched the number one spot at the box office. It certainly snagged me with its advertisement saturation. Clearly the idea of viewing Doom for the novelty factor was a grave miscalculation, but after witnessing what may be the worst movie of the year, I shan’t make that mistake again.