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Doom Review

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by Simon Crust Feb 1, 2006

    Doom Review
    Ok, so when has a game to film cross over ever really worked? Really? From the relative lows of Wing Commander and Super Mario Bros, to the middle to low Mortal Combat to the utter dregs that is Alone in the Dark. Looks like there is little to even discuss. But what about Resident Evil, I hear you ask? Surely that was a good film, the jewel in the crown of the game/film cross over. Don't be fooled, Resident Evil was nothing more than a cheap rehash of every zombie ever made; the only good points about the film are Milla Jovovich, and they are covered up in the first few minutes of the film. However, I will say this, Anderson did manage to cram enough blood, testosterone and heavy metal into the mix to make it a hit for the MTV generation. Put in enough quick cuts, enough loud music, a gallon of blood per frame and a hot chick, who cares if the story is rubbish, of if the direction is off? The kids lapped it up, a sequel was commissioned and the rest is history.

    So where does that leave Doom? Doom, like Resident Evil, is considered a landmark of the gaming industry. It took the idea of the first person shooter (FPS) developed in Wolfenstein 3D to a new level by pushing the 3D engine to its limits. Rooms were no longer square, lighting and shadows became an integral part creating suspense, sound to become more than just the background music; by skilfully placing all these elements together a truly legendary game was produced. Helped by the multi-player function you could now play with your friends to wipe out, not only, the hoards of screaming demons but also your mates. The game became an instant hit worldwide and its legacy remains to this day. Doom 2 was released a year later again to the raptures acclaim of its fans. Building on this success, the designers ID software, decided to revisit their most famous game in 2004, that's ten years after the original, not surprisingly they were vary wary of the expectation, however, the result is a game that eclipses its forbears in becoming one of the most played games ever. Mindful of advancing technology, ID software actually designed the game to be played on the next generation computers; such was its scope. Little wonder then that some movie executive though that it must make a good film too. Perhaps learning from the mistakes of the past, or copying the formula laid down by Resident Evil, Doom plays to its strengths, dark corridors, salivating demons, kick ass action, pumped up metal and BFG's. But even with all this, it still manages to bore.

    The Sarge (The Rock) leads a crack squad of marines, the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, big on brawn, small in brain. The team consists of the standard squadies; two close friends from the ghetto, Destroyer and Duke; the religious one, Goat; the new one, Kid; and the one with a history Reaper (Karl Urban). The squad gets its leave cancelled when a distress call is received from a remote archaeological team on Mars and are sent to discover what has happened. The team travel to Mars by Arc, a kind on instantaneous travel, and upon arrival set up quarantine procedures. Assigned by the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) Sarah Grimm, Reapers brother, joins the team to extract and protect sensitive data. Because it turns out that UAC, the obligatory corrupt corporation, has been recreating genetic mutations first discovered in the remains of the archaeological dig; things have gone bad, creating monsters rather then the super humans they actually wanted. Note that this is a radical change from Doom the game's premise of a gateway opened to Hell and one gamers worldwide have condemned. The rest of the film is made up of running around darkly lit corridors with big guns, clunky dialogue, plot holes and contrivances.

    Now Doom does have some problems. First and foremost let's take a quick look at that plot; elite marines are sent to a remote off world outpost to check out the suspicious disappearance of the inhabitants and end up fighting for their lives in dark corridors. Familiar? The main beef I have with Doom is its lack of originality, forget the game name for a moment, let's say the film is called Mutant, the film would still be a dud because the plot has been done much better before. The parallels to Cameron's Aliens are quite obvious, however it pales compared to that superior film. The reason is quite obvious; Doom has no characters, and thus no heart. In its rush to get to the shooting all characterisation is left behind, the stilted attempts later on feel tagged on. Most annoying of all is the Sarge's descent into madness, whilst there is no need to explain away everything a little glimpse into what makes this guy tick and thus why he does what he does could have gone a long way into developing some empathy. The character of Susan too goes through a bit of a change; why she is so emphatic about the survival of her brother is once again unexplained. So, if there is no feeling towards the characters, we neither care if they live or die, so no matter how much suspense and horror is put into the picture all anyone really wants to see is action. But once again Doom comes up short, the action sequences are rather in frequent, annoyingly short and you have to wade through a huge amount of preamble before anything is seen. Or not seen in this case, for you see Doom is dark. Very dark. With just enough light to give a feeling about what is happening. An odd choice because the creatures are so lovingly created, look spectacular (but you have to see them in the extras to believe me) seamlessly integrating GCI and animatronics and take their inspiration directly from the game, they make so few brief appearances! Doom the game has masses of monsters that attack all the time. Aliens has masses of aliens that attack frequently. Doom the film has four monsters that attack five times. One final moan, this time about the marines. Drawing again on Aliens, the marines there were crack, with state of the art smart weapons, body armour, life readings, motion detectors, these guys and gals meant business. Now the R.R.T.S. have one gun each, custom coded so that only the individual can use it, no helmets, no armour, no motion detectors. How they ever expect to wage a war I don't know. Their biggest gun, the minigun, direct from the game, was used once. What a waste. I almost feel sorry for them, but that would mean feeling for the film and that ain't gonna happen.

    One thing I have to give to the film though, it does look good. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak is first and foremost a cinematographer and aided by Tony Pierce-Roberts the pair really make full use of the frame. Bold primary colours, light and shadow are used to the full to create the look and feel of the game. The film is entirely studio bound so there is full control of the lighting and there is a terrific attention to detail, be that in the creatures or the sets. Bartkowiak keeps a tight reign on the camera movements trying to invoke a sense of claustrophobia and suspense. If it hadn't been of the arrival of the heavy metal score he might have succeeded. Doom does wear its R certificate proudly; gallons of blood and plenty of swearing make sure of that. This DVD is the unrated version with an additional thirteen minutes of footage and presumably that is more gore, swearing and the addition of some monster nudity because there is no indication as to what has been added.

    I can't leave this review without mentioning the 'FPS sequence'. This a five minute run through one of the sets from the point of view of Reaper as he kills everything that moves, using a variety of weapons including his pistol, rifle, grenades and chainsaw. This is, of course, a direct homage to the game, and is the most original scene in the film. The whole film is beefed up by the presence of the heavy metal score, you know when an action scene is coming because the score is right there, and the FPS scene is no exception. I must confess to secretly liking this scene, it contains everything the film stands for in a neat five minutes, if only the rest of the film could have sustained this edge. As it is I found Doom a rather weak effort, unoriginal and after the credits rolled all rather boring. No doubt it will have its fans, as a no brain actioner there is much to gain, and if you come at it at that level you shouldn't be disappointed. I had very low expectations and as such found it better than I anticipated, however, it could have been so much more, thank god it wasn't so much worse.