I had originally watched Doom sometime shortly after its theatrical release back in ’05 and vaguely remember it being throwaway tosh so I returned to it the other night with the intention of reviewing it for the ISCFC. I really wish I hadn’t. It isn’t just forgettable, it’s boring, woefully produced, atrociously shot and basically just a big fat all-round stinker.
Hollywood has been chewing up good video game material and squatting out terrible adaptations for quite some time now without one producer actually being able to get the point of the differences between what makes a good game and what makes a good film. However, it strikes me that integrity really isn’t the first box ticked when pitching these ideas to the money men, in fact I don’t think such a box exists for the genre.
Doom opens in a poorly lit laboratory full of screaming white lab-coats running for their lives around cheap looking set corridors covered in flashing strobe lights and, after a bit of bloodshed, one of the scientists manages to lock himself in a room and send an SOS message to base before being confronted by the beastly intruder. Cut to a room full of grunts with each grunt stereotype sufficiently fulfilled; The good one, the big angry black one, the libidinous black one, the mute Asian one, the nervous new recruit, the sleazy creep (played by rent-a-creep Joe Chill from Batman Begins) and the buzz-cut loner and headed up by The Rock (yes, this was before he was credited as Dwayne Johnson) of course.
These paper-thin ragtag clichés then suit up and travel down a big elevator to be briefed on the clean-up mission. Upon arrival they meet Dexter Fletcher as a human segway then travel to the secret lab on Mars via a floating orb of liquid where Rosamund Pike is introduced to explain the plot and bore the target audience while doing so (in fact she only appears whenever exposition is needed, she may just as well be credited as ‘boring plot woman’). Then nothing happens. For ages. The soldiers just walk around some dark corridors saying stuff like “I’m taking a shit you fucking gimp”, “we’re a couple of million light years from breakfast” and “a monkey Sir, some kind of monkey” thus filling out the 100 minute runtime with the stale vapours of poorly written and shoddily delivered dialogue.
The problems of Doom are plentiful, aside from a puppy-fat coated Karl Urban trying his best with his part the film has no redeeming features at all and that isn’t an exaggeration. All aspects fail but not spectacularly, just ordinarily, it doesn’t reach any kind of height to plummet from, in fact it never even approaches second gear let alone take off. It even fails in its failing as there are worse films around than Doom but it’s not interesting in the slightest and for a film based on a game with constant shooting and bloody violence there is a remarkable lack of constant shooting and bloody violence.
Aside from the used toilet paper of a script the story is equally limp; a missing chromosome that chooses its hosts has the ability to define a ‘good’ or ‘evil’ soul and change the suitor’s body to reflect their inner machinations which just means that the nothing characters turn into mindless beasts while the protagonist turns into a God-like figure (IDDQD anyone?) and the main antagonist becomes a reverse version of the hero just so they can have a big fist fight at the end complete with added elbowdrops and DDTs. There is a WWE wrestler in it after all.
The lighting is almost non-existent being on a par with the terrible AVP:R, in most of the corridor scenes you can’t see what’s going on and when we finally do get some action it’s mostly unintelligible shadowy shapes followed by the occasional muzzle-flare. The camerawork doesn’t help with visual identification either basically making redundant its whole point of being there and maybe the most inevitable part of Doom is the nu metal soundtrack to accompany every action scene confirming its status as an unoriginal, unchallenging, idea-vacant hatchet job. Even their money-shot, the first-person scene, is bland and totally mishandled looking more laughable than effective and making one wish they were playing the game instead and not sitting through this travesty.
Absolutely nothing works in this film, it feels like pre-production of Doom consisted of viewings of Aliens and Predator followed by a meeting where the subversive fun, camaraderie and good character writing was stripped away leaving the bare bones of an incredibly basic genre piece to be forced clumsily together by a crew of out-of-their-depth hacks. Polish cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak was the head hack responsible for this ill-contrived excavation who had $60 million thrown at him by eager producers looking to cash in on the video game’s success, a ludicrous decision to fill his boots so extravagantly since his previous directing credits included Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 the Grave. Not entering anywhere near so bad it’s good territory Doom is just plain awful however one can’t help but admire just how bad it is.
– Greg Foster