In the past few years, videogames have exploded to the forefront of popular culture. Popular games and game consoles have immense communities of religiously-devoted fans, but alongside the multitude of gamers who want to play the newest releases, there are retro gamers who seek out thrills from yesteryear, either out of nostalgia, interest, or the prohibitively high prices of the newest games and systems.
It’s inevitable that film adaptations of popular games would appear on the scene, and appear they did. Resident Evil and Silent Hill inspired a handful of films, and there’s always the infamous Super Mario Bros. Movie. Many of these films are either competent or enjoyably bad, but Doom exists in a state of limbo. Its strengths almost perfectly cancel out its flaws, and what you end up with is a movie that, overall, is simply unremarkable.
Drawing loosely from the video game of the same name, Doom is about a group of marines executing a search-and-rescue mission after receiving a distress signal from a research facility that was struck by an unknown assailant. Owing to a notable lack of both Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids, the marines try to piece together what went down in the facility. The mysteries become even more mysterious when the team finds a survivor named Dr. Todd Carmack, who, tears off his own ear and later mutates into a demonic monster, much like Vincent van Gogh. From there, events spiral out of control as the strange creatures that wreaked havoc in the research facility begin hunting down both the marines and the non-mutated, two-eared survivors.
Right off the bat, Doom’s special effects look powerfully impressive, and have mostly aged well. Plenty of attention was put into making the crazy sci-fi tech look realistic, and the menagerie of monsters look terrifyingly grounded in reality. They’re covered in blood, mottled skin, claws, and modest amounts of strange monster goo. Many of the scenes in which they appear are dimly lit, adding to the “creep” factor. Often, it seems as though the marines are battling malicious shadows, with a claw or an eye only occasionally coming clearly into view.
But sadly, no amount of effects and viscera can hide Doom’s “color by numbers” approach to making an action horror flick. With one exception, which I’ll get to later, Doom lacks anything even remotely resembling ambition. The movie’s various creepy crawlies, while excellently detailed, look like they’ve been ripped out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The dingy hallways of the research facility bear a striking resemblance to the colony on LV-426 in Aliens.
The sense of déjà vu in Doom is compounded by how neatly many of the marines fit into typical “jarhead” stereotypes. Sarge (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a gruff leader, Portman (Richard Brake) is a creepy weirdo, and The Kid (Al Weaver) is a bright-eyed and impressionable rookie.
With that said, as I mentioned earlier, Doom features one truly unique and stylish scene. Late in the film, there’s a five minute-long sequence shot entirely in first person. It looks like the original videogame come to life, as corridors are run through and hellish beasts become intimately acquainted with hot lead. Many of the monsters in this scene are taken straight from the game, and it’s easily the highest point of the movie, feeling like a thrilling amusement park ride in movie form. If the film were more saturated with that kind of style and ingenuity, Doom could’ve been a legitimately good movie.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Doom is by no means a good film, and while it has its strengths, it’s also riddled with weaknesses. The effects are impressive, but the writing isn’t. Doom isn’t entertainingly awful or truly good, it’s merely boring. Check out the first-person scene on Youtube, but don’t watch the movie. Alien, Aliens, and Event Horizon are far better choices if you want a dark sci-fi thriller. Doom, while not terrible, doesn’t have anything that makes it worth watching when there are so many better movies available.
*images from superiorpics.com, 2flashgames.com, and giantbomb.com. Video from Movieclips Trailer Vault