October 28, 2005

We're Doomed

Today’s Movie Review – Doom

Matt Watson – 2 1/2 Baseballs

Every couple of years somebody puts out a space marine movie. Aliens is probably the best example of the genre and everyone since has been trying to live up to Sigourney Weaver and her band of merry marines. Doom certainly doesn’t threaten Aliens status on the top of the heap but it doesn’t go down without a fight. There’s minimal story and plot here but that’s not the point. The movie is designed to get you into the car and keep along for the ride.

After one of the cooler studio logo treatments our story opens up on Mars. Sometime in the not too distant future a portal linking Mars and Earth will be found underneath the Nevada desert. The Union Alliance Corporation or UAC for short is given the task of figuring out why it’s there and what happened on the other side. They create a research facility on Mars and that’s where the roller coaster ride begins.

Deep within the research station something is chasing a group of scientists. It’s something big and mean and it’s definitely not E.T.. The last surviving member of the group manages to get an SOS out and UAC sends in the cavalry. Our intrepid group of marines is your standard bunch, complete with butch nicknames. There’s “Sarge” the leader, played by The Rock. There’s “Reaper”, played by underrated character actor Karl Urban. You’ve got the token sleazy guy “Portman”, the religious fanatic “Goat”, the homeboys “Duke” and “Destroyer”, and the team wouldn't be complete without a rookie, here originally named “The Kid”. It’s their job to rescue the scientists and take back the facility.

What follows is standard space marine opera, complete with things that go bump in the dark and big guns that make even bigger bangs. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak does an adequate job at the helm. I was heartened to see that the research facility at least had a nice lobby. Of course the rest of the place is a maze of steam pipes and unlit corridors but it looks like a corporation could really own the place. There’s also what I call the obligatory hero shot when we see our marines in all their badass-ness. The Right Stuff contains the most memorable hero shot and it’s a given you’ll see one here. Doom introduces some new takes on technology particularly the nano wall and the portal. It shows a little bit of creativity by the screenwriter and the effects team.

Doom’s most successful set piece comes late in the film when the audience gets to ride in the first car of the roller coaster in true first person shooter style. For anyone who’s played Doom or Halo or any other of the myriad first person shooter games out there this is a treat. For anyone else it will probably make you a bit nauseous. Thankfully the point of view sequence is deftly worked into the plot so it doesn’t feel completely gratuitous.

According to rumors the Rock was originally offered the role of John “Reaper” Grimm but turned it down in favor of playing “Sarge” whom he thought was more interesting. He definitely made the right choice and he does a lot with the little material he’s given. Karl Urban continues his string of good performances, most recently Eomer in The Lord of the Rings saga, and Vaako in The Chronicles of Riddick. Rosamund Pike joins the fray as Grimm’s archaeologist sister who’s stationed at the facility. It was refreshing to see the heroine as a sister instead of a patched on love interest. The story isn’t exactly dripping with character development but the cast does a good job with the opportunities they have. We’re just going to ignore the pseudo-science. It’s pretty bad but within the frame of the film it’s not egregious.

Doom provides the audience with a couple of good scares, a couple of good fights, some cool technology and some tough space marines. The film moves along briskly and there’s enough good tension builders to keep the audience on their toes. While it’s not Shakespeare it does deliver and that’s exactly what you want the Semper Fi space marines to do.


Nate said...

I was impressed that this movie actually managed to transcend the video game adaptation genre. It should entrench itself firmly in the pantheon of mediocre sci-fi popcorn flicks. Sadly I anticipate a sequel.

Borders said...

I was very impressed with how well the look and feel of the movie matched up to the newest installment of the game, Doom 3. If you've played the game much (me, for only a few hours, but long enough), you definitely recognize many of the rooms in the movie, as they look very similar to what you encounter in the game. The single player version of the game is one of the creepiest games I've ever played, and the movie definitely did it justice. I chuckled at the scene where Goat accidentally kicks the metal container down the flight of stairs - that happens in the game almost exactly (except you are in control of the character that does it) unless you are extremely careful and/or lucky. Definitely having played the newest installment of the game heightened my enjoyment of the movie. :-)

Dave said...

And for the record, Watson didn't want to go.

Watson said...

For the record, it wasn't that I didn't want to go. It was that I thought the movie was going to be horrible.