Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Razaaq Adoti, Dwayne Johnson
Screenplay: Dave Callaham, Wesley Strick
105 mins. Rated R for strong violence/gore and language.
Sometimes I wonder why studios and filmmakers keep trying to make video game movies. Sure, there’s a chance for profitability, but it seems to be a risky proposition. For each success, there are quite a few failures (and that’s even if you ignore Uwe Boll). For whatever reason, these adaptations keep coming (and I’m always hoping for this genre to finally break out the way superheroes finally did), and the mid-2000s were full of them. Today, let’s talk about one that has been mostly forgotten: Doom.
In 2026, a wormhole is discovered in Nevada that leads to Mars. This wormhole is named the Ark. Twenty years later, a research facility on Mars is attacked, and a squad of Marines is sent through the Ark to rescue any survivors and eliminate any hostiles. This squad is led by Sarge (Dwayne Johnson, Moana, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), a no-bullshit commander who believes his team can handle anything. Now, he has to team up with Dr. Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl, The World’s End), the twin sister of his own marine John “Reaper” Grimm (Karl Urban, Thor: Ragnarok, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), who works at the Martian research site. When they come across large aggressive creatures at the location of the carnage, they find that they may be in over their heads, but where did these creatures come from?
Let me get this out of the way by seeing this is not a terrible movie as some reviews would have you believe. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. It’s also not a good movie. It’s merely okay. Doom’s biggest problem is that it’s pretty much a remake of Resident Evil set on Mars. So many of the plot points and characters are similar enough that you might assume it was a complete ripoff. Doom isn’t a bad movie, and with a few tweaks, it could have been a much better film.
First of all, I think Karl Urban is a great lead. I was hearing that the original casting choice for Reaper was Dwayne Johnson himself, but Johnson felt that Sarge was a lot more interesting. This was a good call as The Rock was just starting to get involved in acting for films, and he wasn’t all that good. He shouldn’t have been leading films as he wasn’t strong enough. He’s since gotten quite a lot better at playing characters that suited him, much like Channing Tatum later did. Urban had been a more capable lead for the film, and he works quite well leading the film, and he has good chemistry with Pike (although I do not believe that their characters are twins). They are also aided by a few capable supporting actors including Richard Brake and Dexter Fletcher. Overall, there isn’t anything Oscar-worthy from these actors, but they fit well enough given a pretty underwhelming screenplay.
The creature effects would be pretty damn great to see if the lighting wasn’t so horrendous. It reminded me of Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem, which had some cool creature effects but was even darker. You can see enough in this film to know you want to see more, but it’s just too damn dark. The decision by director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave) to focus on practical effects as much as possible, and he even utilized Stan Winston Studios to help create the monsters, and I would have loved for them to be on full display, but the lighting kills it.
The gimmick of Doom is, of course, the FPS sequence which takes up a bulk of the climax of the film. It actually worked quite well for me as an action setpiece and gimmick (one that was later utilized in films like Hardcore Henry), and I would have liked it to be more utilized through the whole film. I don’t think it needed to be the whole film, but it worked pretty well and, for an action film, it was quite exciting.
Doom is a mixed bag. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. The problem is that the elements that work well are usually overshadows by the elements that don’t. Karl Urban is a strong lead, and I liked The Rock more on this rewatch, but the script is a bit muddled. The creature effects are cool, but the lighting makes them too hard to see. The gimmick is solid, but the film sold us a lot more FPS than we really got. It’s just a derivative but fine film. Doom can just be so much better.
-Kyle A. Goethe