Why did I decide to watch Doom? I found myself perusing the various films Netflix has to offer on Saturday night with no idea what I should settle on. Jackie Chan films are now ruled out because they appear to all be dubbed… ick. Not much new that could be watched in under 2 hours was appealing. Eventually I just stumbled across Doom and thought “I haven’t watched that all the way through before” and suddenly I was watching it. Well… that wasn’t a great decision. I mean, the film isn’t the worst thing ever. It’s not even the worst game adaptation. It just, kinda, is. It exists. Allow me to go into detail right after that link below.
So what is the plot to Doom? The game had quit a simple premise… no plot… but a premise. Marine is on Mars and there’s a portal to a hell like dimension and demons and stuff are coming through and then you shoot them a lot. The film, rather wisely, fleshes out that plot in order to create something a wider cast than just one can play and do a violence in. It also, rather stupidly, decides hell isn’t good enough and so genetic engineering and mutant creatures and super humans were needed. Also, Dexter Fletcher has a very bad American accent. Not sure if that’s part of the plot… but it’s important. It must be because I couldn’t stop focusing on it.
Oh, some marines are sent to a Mars base where some monster thing happened and a scientist there is the sister of Karl Urban and The Rock is with them. Then violence happens. I’m not even going to pretend that the genetic engineering aspect of the plot is remotely interesting. It’s just a convoluted excuse to have monsters that are basically space zombies. There’s scenes of exposition going on about 24th chromosomes and them turning some people into monsters but the people of Mars’ past were super human so maybe regular humans can use them. Then The Rock turns nasty and starts becoming a demon man and Karl urban is healed because he’s good and stuff and he gets to be Captain America for the finale.
So let us get into the meat and potatoes of this film’s problems. That being that the people making this film didn’t really “get” what Doom is about. They probably saw the game. I’m sure some played it. I get the impression many played Quake by mistake though. If you look at all the promotional works… well, some of, not all… that would be silly, you’ll hear them focus on the first person shooter sequence more than anything else. This scene is kinda infamous as it’s a centrepiece of the film’s final act and was used copiously throughout the trailers. Even the cover for the DVD mimics the scene with a gun pointing out from the bottom. A quote from the film’s producer John Wells on the first person scene says: “Doom without that would be a miscarriage of justice!”. This kinda shows just how much they missed the point.
Sure, Doom was a revolution in first person gameplay but it was the minute to minute action and the setting that really made it stand out. The game was demonic in a way other games hadn’t been. The film doesn’t have that. They focused so much on making a scene play out in a first person view that they stripped away the scenario entirely. They could have done a first person scene in any film. A specific type of shot cannot be the single signifier that links a film to its subject. That would be like making a Street Fighter film where the fights happen on a 2D plain. Whilst here, it is true, that they’re using the first person scene as an attention seeker, they did so with a higher priority than creating a world for that action to exist. If the world itself doesn’t feel like Doom then the first person sequence doesn’t feel like Doom. Also, that sequence, is really horrible to watch. It’s ridiculously fluid. There’s edits all over the place breaking the momentum up. It literally looks like that CGI Killzone 2 trailer Sony tried to pass off as actual gameplay from E3 a few years back. There’s an instant disconnect caused by the smooth motion and staging which is more akin to watching an on-rails light-gun game like Virtua Cop than it is a FPS like Doom. Enemies even pop up like they’re in a Mad Dog McCree game against CGI corridors.
Rosamund Pike is in this. She says science words and is Karl Urban’s sister so she has to have a terrible American accent too. She’s his sister so nerd boys don’t have to be all upset about a romance sub-plot because girls smell. Did I mention how weird Dexter Fletcher’s American accent was in this? I’m not even sure why he has it. Like, was it important that he was American. He’s a guy at this lab on Mars that they got to via a portal thing found deep under the Earth. Maybe on Americans are allowed through there. I guess only they get to explore the planet and advance science. If anyone else wants to go they’ll just have to find their own space portal blob things. Also, they have walls they can walk through in the future. They exist so a monster man can get stuck in one. Or because in the game there was secrets hidden behind walls you could walk through. Or was that another game? Does it matter? It’s just a dumb game movie and stuff. These nerds will eat that shit up, right?
I’m being harsh. The film is at least trying to be good. I’ll give it that. Karl Urban’s character has some personal demons. The Rock does a nice slow heel turn rather than just smacking someone with a steel chair like he used to do at his day job whenever he wanted to turn. Production quality isn’t too bad either in terms of how the sets are dressed and and lit. The monsters are a bit generic though. Clearly a lot of make-up work went into them but they just sort of appear as indistinct monster men. Apart from when Dexter Fletcher is turned into one. His name is Pinky, which is the name of the pink hunchback demon in the game. In the film he’s a weird pig-dog thing with wheels stuck to his spine cos Pinky had no legs and was in a wheelchair. And that’s why I think someone played Quake instead of Doom. The monster appears in that first person sequence and just looks silly.
So, yeah… that paragraph didn’t stay positive like I intended it to. Overall Doom is just not very good. There’s certainly some effort been put in but by the time you reach the finale and you’ve likely been made motion-sick by that horrible sequence and you’re watching two guys just punch each other a load you’ll just think “where’s the bloody demons?”. Why doesn’t this film end with a battle against some massive pissed off demonic looking monster? That’s how Doom the game would end. Not with The Rock wearing basic cheekbone highlighting make-up fighting Karl Urban pre-Judge Dredd badassery. The Rock has the BFG gun in this. It’s fired 3 times and each time it hits a wall. You don’t even see the second time it’s fired. But hey, they had that first person bit. Did you see that? Some guy dressed as a scientist monster popped up from behind a wall and the computer gun shot him. Pay up you losers!