I remember watching the Doom film on TV about a year after it came out and thinking “well, it was generic, but still a good laugh”.15 years later and I feel half the same, in that it’s generic, but not really a good laugh any more. Now if you look at the original game you’ll see there isn’t much to go on, but that doesn’t mean they had to create the most cliché group of Space Marines ever conceived and remove all the demons! Ah well… let’s take a look!
85 personnel at the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) research facility on Mars are attacked by an unknown assailant. Following a distress call sent by Dr. Carmack, a squad of eight Marines are sent to the research facility…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“That’s one Large Bloomin’ Blaster!”
The main thing that stood out to me was the visual effects. Certain CG shots haven’t aged well, but the creatures themselves look good due to good practical effects used for most of them. There are some well shot, if not cliché, moments too, especially when the team are in a dark sewer tunnel with one of the creatures. That was pretty much the highlight of the film in terms of things actually well done.
That being said, people like The Rock’s Sarge, Karl Urban’s Reaper and Ben Daniels’ … religious guy, were well acted, even if most of the dialogue was pretty pants. The Rock’s reactions to the BFG were good though, that was the right kind of cheesy! Actually, thinking about it, the first time I watched the film I was surprised by Sarge’s turn as a bad guy towards the end of the film. He follows his orders to the literal end, telling his men to kill all the unarmed civilians and any other survivor to stop the spread of the monsters, even when there is no guarantee the civilians are even infected. It was a nice surprise, though I would’ve preferred a showdown with a large demon as the climax rather than a The Rock and Karl Urban fist fight…
The film also has a weird mix of sometimes being completely against the feel or lore of the game, and going too far with it, so I kind of respect the now infamous sequence where the whole film goes into First Person, but at the same time it was … misjudged as something that would work in the film.
Sarge and Reaper are in awe of the bad acting before them.
The writers really didn’t try here, did they? The Space Marines couldn’t be any less believable if they tried (and I’m not just talking about the fact they’re SPACE marines, obviously). Sarge is the “just following orders” leader, Reaper is the sympathetic protagonist with someone to save (partial credit for making it his sister rather than a love interest), Destroyer (Deobia Oparei) is the bad ass large gun carrying guy, Goat is the previously mentioned religious one, Duke (Raz Adoti) is the comedy black guy (partial credit for neither him or Destroyer being the first killed) Portman (Richard Brake) is the sleazy cowardly one, “Kid” (Al Weaver) is the young inexperienced one, and Mac (Yao Chin) is the Asian character who makes fun of having a hard-to-pronounce name (partial credit for not giving him a sword or something).
Their interaction is properly cringey. Portman going up to ladies and saying “its an emergency, I’ll have to strip search you!” or Goat quoting the bible in a tense situation and freaking people out. Scenes with Destroyer going toe-to-toe with an Imp or Portman hiding in the toilet to try and call for help before being murdered in the stalls. So much of the film feels like it could’ve been spat out by a random generator.
Reaper’s sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike) is the character I felt was the worst acted of the bunch. Nothing she said was believable and it was all done in the same monotone, whether it be scientist talking science, sister talking to brother, or victim about to be killed by monster. The other characters may have been generic copy and paste archetypes but at least they acted the best they could. A scene where the transformed Goat (as in the character, not the animal) was banging his head on a window to stop himself from turning, her screams at each thump were really poor, turned the scene into a joke. I remember feeling the same about her performance in Die Another Day, and yet she went on to rate extremely highly in later films, so… I guess she’s only as good as the material she’s in, maybe?
First Person Shooting a Pinky… an odd sentence…
As I mentioned off hand already, the First Person sequence was a fun idea but doesn’t work, and is full of weird scenes of zombies laughing at the camera before being killed like one of those old FMV lightgun games you got in the arcades… which I guess is a funny game reference inside a game reference, if that was intentional. There is also a scientist who has no bottom half (and yet is able to survive on a set of motorised wheels) nicknamed “Pinky” (Dexter Fletcher) that turns into a demon that looks like the one from the games nicknamed Pinky, which was a nice nod, but that brings me to my last gripe about the film: taking itself too seriously.
Looking at Doom the 2016 reboot game, the people behind that knew that a story of demons pouring out of Hell on Mars being taken down by one man was stupid, so they went all in on it and made it fun. This film makes all the demons the result of human genetic experiments, and with the exception of the BFG (which is oddly blue rather than green when fired) there aren’t any of the more crazy stuff. All the weirder demons aren’t in, though I read that they were planning on a few more in the early stages but couldn’t due to budget. Still, by turning the hellspwan into humans and having the final battle be between two humans, it robs the film of any kind of sense of Doom-ness.
I think Sarge is supposed to come off bad for shooting this Imp here, despite Samantha claiming there’s a “chance it could be cured”… I was on his side, I think it MIGHT just be too late…
I probably would’ve given Doom a 3 back 15 or so years ago, the same as I gave the Tomb Raider films and the first Resi film, all example of harmless generic films. Now? Maybe I’ve watched too many generic films in this countdown that it’s starting to get me down. Either way, Doom somehow takes a game about demons from Hell invading a military base on Mars and turns it into a boring and cliché-ridden film technically devoid of demons entirely. Oh well, maybe 2019’s Doom Annihilation will get it right, check back… whenever I get around to that at the end of this marathon!