Doom: Annihilation Review

We’re right near the end of this marathon of game-to-movies but we still have room for one more low-budget, bland adaptation that I’m betting most of you didn’t even know it existed. Doom: Annihilation saw what the previous film effort did and decided to… pretty much do the exact same thing, but with less budget. In other words it still feels closer to Doom 3 than the successful tongue-in-cheek reboot that spurred this film’s commission. Did it work?! Well, I mean if there was their plan was to remake Aliens but worse, it sure did…

Synopsis:

A group of UAC Marines responds to a distress call from a top-secret scientific base on Phobos, a Martian moon, only to discover it’s been overrun by demons.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

“That’s one Large Bloomin’ Blaster!”

This is one of those films where I’m not going to be too harsh on the visuals, and in fact there are some shots that work well. The practical effects on the zombies and demons are fine, and the CG is used sparingly (well, minus the final sequence) and it’s certainly up to “high TV” standards. It’s not bad at all, though I question making it full screen rather than cinematic letterboxing. I know this didn’t get a cinema release, but there is something inherently cheap about a film that takes up your whole TV screen… I guess it makes you think it’s a TV show instead of a movie… Anyway, the effects and sets are all fine is what I’m saying.

The plot of Doom isn’t the most complex, and in fact apart from Doom 3 the series revels in its existence as a first-person shooter above all else, which if you follow the link in the opening paragraph you’ll see Doom 3 suffers for trying so hard not to be Doom. So I’m won’t criticise this film for being pretty barebones in the plot department because it pretty much follows the plot of Doom perfectly fine, beyond there being only one kind of demon for 99% of the film, but again that’s the budget for you. There was some nice nods, like a helmet HUD that showed a map of the complex, the teleporters actually looked like the teleporters from the games, different coloured keys that get you to different areas that also looked just like the originals, and, of course, the BFG 9000, whose power is greatly reduced in the film but at least it shoots green plasma instead of whatever the hell the original Doom film did…

Dominic Mafham as Dr. Betruger is about the only actor/actress who stood out as actually good. He’s a scientist who must make a breakthrough or his budget will be cut and his lab shut down (original!), so he goes through the portal and evidently ends up going insane enough to make a deal with the demons, or is converted into one against his will… one of the two! He plays the smarmy Brit well, and the arrogant Brit well too, and generally does a great job as the lead villain in the final moments of the film.

The Bad:

It’s an Imp! … Apparently.

Are you looking for some originality in your characters? Well look elsewhere! Much like the first Doom movie this band of space marines couldn’t be more … generic space marine-y. Our lead of Lt. Joan Dark (Amy Manson) is just Ripley from the Alien series but more bland bad-ass than layered emotional character, Dr. Stone (Luke Allen-Gale) is your classic nerdy nice guy character (who I assume was accidentally named after a popular manga / anime series…), Private Winslow (Clayton Adams) is your cocky twat who becomes a cowardly twat before a slightly redeemed twat, and the leader of the mission Captain Savage (James Weber Brown) I kid you not actually mentions his intention to retire after this mission to be with wife and young child. He may as well have jumped out of the airlock right then and there… Talk about cliché!

The rest of the reasonably sizeable group of marines then just ticks off the other stereotypes and nationalities / races, like the large black guy with a big gun who screams as he fires and then makes some “that’s what I’m talking about” phrase, the “other female soldier” who has even less personality than the lead, the middle eastern soldier who’s really nice because we must not be racist, and a few other white guys who show very little before they’re offed. There was no effort to hide this film’s low budgetness in the script, that’s for sure. Sadly no one in film resembled the classic Doom Guy, or even donned any green armour, but hey-ho, they were clearly going for an Aliens vibe here, rather than any Doom vibe. In general the film is just survival horror, go from point A to point B, then from B to C before heading back to A and then having to quickly run to D for the finale, all the while members of the cast are being picked off one by one. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, that’s for sure!

The current survivors have a “who can last the longest without saying something incredibly predictable” competition to pass the time. The game lasts 30 seconds.

As I said in the “Good” section, I understand the budget issues, but I still dislike how most of the film was Space Marines vs. Zombies. Yes, there were zombies in the games, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be here, but that’s pretty much all there was for a good majority. The demons when they did show up looked literally nothing like they do in the games, given they end up firing fireballs I assume they were supposed to be the Imps, but they looked nothing like them. By the end of the film it’ just Ripley left, sorry, it’s just Dark left as all her team was wiped out, including nice guy scientist, and she’s thrown into the portal to Hell by now seemingly immortal Betruger. It’s here where they over-reached as Dark encounters an alien landscape with loads of CG Imps and a fiery knight demon… thing (that bears no resemblance to any game enemy) and it’s all too much for the budget, though it’s impressive enough given the level of the film, I suppose. She blasts the head demon with the BFG and jumps into a portal back to Earth, leaving some plasma grenades exploding behind her.

This is where we get the classic, arrogant writer/director problem, as on Earth Lt. Dark spouts some extremely, painfully “cool bad-ass” lines about wanting a “fucking drink” before she’s restrained and we here demons about to come out of the portal behind her, then we go to credits. Throw in the fact that Dr. Bertruger back on Phobos is still very much alive and you get that old problem of setting up a sequel that will probably never happen, thus leaving this film’s conclusion feeling… well, inconclusive. I mean the film isn’t even a year old as of this writing, so it might do well enough on DVD/Blu-Ray and Digital VOD that a sequel gets commissioned, but there’s every chance it won’t, so don’t leave your film so open-ended!

Overall Thoughts:

The exact moment where the film ironically turns into a video game cutscene.

Doom: Annihilation is another dull, low-budget generic-character-fest that if you’re into the sci-fi horror genre and want to kill an hour and a half you can have a laugh along with it, but regardless there is no point in this film having the Doom name attached to it. If it weren’t for some of the set dressing and the BFG this would just be a low-budget Aliens remake, rather than anything to do with the popular video game franchise. Me thinks Doom is all about having fun killing things in a game and is therefore not suited for an actual live-action story…

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