• Andrzej Bartkowiak
  • 2005

Not Overwhelmingly Disappointing…

I walked into this movie feeling very conflicted. On the one hand, I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I was 12 years old, and on the other, I remember the lame film adaptations of my other favorite video games as a kid, Mortal Kombat (Paul W.S. Anderson, 1995) and (shudder) Street Fighter (Steven E. De Souza, 1994). But believe it or not, the presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was what finally sold me on it. In fact, since The Rundown and Walking Tall, I’ve been singing his praises, even asking people not to call him “The Rock” anymore, since his ability as a performer extends so far beyond the pig trough that is professional wrestling, and he’s earned the right to be called by his real name. Although it seems that this is an unreasonable request. Apparently without The Rock, the people would have no eyebrows or elbows, nor would they be able to smell anything he was cooking ever again. So The Rock is here to stay, and Doom proves it. Let’s just hope Dwayne Johnson makes a couple more good movies to balance things out.

it is downright unreasonable to expect anything more from it

Let’s all admit it right here: We all know this is a terrible movie. By any sort of respectable cinematic standards, this movie is a waste of resources. However, and you know this if you’re a fan of video games, when viewing a movie based on a video game, it is downright unreasonable to expect anything more from it than a few awesome looking monsters, a few good firefight scenes, and some extremely cheesy dialogue. On these humble grounds, the film succeeds… for the most part.

Playing the original video game was all about the relentless and remorseless slaughter of anything that moved. There wasn’t much need for any mythology, plot, or character development, which is why the heavy handed and all too frequent insertion of them into the movie bog it down.

all hell breaks loose, like it always does

The short version is, some time in the future, some kind of express teleportation portal to Mars is discovered. A research lab on the dead, red planet has discovered humanoid remains, some of which were genetically mutated to have 24 chromosomes. Apparently this extra chromosome gave super human qualities to those beings that were inherently good, and made monsters out of those who were inherently evil. When mankind begins experimenting with these genetic anomalies all hell breaks loose, like it always does, and an elite force of rag tag marines is sent to contain the chaos with extreme prejudice.

Each marine’s stereotypical character immediately qualifies them as expendable with the exception of The Rock and one John Grimm, aka Reaper (Karl Uban). Reaper is personally invested in the mission because not only did his parents die in an archeological dig on Mars, but his sister works in the fateful research lab. Despite his rough neck, badass attitude, Reaper eventually emerges as the film’s sensitive hero, and it’s through his eyes that we’re shown the film’s climax: a seven minute long run through the facility shot in the first person, like the game. This zipping through hallways, blasting zombies and monsters around every corner proves to be one of the more satisfying scenes simply because we can sit back and take in the spectacle that used to have all our noses pressed against the computer screen.

There are really only four types of monsters in the whole movie: Zombie scientists, bigger zombie monsters that evolved from scientists, and two big “boss of the level” type monsters; one a condemned murderer turned into a bloodthirsty demon, and the other a crazy hell hound on wheels.

Why can’t it be a monster carving his face up?

The film moves along at a limping pace. That is to say, the action and suspense sequences only arrive after you’ve realized how long it’s been since the last one. Do we really need to know that one of the marines is so devout that he carves a cross into his arm after taking the Lord’s name in vain? Why can’t it be a monster carving his face up? Most of the film’s suspenseful scenes work well enough simply because they’ve worked well in so many other films. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die (2000), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)) borrows from Aliens (James Cameron, 1986), Species (Roder Donaldson, 1985), Stargate (Roland Emmerich, 1994), and every Navy SEAL movie you’ve ever seen on Cinemax at 2 am to create rather standard action movie fare that is really only engaging because of the nostalgia attached to the concept, and hopefully one’s inexplicable love for lousy movies.

I exited the theater feeling mildly disappointed, mostly in myself for paying to see such a movie. Not only was I a cheap member of a demographic, I was a cheap member of the same demographic I was part of 10 years ago! Could I really have succumbed to the Hollywood dreck that I usually rail so proudly against? Then I thought, “Honestly, what could I have been expecting?” This movie was pretty much everything it was supposed to be. I decided I was satisfied, because all I really wanted to see was some monsters eating marines, marines shooting monsters, and of course, the BFG.

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