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DOOM   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Wednesday, 14 December 2005
Not so much Doom as BOOM! BOOM!

I've been awake 36 hours. In a darkened room, the curtains closed. Everytime I close my eyes, even for a second, sleep tries to get in. But I can't sleep. I must stay awake.

For all that stands between Hell and Earth is me,and I'm down to half a clip on my shoulder mounted Gatling Gun . Something not of this earth and certainly not of God is around the corner,eager and willing to eviscerate me into little bloody pieces, and even though I've got my university finals in less than a month, that growling isn't going to go away.What I need is more caffeine, rub my eyes, and I'm going to go back to save the world from certain DOOM.

Good god, its like being in 1993 all over again.Because DOOM was the one reason I ever wanted a computer. It revolutionised PC gaming, not to mention the lives of millions of geeks with monitor burn in their retinas and that peculiar pale tan you only get from being hunched next to a computer screen in the dead of night, squinting their eyes and typing in cheat codes whenever they were down to their last few rounds. Back in those days, running around a darkened maze saving the world with the BIG FUCKING GUN was one of life's simpler, although more pixellated, pleasures.For gamers of a certain age, it caused more lost sleep than insomnia and red bull combined.

DOOM thus, has a hell of a lot to answer for, and anyone whose introduction to the world of computing was being Knee Deep In the Dead, well, there's a nostalgia which is no one else can ever, truly, appreciate; though through not so much rose-tinted spectacles as well, red with bloody gore.

But as we grow older and the PC systems speed up, the graphics look slightly less horrific and more horrifically dated. But that nostalgia remains of when you finally grab hold of the BFG 9000 (OH YES!), and that viscereal, child like thrill of knowing that all those zombies, imps, cyberdemons and hellspawn don't have a chance in hell against you and those 600 energy cells makes you giggle excitably, with a slight smirk. Hell, I just loved DOOM.

So, what could possibly go wrong? Well, If it was good enough for Super Mario Brothers, then it's good enough for DOOM. and Resident Evil. And Aliens Vs Predator. And many another 15 rated shoot em movie franchise with an easily malleable director based on yet another video game. Whats next? Tetris: the movie? (I hope not, though they did once make Tic tac toe vs. Global Thermonucelar War : the movie under the title War Games....)

Approaching it as a movie, DOOM is sure to disappoint a lot of people - especially anyone who didn't play the game to death. Like many a recent nobrainer blockbuster, It s dumb, fun, and filled to the brim wall to wall gunplay and gory bits.Approaching it as a movie adaption of a much favoured game, that gives you a different perspective - and in which case, I'm glad to say that DOOM , the movie, is an adaptation that delivers down to the last spent cartridge. A guilty, albeit derivative, pleasure of the least cerebral order. Owing more to DOOM3 than the original DOOM / DOOM2, DOOM the movie betrays the huge debt the video game owed to the sci-fi/horror movies the programmers obviously loved. Mutated beings, back from the dead, darkened corridors , big guns and dead marines, DOOM is woefully unoriginal. But damn, it is a blast. literally (especially when we see the BIG FUCKING GUN. did I forget to mention it before? whoops)

Storywise, it deviates considerably from the back story of the original first two games. Well, the plot of 'Run.Shoot.Run.Shoot. RUn. BANG BANG!' might work for your average action movie, so they've had to shoehorn some semblence of plot. Sadly, most of those dire action movies seem to be the domain of Andrezj Bertzowiak, director of Steven Seagal / DMX / Jet Li action vehicles such as Romeo Must Die, and Exit Wounds; and when he was announced as the director when the original director pulled out less than six weeks before filiming, my heart sank. I was beginning to think that maybe the only hope lay in the hands of Paul W.S. Anderson, the untalented Sci-fi hack who did resident evil and AvP. However, what we have here is a less than entirely faithful adaption, but still one of the most effective video game adaptiations i've ever seen, and far far better than anything else bertzowiak has done.

The deviations from the game originate from The fact that now these undead monsters are coming directly from hell has now been convieniently omitted. instead we have a anti-genetic engineering plot thread, lifted wholesale from the Quatermass series - Earth is seeded from the original Martians, who improved themsleves with genetic engineering but when the mutations turned murderous, escaped to earth to sustain their species. Yep, its that good old sub-Von Daniken 'we're all descended from Martians' nugget. Yet this is a far from original plot device - you do have to ask why the film makers thought that they could also get away with hokily stealing the plot from quatermass , Ghost of MArs by John Carpenter , and the Brian DePalma flop Mission To Mars all at the same time.Even more astounding is that they hoped no one would notice.

Given it takes huge chunks of Ghosts of Mars and Mission To Mars, the biggest influences here stylistically are not just the game itself, but perhaps unsurprisngly given its undead monsters,the recent slew of zombie movies. No one ever just seems to die here, they come back courtesy of the mysterious 24th chromosome that the Martians tinkered around with, like the undead of the Resident Evil movies and 28 days later, and dawn of the dead. Just mix in the group of soldiers and an facility on an alien planet where they need to rescue the colonists, and you've got a remake of Aliens, minus the big scary monster.

As I said, derivative as hell. And given that the soldiers here spend pretty much the entire film killing things, The oddly anti-war sentiments about the futility of over the top violence seem completely pointless and out of place for a film so fetishistic of weaponry and destruction, not to mention the inevitable monster vs good guys smackdown at the end. After all, the Rock has got all those muscles for a reason , and its not just to do all those films the guvernator himself can't do anymore.

Stylistically, it suffers considerably for anyone with a passing interest in the sci-fi/horror genre. For much of the film, it plays like a remake of Aliens; flashing orange lights, darkened corridors, grunts getting killed off by monsters, and a hackneyed underbaked corporations are bad message ; UAC, Weyland-Yutani, Umbrella Corp...whats the difference? they all want to meddle around with genetics and it all goes wrong...CLANG! goes the message with less subtlety than well, the BIG FUCKING GUN - sorry, the Bio Force Gun, to give it its proper name, which first time we see it, just hangs in mid air the same way that bricks don't, until the Rock (playing Sarge) picks it up with a pleasure which is almost sexual in nature. Yes, this film has a weaponry fetish so over the top it makes rambo looks like Bambi. Mix in the puns from Predator ("If it breathes, kill it", says the Rock, though he appears to have forgotten to check whether Zombies breathe or not...), and we're talking a Vietnam movie, Sci-fi style, down to the bits where the good guys turn out to be not quite so good after all and go kill-happy, applying the maxim 'we had to destroy the village to save it' to everyone. All thats missing is the line 'Do we get to win this time?' and Charles napier as the loyal company man in the white shirt.

Despite its clunkingly hackneyed sci-fi plot - there's a lot to commend in Doom. The Rock fills the screen up with presence, and Karl (Lord Of the Rings, Chronicles of Riddick) Urban makes an excellent foil. The set design is authethic and convincing, and the effects are, with a couple of terrible CGI helicopters aside, damn impressive, with the monsters recalling the Thing in places. It looks great, and the UAC complex in Mars is the best looking villains lair this side of Goldeneye, all chrome and corporate. The now infamous 'first person shooter' (FPS) sequence is done surprisngly well in a manner that even fits in with the plot, shockingly enough, and is a brilliantly realised homage to the game which shockingly enough, will make any hardened gamer giggle with delight. The pullback from the FPS sequence is also surprisingly well done, and what you have orverall is a film that plays down to its target audience - gamers who just want to revel in the simple, viscereal pleasure of mindless killing and violence. And in doing so, it does so brilliantly. So when you hear that chainsaw rev up and you giggle in childish glee to yourself as it starts cutting though the flesh and bone of space mutants, you never ask yourself just why a chainsaw is kept in a secure archeological dig in the nevada desert...let alone one which hasn't got any trees.....

C'mon, it isn't art. its entertainment. And it does entertain. Just put those awkward questions on hold, sit back and enjoy the ride. Given its origins, if you never played the game, it'll only be half the fun it could. but if you did play the game....well, you might just love it.Sure, you can lament the lack of 50ft high cyberdemons with rocket launchers for hands, or mutated Spider Arachnid Masterminds with gatling machine guns in their metal plated bellies, but what you get is a damn fun, but dumb, shoot 'em up - a guilty pleasure to the last man standing, surrounded by dead monsters, mutants, and spent shells littering the floor. Just Don't expect a Sequel....

Doom? its a blast...

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