Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Directed by: Andrezj Bartkowiak
Screenplay: Dave Callaham & Wesley Strick
Starring: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Raz Adoti & The Rock
As far as video game to movie transitions go, Doom is a pretty solid bet. Having never really played the video game (I started and stopped with Italian plumbers jumping on mushrooms and blue hedgehogs collecting gold coins) I can’t really comment on how faithful this adaptation is compared to its source material but as a sci-fi, action film about a squad of marines being sent to Mars to investigate some genetically enhanced beasts running amok, it’s pretty decent. The Rock plays one oorah-loving, semper-fi obsessed military Sergeant (aptly named Sarge) who leads his platoon of unlikely soldiers to a research facility on Mars where some experiments have gone very, very wrong.
Despite some ropey dialogue and the occasional dip in tension and intensity to stereotype the characters a little more in order to get a giggle out of the teenage contingent who will lap this film up, Doom is often effective in its tense stalk and slash approach and gore filled action. Which is surprising since it comes from the director of such action garbage as Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds. But director Bartkowiak and his crew have crafted a moody, gore soaked action flick that is equal parts intense and blood spurting fun. Now the script is pretty straight down the line: a bunch of monsters are loose in a quarantined Mars facility; tough talking soldiers are sent in and picked of accordingly; and those left alive fight for survival. The story might be simple but it has guts, both in characterization and those that are ripped from some unfortunate’s body. The gore is requisitely nasty though never overplayed, the violent tone of the film set from the get go. Tension is nicely built as the characters roam the facility trying to figure what is going on and there are frequent bursts of solid action.
The Rock seems to be having fun as the sweary Sarge and it’s cool to see him play a character that starts off nice but becomes more and more of a dickhead as proceedings develop. Richard Brake (Batman Begins) is also effective as sleazy Corporal Portman, a narcotic carrying, sex pest and Ben Daniels (Law & Order UK) as the religious nut Goat, is also memorable and when was the last time you saw a character that self harms in a video game movie? But it is Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) who has the most guts, as tough and sexy Dr. Samantha Grimm. Never relegated to the damsel-in-distress she thankfully doesn’t become a gun-toting hero like the boys either but is still a ballsy female character in amongst all the testosterone and shows a realistic amount of fear and aptitude when proceedings call for it. She is also damn sexy!
Having mucked up his earlier action films, Bartkowiak gets the set pieces right here. A nice balance between extreme firepower and limb severing goodness, the action is tight and fast but flows well and packs a punch. Ace Hong Kong coordinator Dion Lam (Black Mask, Spiderman 2) choreographed much of the action, infusing the scenes with bite not least a hard impact fight between two characters in the second half of the film. But it is the awesome first person shooter sequence that stand outs. Imitating the game in style (seems I do know something about the game) this sustained point-of-view (POV) action sequence unfolds as if we are Karl Urban’s character, John Grimm. Beasties and messed up people jump out of corridors and down from air vents only to get blasted away or chain sawed to bits POV style. Cracking stuff and well sustained, not just a quick 30 second gimmick.
Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat still hold the top spot for video games to movies but Doom isn’t far behind. Solid, big budget action sci-fi that again show’s The Rock should make more tough action films and ditch this whole ‘lets-make-Disney-movies-and-let-a-committee-control-my-image’ approach he seems to have adopted lately.