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Doom

Reviewed By Matt Mulcahey
Posted 03/25/06 17:54:06

"Could someone please press reset on the entire video game genre?"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Iíve always found bashing on the artistic inadequacies of a movie like Doom to be an exercise in pointlessness. Movies like this are in no way intended to hold up under intense critical scrutiny, and the only productive way of evaluating their merits is to gauge whether or not the intended demographic will be appeased. Considering I havenít watched wrestling since the days of Tito Santana and my video game infatuation ended with the obsolescence of Sega Genesis, I canít answer that question for fans of the Rock or devotees of the influential first-person shooter game Doom is based on. But as a connoisseur of archetypical 1980s hammy sci-fi monster flicks, I found much to enjoy in this shamelessly redundant B-movie.

The year is 2046, and for the past two decades researchers have been conducting weapons and bioengineering experiments underneath the surface of Mars following the discovery of a teleportation system built by an extinct civilization of red planet humanoids.

Anyone who has seen even a fraction of their favorite video storeís sci-fi section knows that bioengineering experiments equate to bloodthirsty mutants, which are exactly what await the Rock and his team of clichťd marines (names like The Kid, Duke and Mac tell you how much thought went into the characters) when they arrive on Mars to investigate the disappearance of a team of scientists.

Thereís also a convoluted backstory involving The Rockís right-hand man Karl Urban and his estranged twin sister, an archaeologist at the Mars station, but all you really need to know about the plot is that large men with big guns shoot at cannibalistic zombie creatures. That is, after nearly an hour of wandering aimlessly around badly lit corridors with flashlights and grimaces while listening to suspiciously unbelievable scientific mumbo jumbo about chromosomes, genomes and cell division.

The hard-assed marines versus monsters bit marks Aliens as the film most egregiously targeted for assimilation by Doom, but itís far from the only one. The script from newcomer David Callaham and veteran Wesley Strick (True Believer, Cape Fear) and the ďstyleĒ of Exit Wounds rap-fu director Andrzej Bartkowiak also borrow bits and pieces from Resident Evil, Predator and Event Horizon.

That said, Doom does make attempts at transcendence, even if they arenít all that successful.

By casting the Rock in what turns out to be a villainous role (the former wrestler had his choice of parts, and decided to leave the heroics to Urban) and toying with audience expectations (the Rock delivers the line ďIím not supposed to dieĒ as he is drug away by the creatures), Doom flirts with the sort of genre deconstruction that has yet to bleed over from the post-Scream horror films into science-fiction.

By including a five-minute section photographed in the same style as the gameís first-person shooter approach, Doom also hints at a sense of self-awareness, though ultimately the sequence ends up looking as ridiculous as Uwe Bollís video game clips in House of the Dead and extends a running time that is already dangerously overlong.

But it isnít these failed attempts at distinctiveness that I enjoyed in Doom, but the filmís overriding sense of familiarity. More than anything I appreciated the film as a nostalgic experience, one that recalled my formative years in the 1980s spent gobbling up any and all cheesy horror and sci-fi flicks at the local mom and pop video shops, when those still existed.

So what demographic will Doom appease? Those with fond remembrances of Xtro, The Terror Within and Creature and too much time on their hands.

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