DOOM

Doom (2005): Andrzej Bartkowiak

Hey, remember the cool shooter for PCs from the 1990s? They made it into a movie. Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it? Well they did. It was a dope game, remember?

Video games have a poor track record when turned into movies, an interesting conundrum considering that video games are constantly trying to become more like playable movies. Universal gives the old college try in reproducing one of the progenitors of first-person shooters (FPS).

Union Aerospace Corporation’s (UAC) Mars research base is under a Level 5 breach, and six scientists are under lockdown. The only men for the job are the brave Marines of the Rapid Response Tactical Squad (RRTS), led by The Rock.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: Monsters, Mars, and Marines–the trifecta–collide in a shoot-em-up…of doom!

Hero (5/10)

Karl Urban plays John Grimm, nicknamed Reaper. When the RRTS gets the call to save UAC’s research facility on Mars, Reaper hesitates. His parents were killed on Mars at the archeological site, and he blames their deaths on UAC.

But he goes, partly because of orders and partly because of his sister, Sam. Reaper is the one man on the team with a level head an conscience. While guys around him are high, insane, perverted, or masochistic, Reaper just wants to do the job and save some lives.

He’s practical. When The Kid, high, yammers on about families as the two track a monster in the sewers, Reaper politely informs him that every word divulges their position. So does sloshing around in the water, I imagine, but that can’t be helped.

He’s caring. He wants to protect his twin sister, though she hardly needs his help doing that. They spat, as siblings do, but she saves his life before he evens the score.

He’s got fighting skills. Tangling with The Rock is no joke. Blow for blow, they match each other, impressive when The Rock probably has 50 pounds on him, or, as occurs during their fight, he’s got 200 pounds on Reaper.

He’s a great shot. In the climax, the movie’s point of view shifts to Reaper’s, a la the video game, and we, the viewers, get to rampage through a compound shooting at the baddies. Reaper hits about everything with one shot, even catching the attacking arms of creatures before they smash him with axes and chainsaws.

He wants to get over his issues with his parents. When RRTS is deployed, Sarge hesitates to bring Reaper. All we know is that “it’s been 10 years.” Since what, we don’t know until later. His parents died in the same facility now trapping his sister.

At one point Reaper comes upon a viewing platform, the only glimpse any character has of Mars’s surface. Sarge sees Reaper looking at the surface and asks him, “Is this where it happened?” Reaper answers with “Did you find the door?” He doesn’t want to talk about it, but he does want to get over it.

Reaper was an all-around decent guy with a bit of wit about him.

Villain (4/10)

The primary villains were the slimy monsters chasing the scientists and RRTS all around the UAC compound. They are skilled fighters and just as skilled in stealth. They stand seven feet tall, but can blend into the shadows.

We get little view of them until the final act, when they are seen fully fledged. Until then, the creepiest glimpse of a monster occurs in the massive sewer. Goat tracks one to a dark corner, where he sees only his white eyes glaring back at him. Suddenly, another eight or so eyes pop open on the same head, and the monster attacks. We already suspected these creatures to be freaky, but the dozen eyes were way too nasty.

The monsters infect others through tongue injection into the neck. One monster chases Grimm and Duke through a nano wall, only to be caught inside the wall when it shuts. That doesn’t stop it from projecting its foot-long tongue toward the two humans, eager to infect another. Goat suffers the same fate, and the wound gushes. Once the tongue strikes, it falls out like a tail on a gecko.

These monsters are also skilled fighters. We come to learn that they are actually humans transformed, but the first ones to attack the marines were scientists. That does not stop them from having tremendous hand-to-hand combat skills. A scientist could possess such skills, but that seems unlikely.

These creatures were as much horror villains as they were action villains. They were gross, and fantastic at fighting, but the problem lay in not seeing enough of them.

Action/Effects (3/10)

Not a lot of action scenes in Doom, which surprised me as much as it did you.

A brief scene takes place in the expansive sewers when a monster tracks and attacks them. Goat gets got, but the team chases the creature. As Sarge said earlier, “You hesitate, people die.” In Goat’s case, he hesitated, and he died, and was reborn again, and smashed his head into the glass until he died again.

Until that moment I started to get bored. Barely any “action” had occurred, and most of the time the marines spent walking around pointing their guns, a motif continued throughout the film.

Scene from the movie
Scene from the movie

Even during the final attacks, we see little usage of the guns. In the beginning, when the RRTS boarded the helicopter to fly to the Ark for Mars transit, each marine grabbed their personal gun, which spoke their names as they turned them on. I considered this detail foreshadowing, but it wasn’t.

I was also let down by the use of the BFG, Big Force Gun. Sarge finds a schematic of it early in the movie, and tries to enter the Advanced Weapons room to get it, but is denied by a DNA-encoded door lock. (Later, he uses a severed hand to open the lock. How can a handprint divulge genetic information? Maybe I’m too dumb to understand.)

When Sarge opens the door, the only advanced weapon is the BFG, or as Sarge calls it, the Big Fucking Gun. It hovers in the exact center of the space, and the camera makes two revolutions of it, once with Sarge encircling it and once without.

What does the BFG do? Its “bullet” appears to be an energy blast that vaporizes a small field. The special effect resembles dimensional portals in other movies, but I think it just melts everything it touches. Sarge shoots it once in the bathroom at the monster attacking Portman, which kills the human and not the monster. He only once fires it again, on screen, at Reaper in the climactic battle. The BFG was grossly underused.

But before that one-on-one fight, the RRTS is chased through a corridor by some zombie-like infected humans in a pre-monster state. The marines try to close a nano wall, but it flickers between opened and closed, forcing them to shoot through the it-wants-to-close wall.

Sarge is grabbed by a creature. He chokes out, “I’m not supposed to die,” and then, like, totally dies yo. Duke is tugged through the floor, and a lot of blood spews from him. Grimm shoots a bullet as the wall closes, and it ricochets right back to his gut. The only cure–C24. The scene is further described below.

The effects were surprisingly good. The director believed that CGI was not quite realistic enough to digitally animate the monsters, so he hired Stan Winston’s creature team to make the monster suits. They oozed with blood and pus and were generally frightening in ways the CGI creatures were not. Often the latter were too fast and polished to seem real. The director chose wisely.

The best effect was the Ark. Many teleportation portals are shimmering walls or the light beams of Star Trek. The Ark was a cool Abyss-like bubble rising from the ground. The translucent, floating blob envelops the person transporting. Each person pukes from the transport.

The movie adapts the game’s elements purposefully and humorously. Each RRTS gun is equipped with a “kill cam” to show its point of view. The shots are rarely used, but enhance the movie’s video game-ness. And did you need a level map? Pinkie, the man who went to one galaxy while his ass went to another, provides one. Carmack’s lab is “the only way in or out,” which sound like famous last words.

Sidekicks (4/8)

Reaper’s sister, Sam, is played by Rosamund Pike. She does not wear a bra, and that’s the least tough thing she does. Grimm never fears the monsters, and is the one to discover their secret. Despite Sarge’s reticence, she demands to accompany the RRTS because she is tasked with retrieving vital UAC information that must be downloaded physically from giant computer terminals that were oversized in 2009.

When RRTS and Grimm encounter Dr. Carmack in a feral state and clutching a human arm, she approaches him and tries to calm him, while some marines fear him. She’s kind and wants to help. When she discovers that the monster stuck in the nano wall is/was Dr. Carmack, she claims his condition might be reversible, until Sarge blasts a bullet through his skull.

Grimm, studying the humanoid remains discovered on Mars, learns of their secret 24th chromosome and its unnatural origin. She learned much of her skills from dear old ma and pa, in whose footsteps she followed. This is further testament to her character, because she did not run from the accident that killed her parents, unlike her brother.

“It ever bother you you could’ve spent your life looking through a microscope instead of a sniper scope?” Grimm asks Reaper about his life choices. Reaper answers with a annoyed expression.

The other members of RRTS are stock characters. Portman is the jokester and the most perverted man on the team. He’s also the ugliest by far. He’s also the most frightened by the mission, but Sarge orders him to “shoulder your fucking weapon,” and he complies. Still, he manages to flee his post soon after and call for backup, backup that never arrives.

Goat is crazy enough to slice crosses into his arm when he takes the Lord’s name in vain. I thought it was for kicking the can down the stairwell. The Kid was the three-days-to-retirement sob story who dies from friendly (or not-so-friendly) fire. He was too green and too small; he would obviously die, so it was hard to get attached. Destroyer carries a criminally underused minigun, though he does die in a good fight.

The RRTS men are forgettable and one-dimensional, but Pike works hard enough to inject life into Grimm.

Henchmen (4/8)

The Rock, credited as such, plays Sarge, the leader of RRTS. We first meet Sarge as he receives his orders to rescue the scientists attacked on Mars. He’s shirtless, and the camera focuses on the SEMPER FI tattoo across his back.

The Rock looks as svelte as he ever has, not like the tank person he became in later years, and he makes a full heel turn late in the movie. He follows orders to a T, and won’t let anyone stand in the way of them.

The Kid, on his first mission, protests Sarge’s order to kill everyone in quarantine in Earth’s Ark facility. “We kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out,” Sarge says, and then he shoots Kid in the throat. Orders, man, you just don’t question them.

The Rock enjoys his villainous role, and you can see that joy in his eyes, which are always wide and intense. He sells his character’s conviction well, glaring at anyone the slightest bit upset at his ideas and orders, which are quite sound for most of the movie.

After Goat is attacked, Sarge orders all quarantined UAC personnel to evacuate the planet. Of course, we know, but Sarge doesn’t, that the monsters are infected humans, so his idea is the single worst idea he could have had, and it comes to fruition when the folks running the Ark on Earth die horribly. But does ignorance excuse mistakes?

Stunts (2/6)

A good fight occurs in the holding cell. Destroyer hears a sound, and he leaves his post to investigate. This after Portman leaves the same post. Not good at following orders, these guys.

Destroyer is attacked and tossed into the holding cell, which, we recall from before, has electrified walls. The monster chases him in there, but Destroyer knows about the electric field. He can’t see the creature, so to light up the room he shoves a metal cart into the wall.

Suddenly the creature is illuminated, and Destroyer seizes the chance to show off his gymnastic ability by using loose chains to leverage his body for a double kick into the creature’s chest. He also throws a computer at it, and uses the cords from it as a mace.

Destroyer takes some blows from the creature, which has surprising fighting skills considering it is just hours removed from being a human being. It choke slams Destroyer onto the electric wall, but he has the presence of mind to back stab it, batter it with a pipe and zap it on the wall. He free climbs a chain, but the monster breaks free and yanks the chain, destroying Destroyer.

The best fight occurs between Reaper and Sarge. This fight was really good, not relying on quick edits to mask poor stunt work. Punches are fast and lean, and despite the deep blue lighting, they shine on the screen. Both characters are infected with C24, so they have super strength, and it shows in the fighting.

Sarge lifts Reaper and helicopter spins him before throwing him away. He also flips over his back and flings Reaper as if he were a soccer ball on a throw-in. Reaper gets the upper hand, literally, and bends it into a steel railing. That confines him until Sarge jumps and rips the entire railing from the floor.

Sarge wraps the railing around his arm like steel knuckles. This was a smart use of the environment. The steel railing gets twisted and eventually thrust into Reaper’s hand, just as Sarge begins the outward transformation into a monster.

This was a terrific fight of fast movement and excellent stunts. Bodies flip and fly around the concrete chamber as we’d expect from two marines with superhuman strength. Whatever mechanics aided the acrobatics go unseen. We just didn’t get enough fights in the movie.

Climax (4/6)

You saw Doom for one reason–first person shooting. Grimm injects Reaper with the magic 24th chromosome. She knows her brother, so she believes he’ll be fine, and not become a monster like Dr. Carmack.

Reaper awakens, and yeah, it’s time for FPS movie mode. He looks in a mirror–terrific effect on its own–and wipes away the blood from a now-healed wound. Reaper exits the store room. The gun is in the lower right part of the frame. Just like the game! He peaks around corners. Just like the game! He snipes some baddies. Just like the gaaaaaame!!!!

Reaper shoots a gas can or something like it to ignite a monster. Most impressive about the scene is the lack of blurriness. I wish I had the details of the camera used, but I bet it was a doozy. Reaper excels with the strafe/run stick and is smooth on the look/turn stick. This guy is a world class gamer, ready for South Korea’s finest temples of gameplay.

Reaper hits a monster with a proximity mine, and the thing erupts into a volcano of gore, just like in DOOM. Reaper does chainsaw battle with the remnants of Pinkie, who turned into a wolf-like monster, and even bit a flashlight through his skull.

Throughout this scene, Reaper can only speak one word: “Sam.” He wants to find his sister, who was not at his side when he awoke after she injected him with C24. He finds her pretty soon after killing all those monsters, and the camera alternates between FPS and regular movie mode. Ha, “movie mode.”

Sam is alive, and she’s surprised to find him alive as well. Right when he finds her, Sarge finds him and, uh oh, he’s been tongued in the neck, cuz he’s like, mean ya know?

The lights are flashing in the corridor in a way reminiscent of Alien: nearly epileptic. “Are you gonna shoot me?” Sarge asks Reaper. He responds, “Yeah, I was thinking about it.” Sarge has one round in his BFG, the force gun that appears to melt holes in the spacetime continuum, or maybe just walls, and he shoots it toward Reaper, who dodges and fires off some of his half a clip.

Cat and mouse ensues. There’s more FPS from Reaper, and even one shot from Sarge. More creeping around corners and popping off single rounds as we’ve learned is the movie’s method.

After Sarge busts through a glass wall and declares, “Semper Fi, motherfucker,” Reaper empties his chamber and they get ready for some fisticuffs. Why are dudes always testing their mettle in hand-to-hand combat? Reaper knows too much is at stake–the potential extinction of the human species–to let Sarge get to the surface. Lockdown is over, man, shoot that guy!

Of course he doesn’t and they engage in some fighting as detailed earlier. When the two connect through the steel railing, Reaper sends Sarge back to Mars through the Ark, and he throws in a live grenade as a little parting gift. Blammo, Mission Accomplished.

Jokes (2/4)

Portman delivers the comic relief. Before they are deployed to Mars, he’s prepared for R&R. What’s he gonna do, someone asks. “Gonna lock myself in a hotel room, with a bottle of tequila, and three she-boys,” he says. He’s that kind of guy. When the team arrive on Mars, he tells all the women he will have to strip search them. He gives Kid drugs.

Sarge and Reaper have some good lines. When the pair watch videos of Carmack’s gene experiments, Sarge asks “What the hell are we looking at?” Reaper answers, “Genesis, chapter 1.” Later, about the same experiments, Sarge says, “I didn’t see shit, and I ain’t paid to see shit.”

In total, characters fired off more jokes than rounds, positive for this category but detrimental to the film.

Setting (0/4)

Mars, the Red Planet, is barely seen. Instead, the movie takes place in the metallic bowels of the UAC facility. The production filmed in Prague, but you won’t see the Charles Bridge in any shots. Instead we see very dark interiors, in some of which only monster eyes can be seen.

Grey and black comprise the entire color palette of Doom. Not a problem, if you like your movies the most depressing colors on the spectrum. For this movie, it was as it should have been.

The UAC complex appears to be a fortified industrial complex, which is probably how a Mars facility must be, but it also possesses a sewer system large enough to drive tanks through. I can’t imagine construction and maintenance costs on Mars being any higher, so huge spaces and flowing water seems to be the worst way to manage a space facility. This isn’t a bioengineered planet.

Commentary (0/2)

As the Grimm siblings ride the elevator to Earth’s surface, he is clad in all black and she in all white. Yeah, it’s symbolism, but perhaps accidentally. If he was actually bad he would have become a monster.

Offensiveness (-1/-2)

“Mack” is just a name some grunts gave to a Japanese guy because they couldn’t pronounce his name. When Mack gives his real name, he has a smirk that could be interpreted as “You Yanks are too stupid to get my name right.” These are the only words he speaks before losing his head to a monster.

Grimm is as tough as the Marines. She’s no damsel in distress. But it’s hard to believe that RRTS would ever leave her alone, considering she’s the only living civilian in the entire compound not locked behind an enormous door. But she is left alone to autopsy a monster body.

And what was an archeological dig site doing on Mars? Oh yeah, studying the 24-chromosomal humanoid remains found on the planet. The full skeleton in the lab is nicknamed “Lucy.” Lucy is also the nickname of the most famous non-homo sapien skeleton ever found, a fact not mentioned in the film. The movie’s naming the skeleton Lucy cannot possibly be a coincidence, but equally impossible is the idea that scientists would give the Mars skeleton the same name.

Others

  • Nano walls were the best technology in the movie. When one monster charges to it, Grimm closes it as the creature is half in and half out. The wall freezes around the monster, echoing the opening scene when the woman lost her arm in the conventional door. The monster’s death was worse.
  • (1) Bonus for using Nine Inch Nails in the closing credits. I also enjoyed the FPS CGI credits, in which the player shoots the names of the cast and crew.
  • The UAC logo, plastered in many places throughout the film, closely resembles the AOL logo. Universal produced and distributed the film. Is the logo a subtle dig at Time Warner, parent company of both AOL and rival movie studio Warner Brothers? I think it’s a coincidence; otherwise I’d throw a point at it.
  • The Universal logo (Earth) transforms into Mars at the movie’s start.
  • Goat reanimates inside his zipped body bag. Few images in cinema are more terrifying that animated body bags.
Summary (28/68): 41%

Doom wasn’t a bad movie, but it lacked oomph. The producers used the horror angle more than action. Countless time is spent filming guys sweeping their guns through kill zones. It’s tedious.

No one shoots anything for half an hour, inexcusable with so many weapons on hand, no matter the genre. The movie just didn’t have enough of the few things it did have to make an impact on the audience. The FPS scenes nearly saved it, but the tedium was too imbedded by then.

If you approach this movie as a thriller, you might have a better time, but I believe it’s too flimsy for even that.