Let’s cut to the chase. The video game-film adaptation genre is perhaps the worst in the history of Hollywood. Time after time we are let down by these genre films, so why in the world would Doom, based upon the groundbreaking video game, be any different? We have Andrzej Bartkowiak, director of fare ranging from mediocre to awful such as Cradle to the Grave and Exit Wounds, at the helm and The Rock (or, as I call him, Dwayne Johnson) serving as the only recognizable name in the cast. I ask again, why should this be any good?
The fact of the matter is this film is good and stands as unquestionably the best the genre has to offer thus far. A big accomplishment that is not, but I’ll give credit where credit is due. Universal has let Bartkowiak and screenwriters Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick run wild and the result is an action-packed, gory good time. High art and smart sci-fi it is not, but you have to hand it to a film that plays its cards right, lays everything out on the table, and goes for broke.
The film gets off to a blistering start and never lets up. In the near future a gateway to Mars is discovered. Nicknamed “The Ark,” the portal has enabled the government to set up a research facility for archaeologists to explore and conduct experiments on the red planet. When something goes horribly wrong and all communication with the station is lost, a group of elite soldiers, known as the Rapid Response Tactical Squad (RRTS), are sent in to contain the situation. What they discover is deadly and hideous – and they may not have enough firepower.
Filmed in virtually complete darkness inside metallic corridors, Bartkowiak and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts nicely replicate the claustrophobic atmosphere of the game. Creatures can appear out of nowhere, and they do with a remarkably sparse count of false (aka “jump”) scares. The film does not tease the audience. Everything is in-your-face and graphic, just as it should be.
The highlight of the film is the absolutely enthralling “first person” sequence that Doom (the game) put on the map in the first place. That the sequence could have gone awry goes without saying, but Bartkowiak is clearly having as much fun creating it as we do watching it. Those unfamiliar with the original game and its subsequent incarnations may wonder what the big deal is, and may even tag it as silly. But this is, in its most raw form, some of the most entertaining footage to hit theaters this year.
The acting is appropriately hammy and overplayed. The Rock seems relieved to finally be able to spout some F-bombs and let loose. Armed with the BFG (Bio-Force Gun, although he at one point in the film has a different interpretation of the meaning of those three letters), he is a force to be reckoned with. Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike are also of note as brother-sister, soldier and archaeologist, respectively. Urban spits virtually every line he has and Pike manages to keep her cool as the brainy scientist.
Longtime fans of the game will undoubtedly be wondering where “hell” is in the film. It’s hardly of consequence as the film runs at such a rapid pace, but it’s a large enough part of the game series that it merits criticism. With a solid production and enough ooze and goopy gore to keep the girlfriend wincing in disgust, Doom is the action ticket if you need a diversion this Oscar season.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 105 Minutes
Rating: R for strong violence/gore and language.
Theatrical Release: October 21, 2005
Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Written by: Dave Callaham & Wesley Strick.
Cast: The Rock, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Deobia Oparei, Ben Daniels, Razaaq Adoti