Doom (2005) – Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak – Starring Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Raz Adoti, Dwayne Johnson, Dexter Fletcher, and Doug Jones.
DOOM almost works.
If you just want 2 hours of a nice-looking sci-fi shoot ‘em up, DOOM certainly delivers, but it’s one of those films that verges on actually being a good film, instead of just a “hits the spot” film. There are talented actors here (Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Dwayne Johnson, the concierge from Hotel Babylon), a stylish director, and the whole project was overseen by John Wells, a guy who was also a producer and showrunner on two critically and commercially successful TV shows: ER and The West Wing. There’s enough tweaks on the formula to give it a “fresh enough” feel with Urban and Pike playing estranged siblings instead of lovers, the movie turns one of its protagonists into an antagonist 2/3 of the way through the movie, there’s a bit of philosophical wrangling over whether soldiers should follow their orders when their orders are no longer the right thing to do, and it’s an R-rated film that doesn’t shy away from vulgarity, which helps enforce the idea that this is a movie for adults and not kids.
Which is sort of weird, I guess, since the film is based off a video game that was played by teenagers as well as adults, so while I appreciate the attempt to make a grown up shoot ‘em up, I also think it’s curious you would hamstring your potential box office.
There’s a lot here to like, and at times I really do like the film, but ultimately it never really reaches a level where it becomes a good movie.
In DOOM, something bad happens at a research facility owned by Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC), so they send in a team of Marines, who you will instantly recognize as “the people who will do the killing.” They all have names and nicknames, but other than the Rock and Karl Urban, they’re rather exchangeable. The film tries to give them personalities – there’s a religious one, the pervert, the sex-first dude, the rookie, etc. – but the film only really half-commits to this idea of them being individual people. Take “the Kid.” He’s a rookie on this mission and even though it’s a “Level 5″ operation (meaning, super-duper serious), they take him along. So he’s nervous and asks the pervert for some “help,” and the pervert gives him two pills which make him high, which gets him yelled at by Reaper (Urban), which leads to …
There’s all kinds of moments like that. Duke (Raz Adoti) spends much of the movie scamming on Reaper’s sister, Dr. Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike), who’s totally okay with the flirting, and this leads to …
I suppose, if one wanted to, they could make the argument that what DOOM does is depict how life’s subplots can be immediately and violently interrupted by giant mutated monsters, but really, it just ends up feeling like the film is just giving us character bits to keep us moderately entertained so it can slowly drag out the monster mystery. If the film had no real intention on following through with these subplots in a meaningful way, that’s totally fine, but get to the killing quicker. Do filmmakers really think that getting a five-minute intro where we learn that one of them is a pervert and another is a rookie will make us care for the film in a greater way? If you want to build characters, great, build them and see it through, but if all you want to do is make a man vs. monster movie, then do that. Give us their personality en route, in between the shooting and screaming and dying.
Couple quick instances – there’s a secondary female scientist here who’s worried about her missing husband. Samantha tells her to leave to be with her daughter, so she does, but not without telling us, again, that she’s worried about her husband. “Steve will be fine,” Samantha reassures her a couple time. The husband, of course, is not okay, but it’s completely irrelevant because we don’t see the wife’s reaction to it, and there’s nothing important about the husband being missing beyond the reaction to his wife.
Which we don’t get. All we get is a moment where it’s like, “Steve’s dead.” That’s not enough.
The dialogue is pretty weak throughout DOOM, and even though they’ve made an R-rated movie, they think the audience is stupid. Take the brother and sister Grimm. The brother’s Marine nickname is “Reaper.” Get it? Grimm Reaper? Pretty obvious, but, the film is so worried that you’re not going to notice their cleverness that they have Samantha ask her brother, “Reaper? As in Grimm Reaper?”
The violence here isn’t bad, but it’s awfully dark in this facility and so there’s lot of only partially seeing the monsters but seeing lots of gun fire. It’s not really a fun movie, either, as they didn’t feel it was necessary for any of the Marines to be the “joker” character to liven things up.
Yet, right when the film is starting to feel bogged down and I was just wishing it would get itself over and done with, it gets a bit interesting again when the Sarge (Johnson) starts losing it and taking his orders super seriously, deciding everyone (no matter if they’re infected or not) needs to die. There’s a good bit with Reaper where the film is shot through one action sequence from his POV. It’s nice the film overdoes it, and it’s not completely horrible, but while I love POV in video games, I hate it as a cinematic technique. I just don’t think it adds much. It’s nice for a change-up, and DOOM uses it for that (to give a nod to the first-person video game) and then moves on.
Most people die, a couple people live, and the credits roll. By the end of the movie, the good moments (like when Reaper notices that the Martian skeleton on display in Samantha’s lab is frozen in a defensive posture) are outweighed by the bad moments (like when Reaper notices that the Martian skeleton on display in Samantha’s lab is frozen in a defensive posture and Samantha doesn’t say, “No sh*t, dummy, we are scientists up here.”), and DOOM ends up being the kind of film that I’ve now watched and don’t really need to see again, though I wouldn’t leave if we were hanging out and you tossed it into the Blu-Ray player.