Video game adaptations usually fall into two categories, either the so bad they’re good, or so bad they’re just unwatchable. The first game I did for this feature (Wing Commander) certainly fell into the latter. Doom though is stuck somewhere between. The first time I watch it I found it dumb, stupid and yet watchable, but on future viewings (yes, I’ve seen this movie more than once) it too started to be less fun and more tedious.
An early-ish role for Dwayne Johnson before he would later turn himself into a Gears of War character, Doom feels like it so desperately wants to be Aliens you almost feel sorry for it. Something I missed on my first viewing there are a number of moments that definitely bring to mind the sci-fi classic, and not just the ragtag group of military types that get sent into a hellish situation. One character decides to take a look into an air vent before falling backwards in shock, there’s a sewer section and one characters fate is nigh on identical to Hudson’s. A few new ideas wouldn’t go amiss.
As fans of Doom would know, the game takes place on Mars where, quite literally, all hell has broken loose. Problem with the movie is, aside from the Martian locale, the Hell section of the story has been excised completely. Instead the story focuses on scientists on Mars (one of which being played by Rosamund Pike doing a shaky American accent) finding humanoid remains that have an extra chromosome that essentially makes them superhuman. Obviously this leads to experiments on humans and it all goes a bit pear shaped. Cue the arrival of Dwayne and his team, the only other one of note being Rosamund Pike’s brother Grimm (played by Judge Dredd Karl Urban), who show up all guns blazing.
The other squad members being interchangeable and range from a creepy rapist guy who reminded me of a young Rik Mayall to the one they just call The Kidd, as soon as you’re told it’s his first mission you know exactly how well it’s going to go for him. I suppose it makes a change from the usual “this is my last mission” stereotype. There is one character that could’ve been quite interesting given a decent script. This being a born again Christian type who cuts himself whenever he takes the lords name in vain. Of course, this would’ve been a lot better and more appropriate if the whole story of Hell had actually been included.
To add to this stream of negativity, the Mars setting may have made things interesting, but far from it. In fact, I actually forgot the film was set on Mars until Karl Urban stops for a moment, looking out at the window to briefly see the Martian landscape. All of the film is set around dark, poorly lit corridors. So poorly lit that it’s actually hard to tell what is happening half of the time. So I guess in that respect it’s very faithful to Doom 3.
And speaking of faithful, let’s talk about the first person segment. Instead of scattering first person moments throughout the movie as a nod to the game (which could have worked), for some reason the directors thought It would be a good idea to have one long section where Karl Urban is in full on Doom mode. First person camera positioned just as in the game with gun in front and a musical rock track that sounds sort of like a remix of the music from the first Doom level. It comes complete with monsters jumping out, a pinky demon and even a chainsaw. This is the sort of thing that would sound amusing during a script meeting, but in theory is just bizarre and is the worst kind of fan service.
Doom is quite clearly aiming to grab in the video game crowd and really doesn’t care about the large movie going public, which probably didn’t help the critical reaction it got. But the weird thing is that despite its faults, the movie sped along at a decent pace and unlike with Wing Commander didn’t feel like time itself had stopped. So I guess there’s that.