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Doom (2005)
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

review by Christopher Geary

From its opening credits, when the familiar Universal logo overlays planet Mars, not Earth, Doom strives for a high-impact visual style, as if hoping plentiful eye-candy will enliven the hackneyed shoot 'em up scenario. As it's based on a computer game, perhaps we should not expect too much from this, anyway, but I cannot help thinking that the filmmakers makers borrow far more from Aliens (1986), Predator (1987), and Stargate (1994), than they pay back to the growing subgenre of marines versus monsters.

Polish-born director Andrzej Bartkowiak first made his mark as Sidney Lumet's cinematographer on Prince Of The City (1981), courtroom-drama classic The Verdict (1982), The Morning After (1986), Family Business (1989), the underrated Q&A (1990), Close To Eden (aka: A Stranger Among Us, 1992), and Guilty As Sin (1993). Bartkowiak has also done sterling camerawork on thrillers like Schumacher's Falling Down (1993), Jan de Bont's Speed, Friedkin's Jade (1995), and Taylor Hackford's The Devil's Advocate (1997). Roger Donaldson's Dante's Peak (1997), and Species (1995) introduced Bartkowiak to genre audiences. Since then, he's directed Jet Li vehicles Romeo Must Die (2000), and the lacklustre Cradle 2 The Grave (2003), and Exit Wounds (2001), starring Steven Seagal, so perhaps it's no surprise to find him at the helm of this feature, the latest in Hollywood's line of exploitation-grade blockbusters.

All the soldiers of Doom are ciphers. There's John 'Reaper' Grimm (Karl Urban, from The Chronicles Of Riddick), Destroyer (DeObia Oparei), Goat (Ben Daniels), Duke (Raz Adoti), Portman (Richard Brake), Mac (Yao Chin), and the Kid (Al Weaver). The troops are led by Sarge, played by former professional wrestler Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, a capable movie star but one lacking any drama skills whatsoever, whose expressions in this picture are limited to grimace, squint, frown, glare and scowl, so his forehead and jaw-line get as much of a proper workout here as the rest of him. The only real player in Doom is British actress Rosamund Pike (one of Bond's foes in Die Another Day) as Dr Samantha Grimm. She is John's estranged sister, and the only bit of character development actually occurring in this otherwise middling actioner concerns their eventual reconciliation, following John's private confrontation with a childhood trauma.

SARGE: "I'm going to the armoury. I think we're gonna need something with a little bit more kick."

Called upon to shoot ferocious reptilian-mutant zombies, while avoiding a possibly viral infection from these creatures' detachable tongues, the Sarge's men react in an appropriately loud and noisy, or strong and silent, manner. Unfortunately, they lack the individualism of the supporting casts in Aliens or Predator, so we don't care when they start dying in the increasingly frequent clashes with the apparently Martian monsters. Thankfully, Doom rattles along with a reasonable pace, evading a minefield of plot-holes, thanks only to some proficient editing and the sort of intrusive, pounding score that distracts viewers from rational thought. As a straightforward zombie-slaying adventure, Resident Evil is obviously superior to Doom, and, despite the numerous flaws of John Carpenter's SF-horror, even Ghosts Of Mars is better than Bartkowiak's occasionally gruesome offering. There are quite a few science lab scenes in Doom, yet there are no fresh ideas here, and quality control for the film's SF content ideas is substandard. We're given sci-fi waffle about extra, probably synthetic, chromosomes discovered in the humanoid remains of extinct Martians, and a 'nano-wall' forcefield (merely an excuse for more CGI) that really comes in handy for shutting out an 'alien' menace. The action centrepiece of Doom is the long, one-take sequence, allowing viewers to see things from Reaper's POV as he stalks the complex of corridors, happily blasting attackers to pulp with an oversized gun.

The region 1 NTSC DVD is an unrated extended version including some previously unseen footage (mostly gory scenes considered too intense for US teen cinema-audiences), in anamorphic 2.25:1 widescreen, with Dolby digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Disc extras: a longer cut of the 'first-person-shooter' sequence, featurettes including basic training with the Rock, a demo edition of the Doom 3 game, and a tour of the game for beginners.
Doom on DVD





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