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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Doom (review)

Hudson Hack

The Rock, he keeps saying things like “We got us a game!” and “Game time!” as the 22nd-century-or-whatever version of “Boo yeah” or whatever the hell that Marine rallying cry is. Like, as a joke, I guess, a big wink at the fact that this is based on a video game, and a video game that, no matter how awesome or fun it may be, couldn’t be any less about story or character. A movie version of Ms Pac-Man couldn’t be any more or less suited to the big screen than a movie version of Doom.

And yet here we are. And I wanted to like it, cuz the Rock is so cool — especially how he doesn’t take himself too seriously, so you know that if anyone is the right guy for this kind of movie, it’s gotta be him — and because Karl Urban is so hot and so at least there’s the eye-candy aspect to get me through it. (And okay, the Rock is really kinda cute, too.) And it’s Mars, and how neat is that?
But you know where I’m going. Doom is just another half-assed retread of Aliens — something like, what, the thirteen thousandth one? And it’s weird, because you sit there watching the movie and wanting to say things like “This little girl survived a lot longer than that with no weapons and no training” and “You now have five minutes to reach minimum save distance” and — mostly — whining like Bill Paxton’s Hudson (“Game over, man! Game over!”) and you start to realize what a long, strange trip it’s been to a movie like Doom, which knows it’s a videogame movie and knows it’s an Aliens ripoff and still can’t muster up enough winkingness or snark to at least be clever about it. Cuz we started with Hudson, who clearly was steeped in the culture of gaming — who else would use the phrase “game over” as a euphemism for “we’re fucked”? — and he’s in a movie that was so visceral and exciting that you wanted to be in it, even if that meant almost certain death, which in turn clearly inspired first-person-shooter games like Doom, which got so popular that it was inevitable that someone would want to cash in with a movie adaptation, which then becomes a movie that can’t help but reference the movie that prompted its development in the first place. It’s long past time for the cinematic alien facehugger to fall off and for something new to burst out of the chest of Hollywood.

There’s one cool thing in Doom, and it comes right at the beginning of the film: in the Universal logo — you know, the one where the word “Universal” coming swinging around the planet Earth — Earth has been replaced with Mars, which is neat. And then things go downhill from there. It takes way too long for Sarge’s (The Rock: Be Cool, Walking Tall) Marine grunts to start getting offed in interesting and disgusting ways by the weird mutant creature things running around loose on Olduvai Research Station on Mars, where the guys have been sent to find out what the hell happened. It tries to be a little bit deeper than you typical first-person-shooter movie — soldier John Grimm (Urban: The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick) is haunted by something that transpired at the station when he was a child, and it has caused some kind of rift between him and his sister, Dr. Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike: Die Another Day), who is now hip deep in CGI monsters. But director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Cradle 2 the Grave) is clearly not the least bit interested in exploring a kind of male/female relationship that action movies don’t usually deal with (though Urban and Pike give it their best shot) — it just gets in the way of shootin’ shit.

And you know, come to think of it, there’s some other potentially extremely cool and intriguing stuff here — a self-flagellation Marine-slash-monk type, another guy who’s all machine from the waist down — but it’s all dismissed almost as soon as it’s introduced. And the movie just doesn’t know what to do with itself when it attempts to get all serious and meaningful, throwing some pseudo-ethical battlefield dilemmas before Sarge and Grimm, so it decides to literally let them fight it out. Which is particularly disappointing when you know — you know — that the Rock and Urban are better than this, are good enough to create characters fascinating enough to become new icons, instead of feeling like pale shadows of Hudson and Hicks and Ripley and the rest of the Colonial Marines.

I say we take off and nuke the movie from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.


MPAA: rated R for strong violence/gore and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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