Back in May of 2017, Matt McNeal, reviewer of horror movies on the 2Spooky page, and I decided to to do a double review. We both watched Don’t Kill It starring Dolph Lundgren (my suggestion obviously) and reviewed it from the viewpoints of our respective genres. We have decided to do that again with his suggestion this time, the action/horror movie Doom (2005).
Doom is based off of a popular video game of the same name that was originally released in 1993. Admittedly, I have never played that game, or any of its sequels, so I have no clue how this stacks up to the the storyline or the visuals of the game. I suppose I could do some research to bring you a comparison but, honestly, I’m too lazy to do that. Besides, I feel like adaptations should be judged and reviewed independent from their source materials. So, the good news for this movie is I won’t be bashing it based on some preconceived fanboy expectations. The bad news; regardless of whether this is faithful to the video game or not, Doom is just a plain bad movie.
The plot is pretty simple. Some crazy stuff goes down at a research facility on Mars and a group of tough guy Space Marines are sent to the facility to investigate. During their investigation, they discover that the scientists have been experimenting on humans by injecting an alien 24th chromosome into them. This either makes them super human (super strength, super intelligent, etc.) or, more often, turns them into giant mutated alien monsters. I don’t know why those are the only two options, but that’s what the movie told me so I went with it.
The cast for Doom is actually pretty promising. With stars like Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban, and Rosamund Pike, one would think they would be able to inject some life into the script, even one so generic as this one. Unfortunately, none of those three had developed into the actors they are today. Either that, or they weren’t given a good script or interesting characters to flesh out.
Dwayne Johnson still isn’t an actor known for his range, but he has made a career out of carrying movies with his charisma. None of that charisma shows up here. He’s purely a physical presence playing a tough guy. I don’t think, at this point in his career, he had figured out how to fuse the tough guy with the likeable guy like he has in many of his movies (the Fast and Furious franchise, Skyscraper, Hercules).
Karl Urban is a decent actor now, with good roles in the Star Trek franchise, Thor: Ragnarok, and Dredd but he is pretty bad in this one. He basically just scowls and delivers wooden lines. I can’t place the blame completely on him, though, since the script and story are basically nonexistent and there isn’t much more for him to do than look tough, run around, and punch and shoot stuff.
Since Doom, Rosamund Pike has become a fantastic actress, garnering many awards including a Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Gone Girl (2014). Doom was only her fourth feature film so it was very early in her career. Despite that, I feel like she did everything she could with her role. I’m not saying her role is good. It’s not. It’s a terrible role, but I place none of the blame on her (except maybe for taking the role in the first place). Like every role in the movie, she is given absolutely nothing to work with and very little to do. Despite that, she gives everything she has and her talent is evident. I’m glad she has been able to find better roles than this to showcase her abilities.
Doom is billed as an action/horror movie but let’s be honest. This is an action movie through and through. I guess maybe they call it horror because there are monsters and it’s dark sometimes, but nothing about this movie resembles a horror movie. The director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, is an action movie director and he makes no attempt to build any tension or create any scares, so I won’t waste time trying to discuss that. Besides, that’s McNeal’s job over at the 2Spooky page. If you want that breakdown, go read his review.
Clearly this is a dumb movie, but that didn’t mean it needed to be a bad movie. This story could have been good. Hell, it has been a good movie. I mean, this is basically Aliens with a twist. Unfortunately, Bartkowiak is no James Cameron and he has no eye for action. The only information you need to know to get a sense of Bartkowiak is this; before directing Doom, he had the. . . distinction?. . . honor?. . . of directing three movies starring the fantastic actor, DMX.
Despite his experience directing action, he seems to have no clue what he’s doing with the camera. Even seemingly simple things such as establishing the surroundings and spatial awareness are nonexistent. We are given no concept of the layout of the facility (it doesn’t help that every corridor and room have the same bland aesthetic) which makes the action sequences a confusing mess. There are chase sequences and shootouts that are confusing because we are given no visual cues. We don’t know where characters are running from in the facility, no idea where they are running to, no idea where they are shooting from or what they are shooting at, and no idea where they are in relation to each other or the person/thing being chased. These sequences essentially become a jumbled mess of running, shouting, and shooting that have no sense of coherent motion.
I remember Doom getting buzz upon its release because it featured a first person shooter scene that was supposed to resemble playing the game. There are some cool moments in the sequence like shooting an axe out of a zombie/alien/monster’s hand and into its head and driving a monster/alien back with bullets until it’s next to a gas pipe, then shooting the gas pipe making it explode and lighting the monster/alien on fire. The problem is, despite some neat kills, this scene comes off as completely hokey. What could be a fast paced, intense, terrifying scene becomes laughable and lame. It is basically monsters or zombies jumping out from the side of the screen and waving their arms around until they get shot. The slow pacing, camerawork, and silly monster acting make it feel more like a theme park ride than a first person experience. Despite being an interesting idea, this scene also fails as an action scene. People seem to like this scene so, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think.
The only halfway decent action scene in the movie is the final fight between Karl Urban and Dwayne Johnson. They are both injected with, or infected with, the alien chromosome. Johnson turns into a monster (which is just himself with yellow eyes and sharp teeth. Wouldn’t want to cover up the star’s face with too much makeup, would we?) and Karl Urban becomes a good guy superhuman. This fight is enjoyable, with the two actors throwing each other around the room and smashing into things. It isn’t a great fight scene, but it is serviceable. It is filmed well enough, and choreographed well enough, that we can fully understand what is happening.
Overall, I can’t consider Doom anything other than a failure. The potential for a good movie is there. The cast is capable and, given a chance with a decent script, they could have brought some life into the movie. The story is a generic action movie formula, but it’s a tried and true story and, with the right director, it could have been an enjoyable ride. As it is, nothing about the movie works and it is a boring movie that fails as an action movie and fails even worse as a horror movie (if you would even call it a horror movie).