"Look alive men, it's game time."
I can still vividly remember the first time I saw and played DOOM, back in the '90s. I was at a weekend-long geek party, and we were all amazed by it. It was fun, slightly scary and quite gory, for the time. Of course it became a smash hit. I remember movie rumors starting as early as '96, and why not? The game has a somewhat decent plot: a lone marine waging an impossible war against demons from hell. Toss in other players/actors for a little deathmatch action, and you have potential for a blockbuster!
So here we are over ten years later, and we finally have our movie. The question is will this be a video game movie that successfully translates the fun and action of the game to the big screen, or will we all wish it had stayed confined to our hard drives?
DOOM has a lot going for it. First, they have two serviceable lead actors in The Rock (Scorpion King) and Karl (Eomer) Urban. Both these guys are good action heroes that happen to be able to act. Well, at least enough to carry an action movie.
They are surrounded by the standard gang of military hard-asses that we've seen ever since Aliens and Predator came out. We have The Kid (Al Weaver), the young guy on his first mission; Goat (Ben Daniels), the religious professional solder; Destroyer (Deobia Oparei), the cool guy with a big gun; Duke (Razaaq Adoti), the funny guy; Mac (Yao Chin), Asian bad-ass; and Portman (Richard Brake), the cowardly pervert.
The movie keeps only two features of the game. It's set on Mars, and there are monsters slaughtering people. But instead of the researchers having ripped open a gate to Hell, unleashing demons as monsters and reanimating the dead, we have twisted genetic research on long-dead aliens. This is not quite as scary, in my opinion. Still, we do have some very cool monsters in this flick, even if they're not minions of the Devil anymore.
So here's the skinny: The Rock, as Sarge, leads a crack military unit known as the RRTS (Rapid Response Tactical Squad). Urban is John Grim, aka Reaper, Sarge's number one guy. The team gets the call that there has been an incident at the Union Aerospace Corporation facility on Mars. People are dying, and the RRTS is supposed to rescue them and recover vital research data. As per the standard rules in these types of movies, the bosses haven't quite told the grunts the whole story.
Sarge suggests to Reaper that he sit the mission out, because his parents died in an accident at this facility years ago, but Reaper goes anyway. The main reason for this is that his sister Samantha (Rosamund "Die Another Day" Pike) is now working at the facility.
Once the team takes the teleport ride to Mars, they lock down the facility and start their search for the monsters. This is when all non-Hell-related trouble breaks loose. We get stalking through dark corridors, the "what's that! Oh, it's nothing . . . AAAGH!" scares, the inevitable inter-team conflict and the big action sequences.
The movie has a quite a bit going on for it. The team is actually a pretty good mix of characters, the dialogue is serviceable, and while the plot's not great, it's not simply a rehash of everything we've seen before. The characters aren't much more than "I have a shtick that defines me," but they have enough to keep them all distinct enough so you know who's who. Most of them also get at least one moment to shine, except poor Mac. The monsters are also very well done; the filmmakers were smart and went with live effects by SFX master Stan Winston. It's just much more fun to have the characters facing off an eight foot guy in a suit instead of some CGI creation.
On the bad side, the movie is a bit slow to get going. We spend way too long getting to the good stuff. The character of the sister is there mainly to scream, provide exposition, or be in danger to motivate Reaper to keep fighting. This is a shame, as she had a great fight with Halle Berry in Die Another Day, and I would like to have seen her combat at least some of the zombie people.
As a translation of the game DOOM 3, the movie is mostly there . . . aside from the whole "No Hell" thing. The BFG is sweet, the sets look just like in the game, and at the end there is a long "first person" action sequence that just rocks, and is the highlight of the movie.
In the end, DOOM is another in a long line of action movies with enough sci-fi and horror bits bolted on to make it a little different. It's not a great movie, but it manages to be a fun Aliens clone, and one of the few computer game based movies that doesn't suck.