I haven’t seen it until now, because the rule of game-to-movie adaptation inexplicably says it’s not worth it. They’ve all been average or worse, and in the case of Doom there isn’t even enough source material to create anything vaguely interesting. “Hell gates opened and a badass marine destroyed everything that got out.” Ho-hum! My expectations were about as low as the bottom of the Dead Sea.
But my recollections from the story of Doom 1-2 weren’t all that accurate. As Wikipedia informs me there is a little bit more to it in terms of backstory – the marine is actually working for a corporation called UAC, and some of the action takes place on Mars! So, yeah, about enough for a short film. The part of “shooting monsters in the face with a shotgun” is too essential to the spirit of the game to not create an adrenaline-fueled blood-exploding apocalypse in a visual form. But that would not be the most efficient way of spending money.
So they didn’t. Just like almost every reboot of a franchise in gaming – Doom the movie does something completely different and slaps the brand’s name on the front to lure in all the people who ‘heard the title somewhere.’ And they hide behind the utterly-beloved-by-movie-producers term ‘prequel,’ too. The warning lights were lighting up all over my brain.
Worse yet, this Doom tries to be The Thing or Alien! But how can it succeed when all the main characters are heavily archetypal marines who can’t deal with two slow monsters? They run around the base with their guns out like the professionals they are supposed to be, but die like flies on a windshield. It’s a disgrace and the main reason why the horror elements just don’t work at all.
Though, despite the plot holes, the story isn’t really as tragic as expected – genetic experimentation had gone awry on a secluded Mars base, and these corporate marines are sent to retrieve the data. It could go places! Most of the running time of the film is taken up by a slow build up to something that could be effectively used for some serious plot twisting. I was even beginning to buy into it. And then a 180 happened – that ‘something’ turned out to be a superhero first person segment and a wrestling match.
I believe this is the right moment to admit that I enjoyed the movie a lot. The creators may barely know what Doom is about, but they know the lore. I mean, the lore is maybe too strong a word, but the geekiness lies in the details! The head doctor working in the base is named Carmack (as in the lead developer of Doom), one of the marines is nicknamed Duke (as in Nukem) and BFG (the most powerful weapon of the game) is used as a blatant Chekhov’s gun. There is more too – there are quotes, there are various winks. There is intelligent thought behind the dumb exterior of the film – there is life!
There is even a strong audiovisual connection established between the games and the movie. Firstly, the music done by Clint Mansell is filled with audio cues to the original soundtrack. There are many familiarly sounding remixes that just fit the picture very well as the slow ambient clashes with industrial madness. The visuals are often borrowed straight from the game too, which was even a boasting point in the interviews. As a result the monsters and the set look very videogamey. And not in a good way.
I read that the movie cost sixty million dollars to make and it isn’t visible, because the sets and monsters look extremely cheap and fake. It’s CGI at its worst and it does everything it can, to take you out of the experience. Even the segment that presents the original first-person shooting reworked into movie form looks wacky. The gun hold by the protagonist is out of place, and the enemies jump out to dance or pose. It’s ridiculous. As a matter of fact it’s so ridiculous it’s fun, because no one cares that it’s stupid and treat it like the coolest thing since phone sex.
It may be a side-effect of low expectations but I had a ball watching the movie. Its production values are for the most part as bad as in a Uwe Boll flick, there is barely any tension, and the actors aren’t doing the work of their lives, and yet I wasn’t bored. I know, what a success! The thing is Doom doesn’t hold under scrutiny. Pick it apart and you will see its ugly emptiness gazing at you. In this way, it’s a McDonald’s hamburger equivalent of a cinematic movie. But frag that! The pacing is ideal, the finale crazy, the easter eggs are delicious, and the incompetent characters are far from stupid. In the B-movie land, this is actually pretty fun.