Sunday, February 10, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Doom (2005)

While I can see exactly why Doom, directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, has gone down in history as a pretty bad video game movie (and a pretty disregarded movie in general), I'm going to express my disapproval with that assessment. Yes, this movie has mostly negative thoughts thrown around about it (with good reason). Yes, the acting is never really all that good. Yes, the story is fairly terrible to say the least. And yes, the music is downright awful. There are many more negatives I could say, and will say, about this film, but those are the starters before the main course. The visuals never really look right, seeming very much like an action film trying very hard to be a horror film in both visuals and tone. The problem is that the film never elevates itself. It never grows to a better level of movie. While there is a lot to enjoy about this film, there is very little to objectively like. It had its heart in the right place: no CGI monsters, prosthetics, practical effects, and some decent actors. But the movie just wasn't all that well done anyway. See, I still enjoyed it even with its obvious flaws, but I do not begrudge anybody who thinks that this film is garbage.

None of those things, those problems, make it a bad movie. It's simple. It's quick. And for some unknown reason it is one hell of an entertaining flick. I was engrossed by it, taken in by the simple story, the simple characters, and the simple premise. Sure, I (admittedly) have a soft spot for movies like this. I can't say I don't. But whatever my feelings about movies like this are, I still found this one compelling enough to enjoy and halfheartedly recommend for enjoyment purposes.

There are many more things wrong with this movie than right with it. The characters are one-dimensional, all introduced quickly, without fanfare. The audience is just expected to know the characters and like them. The story moves at a breakneck speed, never slowing down for a moment, even if parts of the story make no sense whatsoever. Maybe that's why it moves so quickly, so it can lose the audience to intense scenes, flashes of light, and blood. I was taken in. I can't say I wasn't. So, I guess it might have worked for me at least if that was the intent. While it is a terrible adaptation of the video game Doom, a terrible horror movie (if it was ever trying to be one at all), and too fast -paced for itself, it still is a good action film with some genuinely thrilling moments, and some wonderful expressions from The Rock.

Karl Urban and Raz Adoti, playing John "Reaper" and "Duke" respectively, are the only good actors here. They both do such a great job in their roles that their performances really helped make this movie an enjoyable experience for me. Karl Urban especially has always been one of my favorite relatively unknown actors. He gets great parts and always seems to give every role his all. I really hope he goes somewhere. He seems to be getting somewhere slowly and surely. I hope it continues. He really is a gem of an actor. His performance in this movie was excellent, probably the only truly genuinely "good" thing about this movie. Raz Adoti as "Duke" was just fun to watch. I was hoping he wouldn't die in the end. Obviously, he did. He had a truly excellent personality, and his scenes were genuinely thrilling and suspenseful.

The other actors were pretty bad. No, they weren't historically bad, but none of them were good. Most of them were simply mediocre. I enjoyed Richard Brake as Portman and Dexter Fletcher as Pinky, though neither of them precisely "acted" in a traditional sense. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson should have been good, even could have been good, but his hammy performance, although fun, was probably the worst of the entire movie. His eyebrows helped make the movie memorable, at least. That's saying something.

I have no idea what else to even say. There is a lot wrong with this movie. The first-person sequence towards the end of the film, although kind of fun, was also so very cheesy. The whole plot about how the "demons" came to be was also pretty stupid. Genetic research? Really? Why make the plot so complicated when all the filmmakers had to say was that these were demons from hell? Why bring pseudoscience into this? It's absolutely bizarre, but in the movie the science and discovery are treated like something the audience should already know everything about. It's such an odd thing, the pacing, the way the story is told. I can't for the life of me think of any other standalone movie that has the same strange breakneck pace in introducing its own characters and premises. Maybe Aliens? No. Even that movie had a pretty lengthy prologue. This film literally expects you to know these characters before they're introduced, to sympathize with them before you have a chance to know them.  It's weird, almost as if this movie were a sequel to another that had introduced them first. It's the only way I can explain it.

Anyway, I kind of wish they had ditched the story about the genetic research. That was truly very stupid. As a person who has more than a cursory knowledge about genetics (I went to school for it as a matter-of-fact.) they really should have stuck with hell and demons. Those are very simple to understand.

But, for all the many negatives, I still enjoyed this movie. It was a fun "turn-your-brain-off" kind of flick. It was as entertaining as I made it. And that's really what it all comes down to. I liked many of the sequences after the lightspeed introduction, and that's about all there is to it. The main monster was well done, the dark scenes in the sewers were actually harrowing. I loved the medical autopsy scenes as well. They actually gave the film some character of its own beyond the mindless space marine plot. The actors seemed like they were having fun for the most part too- well, all of them but Rosamund Pike playing John's sister Samantha. She had an expression of surprise on her face the entire movie, and her acting was literally painful to watch most of the time. As one of the few females in the movie, and the only one with significant screen time, her performance was pretty pitiful and rarely enjoyable at all. While she did get better the longer the movie went on, her first few scenes made me wince every time she was onscreen. She looked like she was not having a good time at all in the first half of this movie.

So, yeah, I'll recommend this movie for a good time. Don't expect anything, and it will probably surprise you. Expect a lot, and you'll be incredibly disappointed. Have fun with it. Don't take it seriously. I know I didn't, and it was a truly fun experience, even though the movie was not great.


  1. What's really wrong with the movie is that they changed the basic premise of the story, which was an awesome premise; namely, that of opening the Gates of Hell, and replaced it with some pseudo-scientific garbage.

    1. Yup. While I'm not the biggest Doom fan out there, they seemed to completely forget the basal reason the story of the game was there in the first place. It was so dumb. It was a dumb ride of a movie. I can't say I didn't enjoy the pseudo-science bullshit, but I will say that demons FROM HELL would have been pretty awesome as well.

      Basically don't look at it as the movie version of Doom. Look at it like a stupid science-fiction action movie starring the Rock and Karl Urban.

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