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Doom
Tonight's Feature Presentation

DOOM (2005)

Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike

Written By: David Callaham (also story), Wesley Strick Directed By: Andrzej Bartkowiak

The Short Version

You’ve seen this movie a hundred times before, usually done better.  But also worse.

Feel free to get up for a bio break without hitting the “pause” button; you’ll miss nothing.

The “first person shooter” perspective sequence doesn’t translate well at all.

The Rock has screen presence.

If you want mindless entertainment, this is it.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEEZ-ITS.

In theory, they’re made of real cheese, but the cheese is processed beyond recognition into a marketable package designed for mindless munching.


Pairs Well With...

BUD LIGHT.

The uninspired, unimaginative choice of people everywhere who don’t give a damn what their beer tastes like; they just want beer.  Cheap, average beer.

“Nothing gets back ‘til everything on this planet is dead.”


Welcome to the Doom Cheez Cinema, where we dare to ask the question: is Doom cheez?

The answer is most assuredly yes; Doom is cheez.  Bland, highly processed, uninspired cheez.  Any brains associated with this movie are splattered across the wall in short order.  Doom is, in fact, the very definition of mindless entertainment.

For many people, this makes Doom the perfect movie.  Rock on!

Doom is a superb kegger flick.  In fact, I will suggest that your first viewing of Doom be with at least one drinking buddy.  (And hey, guys, if you need to convince your date to watch, just remind her that The Rock is in it.  It may amaze you how well this works.  If you don’t understand why, you are probably best off not asking.)  It’s just more fun that way.

Why does Doom make a superb kegger flick, you ask?  Well…

  • The plot takes almost no brain cells at all to follow; indeed, you can probably get by with your medulla alone and be okay here.  You’ve seen this plot so many times before that you know what’s going on even if you first show up halfway through the movie.   Emergency call blah blah here come the marines blah blah oh shit everyone’s dead blah blah shoot the monsters blah blah escape before the monsters can follow you home blah blah zomg explosions.

  • Yup, there are monsters and stuff, and monsters are cool!  Especially the one on wheels!

  • And explosions!  Zomg Explosions!  And the BFG!

  • You can get up to use the bathroom, refill on beer, or grab more pizza any time you want without pressing the pause button.  You’ll miss nothing.  Sure, the script goes through a few motions of alleged character development along the way, but none of it matters, and if you miss an explosion, don’t worry.  Another one will be along soon.  Names aren’t really all that important, either, so don’t worry if you miss an introduction or two.

  • You also don’t have to worry about missing the nude scene if you have to use the can or pass out, because there isn’t one.  (And they said I could never turn that into a positive!)

In short, Doom is cheap action entertainment (and I do mean cheap; if there’s even a chance you’ll watch this twice, it costs less to own than rent, even on blu ray) that you don’t need to pay close attention to in order to have fun with it.  Once the kegger’s over, you can wait to watch it again until you’re stuck on the couch with the flu; it’s perfect for that, too.  Or for when you’ve had a bad day you want to forget by watching random shit blow up.  You get the idea, I think.

So if all you’re about is the mindless action entertainment (and really, we all are, from time to time, whether we like to admit it or not), there you go.  Doom is your nirvana of cheez.  Feel free to go run off and smell what The Rock is cookin’.

Now, if you actually care about the details

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (yeah, I can make those puns all day long), you know that Doom is based on the series of first person shooter video games of the same name.  Indeed, the original Doom game stands along with Wolfenstein 3D as the prototypical first person shooter.  The movie, of course, takes as many opportunities as possible to refer back to the game that it is exploitin- er, inspired by.  In most cases, whether or not these efforts are cool or have the effect of beating the viewer over the head with a neon sign is really a matter of taste.  (Personally, I find the idea of Sarge entering a well-known cheat code for the game in order to get into a secure storage area cool.)  There are, however, a couple of game references worthy of individual consideration.

The first is the item that Sarge enters the cheat code to get access to: the BFG.  The official nomenclature calls it the “Big Force Gun”.  I think even people who’ve never so much as brushed against gamer culture can guess that out in the real world, no one thinks that the “F” stands for “Force.”  We all know that it’s a Big Fucking Gun, and Sarge says so, too.  And the Big Fucking Gun is cool; frankly, any incarnation of Doom without the BFG would have been a total disappointment.  So far, so good.

The second major game reference, however, isn’t so much.  I refer, of course, to the famous first person perspective sequence.  The object of major hype when it came time to promote the film, this three minute sequence switches the camera view to the same first person perspective that the game uses, as though you, the viewer, are standing in place of the camera, and you are seeing what’s ahead through the character’s own eyes.  You see a hand, a gun, and lots of bobbing around while monsters get shot at and the shooter occasionally pauses to reload.  It’s a game movie made to look just like the game!  Pretty neat, huh?  Um, no; it isn’t, really.  The first person perspective works during a game (assuming you don’t get motion sick from it, which The Rock admitted he does) because the viewer is also an active participant controlling the action; translated to static viewing in a movie context, it just doesn’t work.  This is why even in games, cutscenes tend to pull back to standard perspective.  Even worse, in the context of Doom, the film, the sudden transition to first person perspective plays very blatantly as a cheap gimmick.  It’s very obviously force-fed into the movie, and feels very much out of place.  Frankly, the movie would have been better off without it.

Speaking of being better off without, vexingly (or perhaps not so much, if you want to play politics with the subject, which really involves too much thinking for a movie like Doom), the makers of Doom decided that their film would be better off without the game’s original bad guys.  In the game, players go to Mars (oh yeah; the action takes place on Mars, though really for all you see of it, they might as well say it’s a warehouse basement in Utah) and blow up demons who have come out from a portal to Hell that got dug up on everyone’s favorite red planet.  In the movie, however, the monsters are mutant quasi-undead types brought about by Scientists Doing Naughty Things.  (If this sounds like Resident Evil, you’re right.  The primary differences between this movie and that one are that Milla Jovovich is female, and Resident Evil is way more intelligently done.)  Action fans, of course, really aren’t going to care much, but it’s a sore spot for game purists.

One other sore spot for many game purists is that while there’s plenty of stuff blowing up to go around, it still doesn’t feel like there’s enough of it.  If the Doom games are known for anything (other than inducing motion sickness), it’s balls-to-the-walls blow-shit-up action.  Sly Stallone and Dolph Lundgren may be content to stop their action movies for fifteen minutes at a time to concentrate on things like bad puns and rudimentary dialogue, but Doom isn’t supposed to do that.  Done in the true spirit of the game, Doom would be directed by Michael Bay on espresso and amphetamines.  Fifteen minutes between explosions?  Try no more than three, and that’s being generous.  Part of what holds Doom together as a game is its unrelenting pace.  Doom as a movie just doesn’t have that.

What it does have, though, is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (still officially calling himself The Rock at this point).  Whether or not you care about his past life as a wrestler (or as a CFL player, for that matter), his presence on the screen as an actor cannot be denied.  And no, I don’t mean “actor” in the Shakespearean sense (though actually, when cast in more thoughtful roles, the man is up to the task); for this role, I just mean “actor” in the sense of “guy on the screen holding the BFG.”  The Rock doesn’t have to say a word; he just has presence.  He commands your attention just be being there, and that is a very rare and respectable gift indeed.  For people who want more than just the monsters and the explosions, The Rock helps to keep Doom watchable.  And hey, eye candy for the ladies!  (And many gentlemen, as well, to be fair.)

Karl Urban (who’d later reincarnate Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek reboot) also does his part in the effort of making Doom occasionally feel as though it’s populated by real characters, and former Bond girl Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) would outclass this movie even without her Magna Cum Laude university honors.

At the end of the day, though, no one with any sense is watching Doom for any brains other than those that get splattered against the wall.  It’s mindless formula action horror, and that’s it.  If you’re looking for more than that, try Resident Evil.  As for people who love Doom the game, it’s important to remember that as much as modern media seems desperate for the two things to converge, games and movies are still two different things, and the experience of the game is never going to translate properly onto the screen.  Compare the movie too closely to the game, and of course you’ll be disappointed.

Bottom line, Doom is mindless action entertainment, and that’s it.  When you don’t want to think and just want to see ugly things blow up at reasonable intervals, Doom is your nirvana of cheez.

Doom Cheez Cinema is now Cinema on the Rocks. Thank you for your support!

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2011

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