Video games haven’t been the same since the arrival of Doom, the original first-person shooter.  Released for the PC in 1993, it allowed the gamer to literally become the character he/she was controlling, to see through his eyes and walk around blasting enemies.  I’ve never played the game, myself, but I have played numerous imitations like Alien X and Starbase Defender.  It’s an enjoyable way to pass the time.
I wish I could say the same for the film version of Doom.  Released just before Halloween 2005, it’s a cross between Aliens, Night Of The Living Dead and The Island Of Dr. Moreau.  It has "B-movie" written all over it, but the filmmakers are too lazy and uninspired to transform this routine story into something unusual and exciting.
As the movie begins, we learn, through a helpful narrator, about a mysterious portal that was created by an equally mysterious civilization on Mars.  It was discovered during an archeological dig in America in 2026.  Very quickly, through a really cool transition, we are planted right in the middle of a chaotic scene.  Something has scared the bejesus out of some normally mild-mannered scientists who all run for cover down the halls of a research facility on the red planet.  Dr. Carmack (Robert Russell), at the expense of one of his colleagues, – he slams the door on her arm – communicates for help through a laptop.
And then we meet the rescue team, a typically ragtag group of special-operation marines led by The Rock.  None of them you really care about.  One guy’s a sleazeball who needs better pick-up lines and another is so religious that when he says "goddamn" he carves the symbol of the cross in blood on his arm.  (Now that’s devotion!)  Among the rest (and I know I’m leaving out some characters), there’s the obligatory rookie who’s a nervous nellie and needs pills (helpfully supplied by the aforementioned sleazeball) to focus properly, a couple of brotherly black guys and then, there’s John Grimm (Karl Urban).  His fraternal twin sister, Dr. Samantha Grimm (the lovely Rosamund Pike), is still pissed at him for blowing off a career in science which their now-deceased parents – they died in an unexplained accident when they were kids – were grooming them for.
The mission is pretty straightforward:  rescue the 85 people stuck in the building, kill any threats and retrieve important data.  What they don’t realize is that there are very few civilians to actually rescue, and shadowy creatures lurk everywhere making the mission that much more difficult to accomplish.  Once the team arrives on Mars to secure the area, they spend much of their time tediously going from room to room in almost complete darkness doing a sweep with their gun lights where they sometimes find survivors and other times, generic movie monsters with a fetish for human necks.  In the early going, you wonder if the power is out.  However, when we catch up with Dr. Carmack (who soon pays an homage, of sorts, to Vincent Van Gogh), The Rock simply switches on a light and for once, we can see clear images on the screen.  For most of the film, however, good luck following the action.  And yes, inevitably, the power does go out.
It’s never a good sign for a movie like this to have constant scenes with low lighting.  Let’s just say the real reason we’re barely able to see many of the monsters and zombies attacking our heroes is because they’re not worth looking at.  They’re not scary, they’re not interesting, why bother showing them at all?
At one point, one of the main characters does a complete 180 and turns into a villain.  At first, you think this is insane.  There’s no legitimate reason for that particular marine to turn against his men.  Then, you think this happens because he got bit by one of the monsters.  But it isn’t until later that we actually notice a neck wound so there’s a disconnect.  Furthermore, there’s no prior indication of this character possessing psychotic tendencies which makes one wonder if this was a last-minute script revision to try to save this floundering movie.
Like I said, this could’ve been something special.  It has all the elements of a decent guilty pleasure.  But without heroes to root for, without interesting villains to loath, without decent creature effects, without much of a sense of humour and without consistently good action sequences (there are some effective moments, if you squint hard enough), there’s not much to chew on here.
One thing is for sure.  The Rock is a movie star.  He passes Gene Siskel’s famous test.  He looks good in close-ups.  But he’s gotta be smarter when it comes to choosing his future roles.  There’s something there that hasn’t quite been tapped yet.  You see glimpses of it in Doom and even in past efforts like The Scorpion King.  With Arnold Schwarzenegger looking after California these days and other veterans like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jackie Chan getting too old to compete with the more death-defying younger generation, there’s plenty of room in Hollywood for a larger-than-life, old-school action hero.  The Rock should consider that when he picks his next project.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 10, 2007
8:21 p.m.
Published in: on June 10, 2007 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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