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Doom: The Review

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Cast: Karl Urban, Dwayne Johnson, Rosamund Pike, Ben Daniels, Al Weaver, Richard Brake, Raz Adoti, Deobia Oparei, Yao Chin, Dexter Fletcher

Plot: A military unit are sent into a research facility to answer a distress call and find a nest of nightmares waiting for them.

There aren’t too many fans of this movie out there. Doom is one of those franchises that is pretty beloved by its followers and video game movies have a track record of being a terrible way to capitalise on those fans. However, me being only a partial fan to the gaming series, watched this movie and I felt that it did quite a few things well. It definitely deserves an appeal before we condemn it to bad movie hell.

For a start, we must remember that Doom was made back when games were fairly simple. For all intents and purposes, it is a gaming series that asks you to do little more than point a weapon at monsters and fire. The movie actually writes up a decent backstory and wider universe to accompany the narrative. It shows restraint when it comes to showing the monster, so the build-up squeezes every bit of tension out of the moment. The monsters aren’t over-cooked and even when the movie draws to a close, we are still a little unsure of what the monsters actually looked like, something I appreciate from my horrors. The female character that, at first, seems a little mandatory of the genre rather than a meticulously planned addition to the story, turns out to be a worthy part of the story (adding to the theory that Rosamund Pike really can do no wrong). I like how there isn’t a romance card played; the writers instead make the girl the sister of the lead hero. It helps make the final ‘save the helpless girl’ card come across as a sibling bond overcoming the bad guy, rather than a tired staple of the action genre. On top of being intelligent, the action is done well, so it doesn’t become a slow-paced horror. The military strategies feel genuine and one scene near the end, which becomes the most memorable five minutes in the film, is pretty awesome. On one hand, it feels like the writers finally give into the video game trademarks they had been doing well avoiding up until that point, but at the same time, if you are going to indulge yourself, you do it with style.

Sadly, Doom might dress up intelligently, but the corny action horror is still there. I can see why it is rated so low, because points of it are either routine or silly. For example, the heroes are all hardened military soldiers, coming across as a B movie copy of the Aliens or Predator protagonists. Aliens is definitely a point of inspiration here, because the story closely follows the systematic ‘marines wandering clueless around a basement area until Aliens!’ trope. These guys even come complete with cringe-worthy names. A few of the leads have some interesting character quirks, but the moment the monsters are unleashed, all story is abandoned for some shooting. There aren’t really character arcs for anyone not in the top three slots of the cast list; they just have certain quirks that the writers hope make them interesting enough to care about when they get killed gruesomely. Truthfully, that was to be expected. I would have just liked some more horror. This is the problem with having your lead heroes as the tough action stars. Every jump scare is followed by the military reflexes kicking in and defeating the opposition, which totally negates the scary moment. There are a few moments when the monsters are running from the good guys, which totally kills any tension that might have been felt. It suggests a lack of understanding from director Bartkowiak. In Aliens, the military bad-asses were reduced to quivering wimps by the horror movie monster. In Predator, the movie monster totally outmatched them. Here, the only thing really getting in the way of the good guys is their own men.

And that brings us to the surprise plot twist that really makes Doom so memorable for me. The writers must understand that there needs to be a change in pace for the movie to justify its running time, so the third act gets quite interesting. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it, but Doom takes one of its lead characters down a direction that few other movies would have the courage to actually go. While the use of military bad-asses as the heroes diminishes the second act of Doom, in the third act, it almost feels like the writers are making their own commentary about the morality of a military unit. The monsters might not have the fear factor to justify the build-up (probably while the video game fans dislike it – Doom is meant to be terrifying!), but when the army begins turning on one another, there is a thick tension in the air that is the most exhilarating this movie has been since the start. It also gives Dwayne Johnson something quite meaty to do, suggesting that Doom could have been the movie that awakened producers to his acting range.

Final Verdict: Doom might be an average action movie, but it does try and do something interesting things that audiences should appreciate more than they are doing.

Three Stars