Doom - Unrated Edition

With big guns, ugly aliens, and military muscle Doom almost seems like Predator: The Next Generation, especially considering The Rock is almost literally Arnold’s action successor. However, as a video game adaptation, Doom should be destined for the $5.99 bin at Wal-Mart. Does Doom finally elevate The Rock to Arnold-caliber action, or is it just another video game dud? I should probably say from the beginning that I’ve never played Doom. My game interests have always been more along the RPG lines and first person shooters have never done much for me. As such, I don’t have much of a background on Doom other then the awareness that it’s based on a popular video game that I’d most likely suck at.

The movie features a marine squad sent on a search and rescue operation when things go bad at a science installation on Mars. Yes, this is the future and mankind stumbled upon a method of traveling to the red planet called the Arc. Much like Galaxy Quest, the arc uses some sort of galactic goo to transport people between Earth and Mars, and so “Sarge” (The Rock) travels there with his squad to find missing scientists and attempt to discover what happened.

Along with Sarge are the regular bunch of military misfits you’d expect in a film like this. You have the religious zealot Goat (Ben Daniels), the creepy perv Portman (Richard Brake), the kid… um, Kid (Al Weaver), and a variety of other characters who are basically along to be fodder, but get to carry big guns like Jesse Ventura carried in Predator (Minnesota look out – your future governor may be in this movie). Among the rest is John Grimm aka Reaper (Karl Urban) who lost his parents to an archeological accident on Mars and is returning for the first time since. This becomes convenient when the scientist liaison the marines encounter on mars is non other than Reaper’s sister, Samantha (Rosamund Pike).

Of course, as the marines move in things “go wrong” and they find themselves under attack by a variety of creatures. Video game purists will probably be disappointed the movie substitutes alien genetic manipulation for the game’s portal to Hell, but the storyline works pretty well despite that change. Suddenly the marines find themselves playing cat and mouse with these creatures and, as each side takes casualties, a second battle begins between Sarge, who is prepared to complete his mission by any means necessary, and Reaper, who just wants to leave Mars behind him.

Doom is probably the best video game adaptation I’ve seen hit film to date, which sadly isn’t saying a lot. In a world of Super Mario Brothers and Uwe Boll flicks, it doesn’t take much to take that title but it’s still well deserved by Doom. The movie is more like an ‘80s Arnold flick then a video game, which is one of the best compliments I can give a film of this genre. Even more enjoyable then the fighting between the marines and the creatures is watching the film slowly transition from being The Rock’s movie to being about Karl Urban’s character. It’s an interesting move for a flick that was advertised so heavily to be The Rock’s next starring role, and it’s a move that happens so gradually you almost don’t realize Karl Urban is now the center of the film until it practically hits you in the face with it.

In fact, with one exception the movie is truly an enjoyable action flick. That one exception however is where this movie embraces its video game heritage and gets ridiculous for a few minutes – the first person shooter (FPS) perspective sequence. See, the filmmakers decided it was a good idea to pay tribute to the movie’s FPS roots by placing a sequence where the audience walks through the science base facing off against a variety of creatures from the first person point of view, complete with the character’s gun appearing to shoot at enemies. What works well for some people in a video game is pointless here though. Since there’s no interactive element to it, the audience is just watching a walkthrough, so the FPS sequence is just like watching a video game. There’s no connection to it beyond what you’re seeing and with all of the cool action sequences in the movie, it would have been more interesting to watch the same sequence in third person and give the stunt men a little more work. Thankfully the FPS sequence is only four or five minutes long, so while it does remove the audience from the action during the film’s climax (the reverse effect of what it was striving for), it doesn’t mar the entire film, leaving the bulk of the movie as an extremely entertaining action flick.

While Doom isn’t the type of film that’s going to win any awards (including the technical effects categories), it’s a solid advancement in the genre of video game adaptations. It’s probably the first movie version of a game I won’t be totally embarrassed to admit seeing and even liking. If future game adaptations move in this same direction there might just be hope for video game/movie crossovers. Doom joins the ranks of the “unrated” editions to come to DVD. In this case the unrated footage includes extra gore that was cut from the movie, and an extended sequence of that FPS sequence. Given that I wasn’t a fan of what was an overdone gimmick in the first place, extending it doesn’t impress me much. Other than that, there isn’t much of a difference between this unrated edition and the theatrical cut of the movie.

The disc includes several featurettes, mostly focused on the movie’s special effects; rightfully so, since that’s what Doom is all about. “Rock Formation” looks at the makeup and effects they used to transform The Rock for the movie’s final conflict, “Master Monster Makers” gives a behind the scenes look at (what else?) the creatures of the movie, and another featurette takes a close look at that wonderful first person shooter sequence. I have to give a little bit of credit to that last one. Although I didn’t care for the sequence, I am impressed with the amount of work that was put into it. It’s not easy to take a sequence like that, comprised of several different elements and filmed over a period of days, and make it look like one extended sequence.

“Basic Training” explores the military training the actors went through to give the movie a more realistic touch, including an interview with the film’s military advisor. Movies like Doom that use so many guns always impress me when they put featurettes on their DVDs that remind kiddies not to try this stuff at home. Finally, for the more video game oriented fans there is “Doom Nation”, which looks at the video game culture behind the movie, and an X-Box playable demo of Doom 3.

Doom is the type of movie that’s fun to toss in and watch on a good home theatre (particularly if you have a good sound system).I n many ways the DVD follows that idea that this is just a fun action flick, providing somewhat cookie cutter bonus materials focused mainly on the movie’s special effects, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.