Not to sound like a broken record, but is there any original thought in filmmaking anymore? It feels like half the movies I see in theaters are derivative anymore, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they’d at least add something to the ideas they are borrowing from other pictures. It’s getting so bad that we can’t even solely blame Hollywood anymore. After all Doomsday is a U.K. production, not a Hollywood film, and, as most people have realized from the advertising, it’s a little bit The Road Warrior and 28 Days Later. It’s also a little bit Escape from New York, Army of Darkness, I Am Legend, and even a tiny bit Lord of the Rings. It’s just a shame none of it is much good in this form.
Doomsday’s first big mistake is an extensive amount of exposition delivered through an opening monologue, something that is rarely done as well as integrating that same exposition into the movie. Sure, the monologue is delivered by the awesome Malcolm McDowell, but it’s still a lot of information that could have been integrated into the story for a less obvious delivery. Basically, it’s the future and a major virus caused a lot of death in Scotland. To contain the virus, the government decided to seal off Scotland with a huge wall, mines, gunner turrets, etc. Think New York City in Escape From New York.
When, years later, the virus appears in London, the government needs a Snake Pliskin figure to go into Scotland and find the survivors that have been picked up on surveillance cameras. The hope is that they’ll find a cure, so Kate Beckinsale… oh, wait, that’s not Beckinsale, that’s actress Rhona Mitra, who does such a convincing Beckinsale impression that it should come as no surprise that she’s taking over the Underworld franchise. Anyway, Mitra plays Major Eden Sinclair, a skilled special-ops military officer who has a prosthetic eye she can remove during missions and use as a remote camera, which means she wears an eye patch… you know, like Snake Pliskin. Sinclair gets into the secured area to find that she has to deal with two warring factions within the walled off area: a bunch of punk-looking cannibalistic thugs (a la The Road Warrior - down to a gimp figure who gets fastened on the front of one of the vehicles) and the survivors of the previous plague, who have adopted the feudalistic style of living that apparently comes with inhabiting one of Scotland’s castles.
A lot of the movies that Doomsday borrows heavily from are cult classics and not movies that are in the mainstream consciousness. Truth be told, if Doomsday had brought something original to the table on top of borrowing all of these other ideas, it could probably achieve that same level of a cult following. After all, there’s enough gratuitous bloodshed and gore to appeal to most fans of those kinds of movies. Unfortunately, while you’ll recognize the elements of the other films in Doomsday, it doesn’t do anything but borrow those ideas. There’s no building on their foundation or twisting them into something original.
The other big strike against Doomsday is the presence of all of the problems of the modern day action picture: the shaky camera and quick-cut style that keeps any of the action sequences from having enough context to let the viewer know what is going on. Doomsday has at least two action pieces that could have been awesome if the camera would have held still, backed up a bit, and kept from cutting away long enough to give the viewer a chance to understand what they were seeing. Instead the sequences come across as just being a lot of random images flashing on screen while music plays loudly and the characters grunt and scream. If the initial setup hadn’t established these as fight sequences, I’d almost think I had seen a sex scene.
While I’m mentioning music, I have to add something I almost never talk about. Doomsday may very well have the worst sound editing job I’ve ever heard in a movie theater. The dialog is too quiet and the music is too loud, which means it’s almost impossible to hear a lot of what the actors are saying when the music is pounding, which is almost every second of the picture. There’s very little of the movie that doesn’t include an industrial music accompaniment. This wouldn’t be so bad if the sound editing was smoother, but instead of getting pulled into the movie further by the score, I just wanted the damn kids to turn off their loud music and let me hear what the characters were saying.
Doomsday is a movie with a lot of potential, most of which is borrowed from other movies. Unfortunately, writer/director Neil Marshall doesn’t build a picture that lives up to its potential, or the movies it borrows from. With today’s typically bad filming of action and a sound mix that renders the audio portion of the movie unusable at times, most people would be better off watching a marathon of the cult-classics that inspired this picture instead of plunking down the time and money to see Doomsday