For the one or two of you out there who haven't heard of ID Software's Doom franchise, it was a huge hit when it first came out and for many gamers out there, it was their first experience to the 'first person shooter' premise in which the player takes on the perspective of the character in the game. It was an insanely successful game, in which a space marine took on hordes of demons who had found their way out of Hell and into Mars, it wasted many hours of my college years, and it's gone on to inspire countless knock offs and sequels and now a Hollywood motion picture starring The Rock.
The premise of the film? The Rock is a Marine named 'Sarge' who is in charge of a team that is sent off to investigate an emergency signal that came from a research compound on Mars. Sarge and his crew teleport across space and low and behold, one of the Sarge's men, a Marine named Reaper (Karl Urban), finds that his sister, Samantha (Rosamund Pike), is working there and is the point of contact for them on this mission. As time passes, some of the scientists start turning up dead and the Marines realize that there's a lot more going on here than they first suspected. Something is out there in the hallways of the underground facility, and it's morphing and spreading like some sort of parasitical virus and infecting anyone it comes into contact with – or so they think. Sarge and his rag tag band of soldiers are going to have their work cut out for them as they set out to neutralize the threat by whatever means necessary but as Samantha seems to know, it's not quite all that simple.
There's a twist or two thrown into the storyline that probably won't surprise too many viewers, but for the most part, that's it. Marines show up, people die, a threat emerges, and then it's time to bring on the violence. We're not dealing with a very through provoking movie here and no one is going to really remember this film for its challenging plot and fascinating characters. That being said, Doom is a lot of fun in a big budget B-movie kind of way. The guys behind this project knew they were adapting a video game that was made famous by its gratuitous violence and splattery carnage and despite some rather odd changes to the premise of the game on which it is based, the movie does deliver in that department.
First and foremost are the creature effects, which are actually quite impressive. The monsters were created by blending guys in rubber suits with CGI enhancements and it works really well. Rather than seeing the Marines battle completely computer generated monsters like in films such as Resident Evil, we see the creatures move in a more organic and lifelike fashion which makes the scenes much cooler and much more believable. Add to that the fact that the effects team doesn't shy away from throwing in some nice splatter effects for the gun shot wounds and a few severed limbs and torn torsos during the fight scenes and you've got yourself a movie that, as Chas Balun would say, 'delivers the gory goods' without an abundance of overly slick computer effects (they're there, but they're not as overbearing as you might think).
Performance wise, the movie is completely cookie cutter in nature. The Rock plays exactly the type of character you'd expect him to, he's hammy and tough as nails and he doesn't take any crap from anybody. He spouts off the one liners with scenery chewing enthusiasm and he fits the part of the tough Marine in charge just fine, even if he is a walking, talking cliché in this movie. Karl Urban's character gets a little more development in that we get to see him attempt to rekindle his relationship with his sister so in that regard we care a little more about his character and about Rosamund Pike's character but even with that being said, they're still pretty generic as are the rest of the space Marines sent in to help.
Doom exists to show off the shoot out scenes, and the movie is more or less based around a few violent set pieces highlighted by the 'first person shooter' scene in which Reaper must make his way through the compound and take out as many of the beasts as he can using his gun, a few grenades, and a chainsaw. Fans of the game will geek out over this sequence, the one part of the movie that really feels like the Doom that gamers know and love, and it is a pretty intense and enjoyable sequence as it is here that the filmmakers finally pile on the monsters in the same way that the game did.
The unrated extended version of the film that Universal has released on DVD runs just over twelve minutes longer than the R-rated theatrical cut of the film which adds some gore that was trimmed and a few brief character development extensions. The first person shooter sequence has also been extended to roughly five and a half minutes. The gore makes the action and horror scenes more enjoyable, but the character development scenes don't make the movie any more intelligent or riveting in that regard – the film is still a big, dumb, gory shoot'em up.
While the generic sounding heavy metal soundtrack pretty much clues you in to what is going to happen before it starts to happen and the script is by the numbers and completely generic, Doom provides enough intensity in the shoot out scenes and enough completely enjoyable blood and guts effects that it's easy to turn off your brain and enjoy it for what it is. Sure, it borrows pretty heavily from Aliens and even Resident Evil at times but it's fun and it's entertaining and while more monster mayhem would have gone a long way towards making it a more enjoyable film, as it stands it's a decent guilty pleasure.
Doom gets a very solid transfer that is enhanced for anamorphic sets and retains the original aspect ratio of 2.35.1. The image is very and quite clean and only occasionally exhibits some tiny minor specks of print damage in a couple of the darker scenes. Skin tones look dead on, color definition is top notch, and this is overall a very nice presentation of the film. There is some minor edge enhancement and shimmering in a couple of scenes that is slightly noticeable but it doesn't happen too often, thankfully. With so much of the film taking place in the dark it's important that the black levels be handled properly to ensure that the detail doesn't get lost and the image doesn't become muddied and luckily, the disc comes through in that department. There aren't any issues with mpeg compression and there's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background information in the picture at any given time. There's very little to complain about here, the movie looks great.
Equally impressive is the sound mix for the film. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are supplied in English, French and Spanish. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, and Spanish and there is also an English closed captioning option as well. The film benefits from a very active and aggressive sound mix that really does add quite a bit of atmosphere to the movie, especially during the action scenes and the monster attack sequences. Surrounds are used nicely to fill in the soundscape and the subwoofer gives a few nice solid kicks to the proceedings and provides some nice jump scares during the run of the film. Dialogue is never a problem and is always clearly comprehensible, and background music and sound effects are well balanced and mix nicely, never overshadowing what's being said at any given point in time. The shoot-out/first person scene is the most intense, with bullets whipping around you and monsters coming at you from all sides and this mix handles it very well, adding to the fun.
Universal has supplied fans with a decent selection of extra features and even if some of them feel very promotional in nature, there's some good information and interesting tid-bits to be found in here. First up is Basic Training, which is a featurette that show us how the producers brought an ex-Marine named Tom McAdams onboard to train the cast members how to behave like real soldiers. We see them take weapons training in which they learn how to handle their firearms, we see them do various tactical team based exercises, and more. It's fairly interesting to see how much emphasis was put on this aspect of the film and how they went about achieving that through this training. Some clips from the feature and a few interview inserts with the cast members discussing their take on what it was like to get the training break up the footage and add some insight to the package.
Do you want to learn how the make up technicians turned The Rock into a monster? Sure you do! And in a five minute featurette entitled Rock-Formation you'll get to see how his tattoos were painted on, how his prosthetics were applied, and how the transformation became complete. It's a brief segment but it's marginally interesting for those into make up effects.
Slightly more interesting in that regard is Master Monster Makers which takes us through the creature design from start to finish. We see how the monsters were first created on paper and then we witness the creation of the suits that the actors wore and then how CGI was integrated with the live actors to create the effects that we see in the finished version of the film. This is pretty interesting stuff, although it's too brief at just under eleven minutes and kind of leaves you wanting more as some of the behind the scenes footage in here is very, very cool.
First Person Shooter is a six minute examination of how the film's most famous scene was developed. The crew talks about some of the challenges that they ran into bringing this to life, how they had to accommodate for a widescreen aspect ratio as opposed to using the fullframe that a computer monitor offers, and how the gun would sometimes block the shots, which is why it's only pulled up when it's needed. This segment also offers you the chance to watch the entire sequence in its entirety outside of the context of the film if you want.
The final featurette is Doom Nation which runs for roughly fifteen minutes. This brief documentary examines the origins of the game, the rise of ID Software, and the impact that it had on the gaming community at large. They cover the humble beginnings, the second game, and of course, Doom 3 as well and the differences between the three installments. A few of the ID Software team are on hand for interviews and it's fun to see them reminisce about the marketing of the game, how shareware played a huge part in its success, and about some of the more unique aspects that made it such a hit.
Rounding out the supplements are the Game On featurette, which is more or less a glorified advertisement for Doom 3, and a playable demo for Doom 3 itself which works only on an X-Box.
While the extra features could have been stronger, the feature is fun in a brainless action-horror-science fiction hybrid kind of way. Fans of the game will enjoy the references that are there and curse the liberties taken with the storyline, but those who just want to see the Rock and a few others shoot up a bunch of monsters in the dark should have fun with it. Universal's release of Doom – The Unrated Extended Edition looks and sounds very good and earns itself a marginal recommendation for fans of the big dumb action movie genre and a solid rental for everyone else. As dumb as it is, it's pretty entertaining stuff.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.