The Reaper virus first reared its infectious little head in Scotland in 2008, and...well, it's called the Reaper virus, so it kinda goes without saying that it's more than just a nasty case of the sniffles. The tattered remnants of the British government walled itself off from the Scots, leaving untold millions to wither and die outside its heavily fortified walls. Twenty five years have passed since the outbreak, and the rest of the empire is assumed to be long dead. Turns out that the government is sitting on the revelation that there are a few straggling survivors skulking around the Scottish countryside, and presumably the reason they're alive and kicking is because Dr. Kane (Malcolm McDowell) stumbled upon some sort of cure. When the virus resurfaces in the densely packed ghettos of London, the feds send stone-faced asskicker Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) to head up a team to retrieve whatever cure is out there. The clock is ticking, but the uninfected schlubs caught on those satellite photos looked harmless enough, so...how hard could it be? Wouldn't be much of a movie if the answer weren't "a lot". Beyond the massive wall is a ravenous army of marauding cannibals, and even they're just one faction of a brutal civil war.
The only character Doomsday really gives a shit about is Rhona Mitra's. Once she steps onto the frame, the camera hardly ever cuts away from her for more than a couple of minutes, and even then it's just to hack off someone's hand or take the ass-end of an axe to the face. There really aren't any subplots, weepy flashbacks, or...once you wade past the prologue...rambling fist-sized chunks of exposition. Nope, there's nothing to distract Doomsday from shooting, skewering, decapitating, or blowing the fuck up out of everyone and everything on-screen, and sometimes all four at once, repeatedly.
Neil Marshall never lets up: Doomsday screams forward for pretty much two hours straight and constantly managed to catch even a
Doomsday is a brutal, bloody, and cacklingly over-the-top homage to early '80s action flicks. Go ahead and bitch about it being unoriginal or spastically ridiculous if you want, but Doomsday is some of the most fun I've had perched in front of my Blu-ray player all year. Highly Recommended.
The DVD piled on both the theatrical and unrated versions of the movie, but this Blu-ray release opts for just the unrated cut. This is...yeah, one of those flicks that really earns the unrated banner plastered across the front cover too, unflinchingly graphic and sopping with blood.
Video: Y'know, it's kinda nice to see something this gory look so damn pretty. Universal's hit the reference quality mark their first time stepping up to the plate with a day-and-date release on Blu-ray: the thin veil of grain throughout Doomsday doesn't show any sign of being smeared away by clunky noise reduction, the VC-1 compression never buckles under the weight of the spastic visuals, and there's not surprisingly no sign of wear or neglect. The 2.39:1 image is razor sharp, richly detailed, and sports that practically three-dimensional depth that home theater nuts won't shut up about. Black levels are consistently deep and robust throughout, and the image doesn't degrade when the light's dialed down or crush away any shadow detail. Doomsday's visuals are intensely stylized -- which...c'mon, this is a Neil Marshall flick, so you already knew that -- and they claw their way to Blu-ray flawlessly.
Audio: Doomsday packs on a hell of a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, and its sound design is every bloodied bit as aggressive as the movie itself. The hyperviolence and unrelenting chaos floods every speaker, and
There aren't any dubs or downmixes, but this Blu-ray disc does serve up subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Extras: It's kind of a drag that there are only two extras on this disc.
First up is an audio commentary with writer/director Neil Marshall, who piles into the recording booth with actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden, and Les Simpson. It's kind of a quiet track; the five of them sit back and watch the movie more than anything else, forgetting the whole thing about...y'know, talking into that big bank of microphones mounted in front of 'em. There are enough quality notes to make this commentary worth a listen, but it's subdued enough that it's probably better left playing in the background. Some of the highlights include the gags hidden in post-almost-apocalyptic London, nixing all of Sinclair's witty action-hero banter, accidentally sending a mint condition Bentley careening off a cliff, pointing out nods to everything from Hurricane Katrina to Apocalypse Now to The Warriors, and explaining what the sequel-friendly final shot of the film means, exactly.
The DVD release piled on somewhere around 45 minutes' worth of featurettes, and Universal has carved those up into part of this Blu-ray disc's U-Control experience. Annoyingly, the U-Control -- which runs the entire length of the movie, overlaying snippets of text and video on the screen -- is the only way to view any of this material, and I'm sure at least some of the footage from these featurettes wound up scattered across the cutting room floor as a result.
Although I do wish that Universal had included the three featurettes in full as well, I've gotta say that I'm a fan of how they're approaching U-Control these days. Viewers can pick which features they want to enable upfront, and the three options -- 'Reaper Files', 'Tech Specs', and 'Picture in Picture' -- can be individually toggled on and off at any time. There's also a chapter-by-chapter list of which components are
'Reaper Files' is mostly text-based, rattling off Sinclair's mission objectives, what the Reaper virus is, how it spreads, and how it was contained, the philosophies behind the marauders and Kane's kingdom, the four-legged transportation used by Kane's flunkies, and the different backdrops Sinclair plows through in search of the cure. There are also dossiers on each of the key players in the movie, and their bios frequently expand on what's expressly shown on-screen. 'Tech Specs' takes a whirling, 3-D rendered peek at the combat model biosuits, the heavy artillery Sinclair and her crew are packing, and even the nuts and bolts of the '08 Bentley Continental GT. The meatiest of the features is the picture-in-picture video that plays over the movie. There's really not all that much footage, disappointingly, but there are detailed behind-the-scenes tours through several key sequences -- the siege in Glasgow, the gladitorial pit fight, and the climactic chase in the Bentley -- along with a peek at the construction of the redux of Hadrian's Wall, taking over London Bridge, and some of the splatter effects.
'Reaper Files' and 'Tech Specs' both do a nice job better fleshing out this post-apocalyptic world beyond what's just shown in the movie. The picture-in-picture video is a little too sparse, though, and I think I would've rather just had the featurettes presented as-is. It's also worth noting that the PiP video can only be viewed on PS3s and newer Blu-ray decks.
Conclusion: Doomsday is a blood-spattered love letter to that big stack of post-apocalyptic flicks from the early '80s, as trashy, cacklingly depraved, and ultraviolent as the best of 'em. Kinda goes without saying that this isn't exactly for everyone, and I'm not gonna pretend that there's anything particularly original about it, but Doomsday knows exactly what sort of grindhouse sci-fi/action flick it wants to be and plows ahead unrelentingly, guns blazing. As for this Blu-ray disc...? It's kinda light on extras, but the 1080p video and lossless audio are both first-rate. Highly Recommended.