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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doom (HD DVD)
Doom (HD DVD)
Universal // Unrated // April 25, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 7, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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HD DVD -- the best in picture, sound, and interactivity, as the marketing blurb goes. Doesn't say anything about the movies being worth watching, though, and with early adopters to the HD DVD format so starved for titles that they'll buy pretty much anything, I guess this is as good a time as any for Universal to pop out a release of Doom.

The plot pretty much boils down to "Martian bughunt", but the longhand version goes something like this: an ancient passageway from Earth to Mars is discovered, and a megalithic corporation has used this 'Ark' to establish a research facility. One group is dedicated to archeological studies, and the other builds and tests advanced weaponry or...something like that. It wouldn't be much of a movie if something didn't go terribly wrong, so...it does, communication is cut-off, and The Rock and his crack team of marines are sent in to rescue both the scientists and their morally-repugnant research. If you've ever seen Aliens or Predator -- and, oh, I have a sneaking suspicion that screenwriters Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick just might have -- you can fill in most of the rest from there.

Think a Sci-Fi Original Movie screenplay, only lose Bruce Campbell and fork over a $70 million price tag. Or take Aliens and Predator, replace the snappy dialogue that's still endlessly quotable all these years later with fuck-spattered bon mots like "Big. Fuckin'. Gun. Awwwww shit!" and "Semper Fi, motherfucker!", ditch any excitement, tension, or characterization, and...really just make it not very good, and you're left with something bearing an uncanny resemblance to Doom.

Although the original PC game was an unrelenting run-and-gun shoot-'em-up, Doom as a movie tries to take more of a horror approach rather than straight action. There are only a handful of creatures for the bulk of the movie, and it's rare to have more than one beastie and maybe two soldiers in a scene at once. It attempts to be dark and atmospheric, having the marines trudge through shadowy, silent catacombs and masking the monsters in an inky black until one suddenly leaps into frame. It's agonizingly dull rather than tense, though, as most of the movie just has our intrepid heroes meandering around and, every once in a while, briefly stumbling upon a monster. Even the jump scares that inevitably follow fall flat.

I started to outline a few paragraphs listing my gripes with the movie in far too much detail, but why should I put more time and thought into my review than the writers put into their screenplay? The plot's threadbare and really kinda incoherent at times, the characters are cardboard cutouts, the acting's wooden and stilted, the lighting is absurdly dim, the action's mostly tepid, the generic electronic-metal score sounds like bumper music for a UFC match, and the first-person shooter sequence...oh, the first-person shooter sequence. The only particularly memorable moments of Doom come near the climax and sport the same FPS view as the PC game, as if you're peering through Karl Urban's eyes. It's both eerily accurate and ridiculous looking, kind of a cross between peeking over a gamer's shoulder and a stroll through the Jaycees spook house at the county fair. I've read posts on the DVD Talk forums where some people really seemed to like it, but it seems to me to be the worst idea for a video game adaptation since Uwe Boll intercut pixely gameplay footage into House of the Dead.

I will give credit to Doom for toying with the usual expectations a little bit, although its biggest twist impressed The Rock so much that he made it a point to spoil it in every interview he did. A polite nod also goes to one-time Bond girl Rosamund Pike for not wearing a bra and enduring what looks to be a fairly chilly Czech movie set. Other than that, though...? This HD DVD release of Doom is unrated and runs twelve minutes or so longer than the theatrical cut. Ian Jane's DVD review goes into more detail about the differences, but there are some pretty decent kills and a good bit of splatter. Not nearly enough to salvage a movie this half-thought-out and uninspired, though.

Video: With Doom boasting a clean, smooth, video-like 2.35:1 image that's almost entirely devoid of film grain, it seems like this HD DVD would at least be worthwhile as demo material...and at times, it is. Under decent lighting, the image is startlingly detailed, outclassing nearly everything else I've watched in high-definition. Unfortunately, the absurdly dim lighting throughout most of Doom saps a lot of the "wow" away, as a lot of shadow detail is drowned in an indiscernable sea of inky black. With so much of the movie taking place in the same few dark, sterile, blandly-dressed sets, Doom isn't all that visually interesting either. Although Serenity does (gasp!) have film grain, something despised by some videophiles who treasure their hardware more than the movies they buy, it would be my choice of the HD DVDs I've seen to show off your home theater since it has more inventive set design and is actually...y'know, good.

Audio: Doom sports Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 tracks in English, French, and Spanish. Its surround channels are constantly buzzing with activity, doing their best to establish a creepy ambiance despite the movie undermining that at every turn, and there's a good bit of directionality throughout. The thunder of gunfire and grenades also summons a hellish amount of bass. The uninspired score is interchangeable with any other movie (or TV show or video game or...anything, really), and the dialogue is clunky and boring, but both emerge as flawlessly as they can.

Supplements: The extras are ported over from the DVD (and still in standard definition), including featurettes about the grueling training the actors had to endure, the creature design and makeup effects, the filming of the first-person shooter sequence, the impact the PC game had, and some promotional stuff for the Doom 3 video game. If you're eager for more in-depth comments, take a look at the review of the original DVD.

Conclusion: Big, loud, dark, and dumb, the best thing I can say about Doom is that it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, but then again, I have a job that forces me to watch direct-to-video schlock like Killer Buzz. Doom isn't worth spending $25 to own, but HD DVD owners ravenous for something...anything...to watch would be better off hitting Netflix. If you have to see Doom, Rent It.

Just to be avoid any confusion, the pictures in this review are promotional stills lifted from Blackfilm.com. They're just meant to be eye candy and aren't necessarily indicative of the way this HD DVD looks.
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