Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Doom - Between The Rock and a Hard Place

The 2005 movie Doom picks up where the popular computer game left off: Marines storming a space station to find out what went wrong. And, of course, to kill as many moving bodies as possible to rack up a really neat score.

As I told a friend of mine before entering the movie theatre: It's based on a video game. How good could it be?

The movie tries hard to develop a plot and bring to the screen all the things prepubescent guys would want to see on the screen. Well, except for one thing: there's only one woman in the entire movie, and she's fully clothed. She (actress Rosamund Pike), of course, is the rocket scientist (well, really a geneticist) who has to figure out what happened with this virus and why these monsters are appearing all over the station. Unfortunately, the audience has figured out all of that before she or any of the Marines do.

There are so many idiotic things in this movie that they're all hard to cover. Marines without helmets....what were they thinking??? No way of ensuring light throughout the cavernous station. HUGE guns that seem larger than the Marines themselves but offer very little firepower. Unfortunate errors in science ("human beings have 23 chromosomes" when they have 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs).

But we're not here for the science, right? We have lowered our expectations, remember. And for the most part, we're not sorry we came.

The Rock plays Sarge, "Semper Fi" tattooed on his back, not your usual hard-crusted Marine sergeant, a gentler sort who won't take insubordination from his men but will give them a little latitude. After all, these Marines are individuals -- another problem with realism -- and if you can get past the fact that this motley bunch would never make it past training, you can enjoy the different characters we get in this bunch. Not the usual stereotypical gung-ho guys, that's for sure. A drug addict, a devout (make that fanatical) Christian, the new Kid, and a guy with a past (Karl Urban).

Karl of Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Riddick is imminently watchable here, and deserves better fare, out of the action genre and into more of a challenge. The Rock is coming along nicely in the acting department; he was offered Urban's Grimm but chose Sarge, a more interesting character. It was a wise choice.

For most of the film, we're yawning a bit as we wait for the steel doors to open and stun us with the creatures. We get some small moments of tension, and for that we're grateful. But if you Doom fans can wait until the final 20 minutes, you'll be rewarded with electric kinetic movement, pseudo-actual footage from the game as we hunt looking over the barrel of a gun, and a battle during the final showdown that shows our stars to their best advantage.

Thumb's up for Doom, a movie that delivers more than it promised.


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