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Lucky for these bastards, technology has
advanced to the point where you can use
your flashlight and shoot your gun at the
same time.

Doom
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Hollywood hasn't been kind to video game movies.  They stick them with low-rent directors (usually Uwe Boll, creator of trash such as Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead), shit them out into a theater near you with as little marketing as possible and then quickly release them on DVD, where they somehow manage to make a fortune. 

This shoddy treatment wouldn't be right for a game as beloved by gamers (and reviled by grandstanding politicians) as Doom.  Hundreds of thousands of people hoped, hyped and petitioned Hollywood to finally get one of these things right.  And if they're going to start doing it correctly, why not begin with Doom?

The fans have followed the Doom phenomenon from the shareware version to the Resurrection of Evil Expansion Pack.  They stuck with the series through thick and thin and found virtual ways to stick their flashlight onto a gun, so they could actually see what they were shooting at in Doom 3! These people are dedicated, and I am one of them.  So I was more than a little skeptical upon entering the theater to watch Doom.    

 
How the fuck do you make a decent movie based on a game where all you do is run around hallways and shoot monsters from a first-person perspective?  It'd be easier to shoot a film about a fat guy putting Cheez Whiz on crackers.  It was hard to muster up a granule of faith that anybody could pull this off (the Doom movie or the one about the fat guy spraying his Whiz).

Then someone leaked the news that Hell wouldn't be featured in the film and the star would be The Rock.  Was this a joke?  Or did the filmmakers consider The Rock to be Hell enough?  How do you have Doom without the pentagrams, inverted crosses and that big bitch of a devil?  It'd be like Seabiscuit without horses or Finding Nemo without fish. 

You gave me plenty of reasons to be skeptical, Universal.  But after leaving the theater I've been converted.  You somehow made this thing work.  Even a broken clock's right twice a day. 

Doom begins with a brief narration and then the Universal logo.  Only, instead of the word "Universal" spinning around the earth, it takes a trip around Mars.  The action kicks in immediately as panicked scientists are making a mad dash toward a security room.  They're running from something behind them.  Something hungry.  Something that wants to kill.  One of the scientists makes it to the room.  He begins closing the security doors, leaving his female counterpart out in the cold.  She makes her best effort, managing to get her arm in before two doors shut around it, pinching it off at the elbow.  The arm falls to the floor with a thud.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Doom.

This film is brutal.  It pulls no punches and earns its "R" rating every step of the way.  As a diehard horror junkie and someone who's literally seen it all (see my daily Top 31 Horror Movies for Your Drunken Halloween Bash updates if you don't want to just take my word for it), I feel qualified in saying that this movie is about as pretty as watching a dog sniffing the ass of a decomposed corpse.

There's vomit, blood, guts, beating hearts in test tubes (nice one, id), and exploding heads.  All the best weapons are there, too.  The only thing missing is Hell (you know Doom fans are a special group of people, when they eagerly await the fires of Hades).

In the movie version of Doom the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) is conducting archeological digs while secretly performing some pretty nasty scientific studies on all forms of animal, including human.  The primary difference between the game and the film lies in where the monsters that muck everything up come from. 

Gamers the world over know that these beasts are entering the UAC station on Mars through an open portal to (and from) Hell.  In the movie it's a bit more complex (and easier to shoot on a limited budget).  The creatures evolved from a 24th chromosome that was put into man (regular humans have 23).  Archeologists are digging up the remains of humans with super-human qualities.  They discover the bodies were free of all forms of disease, including cancer (and possibly Republicanism).  It was because of the extra chromosome -- which was created, not inherited -- that they overcame pretty much all of the downsides to being human.  Still, something ended up wiping them out. 

John Grimm (Karl Urban) asks his scientist sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike) what could have caused the extinction of a race of super humans.  "Time," she responds.  John looks at the skeletal structure of a female on her knees, holding her skeleton baby in her arms and shielding it from something horrible.  "You don't protect your infant from time," he retorts (of course I'm paraphrasing, because, like always, I forgot to bring my notepad to the screening).  So what sort of evil can wipe out a race of highly evolved bipeds?  Where did it come from, if not Hell?  To tell you would be to spoil the movie. 

The monsters' origin may not be as satisfying as if they were spawned from Hell, but it's a great way to get Doom on screen at a budget that can turn a profit, without taking away from the atmosphere and style of the games.  If you're willing to accept a few tweaks to the story you've grown to love over years of button mashing, you should leave Doom feeling satisfied.   

All warranted ass-kissing aside, the movie has its faults.  The acting is weak in parts (the two main parts being The Rock and that Rosamund Pike chick) and the dialogue is cheesy, more often than not.  But these are the kinds of "faults" that made me feel like I was watching one of my favorite time-worn sci-fi flicks, or episodes of The Twilight Zone

Doom has a real old-school feel about it.  It's as much The Thing From Another World as it is Alien or Predator (and fortunately for all of us, it's nothing like Alien vs. Predator).  Sure, the techno-babble can get corny, but that's half the fun.  While the dialogue may verge on Velveeta, the film takes its gore and its scares very seriously.

There's not as much blood as Freddy vs. Jason or Kill Bill: Volume 1, but it's more realistic. It's not the cartoony stuff we've been seeing so much of lately. It's the dark, painful style of gore that Romero likes to throw into his zombie movies. It's as grizzly as the MPAA let it get away with being, while still receiving an R rating.

The suspense is similar in nature to Alien.  Director Andrzej Bartkowiak has the patience to hold back from showing his audience everything right away.  He scares us with quick glimpses of a monster in the shadows, before giving us a full-on look at the sharp-toothed mother-fuckers our heroes are up against. 

When you do see the monsters/Imps, they look great!  Universal's mentally-handicapped monkeys advertising team (the same one that partially caused great movies like Cinderella Man and Serenity to tank) decided to feature the one crummy looking CG creature in the film in their ads, instead of the ugly looking scary ones.  Maybe this was intentional and they were trying not to reveal the cool stuff, but that's a pretty sophisticated advertising campaign for a "show me!" generation.

There's a surprising amount of traditional makeup effects, foam, latex and slime used in the movie.  If you're getting burned out on CG (which would be ironic, if you're a gamer), this step backward will seem almost revolutionary.

Another throwback in the film is that it actually has a decent plot and story to tell between the violent and often brutal killings.  The most interesting ongoing storyline is between John Grimm and Sarge (The Rock). 

Sarge has been told to quarantine the UAC space station on Mars.  He's a hard-ass Marine with no interest in anything other than following orders (and using the "F" word like he's auditioning for season 3 of Deadwood). 

Grimm is more the thinking man's soldier (if there can be such a thing).  His parents were killed working for UAC, his sister is a scientist and he doesn't buy into the "any means necessary" line of rhetoric Sarge keeps spewing. 

The two are quickly pitted against each other in a philosophical battle.  This is deeper than what you usually get in your standard post-Aliens monster movie using the Alien formula (see The Cave for a recent example of how bad these kinds of movies can get). 

Doom will go places you don't expect it to go.  For the first 90% of the film, 100% of the screening audience was with it.  It literally blows minds with a First Person Shooter sequence that is about as much fun as you'll have at the movies this October.  The audience was laughing and clapping and having a hell of a time. 

Most of the movie is practically the dictionary definition of big dumb fun.  The ending will leave some disappointed and others eagerly awaiting a sequel.  One thing is certain:  No one is going to see where this film is headed until it gets there.

I thought I knew what to expect walking into Doom.  I imagined a mildly entertaining, but overall disappointing experience.  What I got was an occasionally flawed, but almost always ballsy and highly driven horror thrill-ride.  I doubt many people will walk out thinking the film was worse than they expected.  Most will be pleased as peach schnapps, and stoked for a sequel.

After years of disappointments, a feature-length film finally does justice to a video game. For that, it just may be 2005's biggest surprise. On October 21 buy yourself a ticket, get in line and watch all hell break loose! Doom fans, this is the movie that you've been fragging for!

Note:  I'm getting emails from people who attended other advance screenings saying that they pretty much agree with my review but they were disappointed with how the film ended.  Email me for why I think it ended this way and to hear the alternate ending I came up with, that I think would have had the audience giving the movie a standing ovation. The people I've sent my alt. ending to have said it would have saved the movie for them. Please don't email until AFTER seeing the movie, because my alternative ending gives away quite a bit.

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On a scale of 1-10?

8

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