Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Movie Review: Doom

  In 1993, when the original Doom PC video-game was released, I was 2 years into my 4 year tour with the Army in Germany.  No one in the barracks had a PC, and the "hot" gaming system was the Sega Genesis.  I played Doom at a friend's house in Germany, and while it was a cool game, when you run around on a regular basis with a real assault rifle going through actual military drills, the game isn't as impressive.

 I was more impressed with the flurry of news stories and media attention that surrounded Doom.  The technology was cutting edge, the marketing revolutionary, and the violence and imagery controversial.  Doom, as far as many special interest groups were concerned, was an evil akin to heavy metal music a decade earlier.  For a while it seemed like every week a new story was coming out about how some kid did something stupid and claimed he was influenced by the game, culminating with a group of idiots who went on a killing-spree at Columbine High in 1999.

 All that media attention will either repulse or attract further interest.  I represent the latter, and based on the success of the Doom franchise, I can say that I am not alone.

 By the time I had my own PC, Doom was old news, and a number of slicker, more violent, and gorier games had hit the market.  Doom, though, was the grand-daddy of all first-person shooter, the standard by which all others are compared.  When word reached my ear that Doom was being made into a movie, I had yet to play the game entirely, but my first thought was "great, Hollywood prepares to take something wonderful and screw it up."

 I am happy to report that I could not have been more wrong.

 I knew the film would be promising when I read that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would be in a leading role.  I have been a fan of The Rock since his days in the WWF, and have enjoyed everything I have seen him in.  Granted, I refuse to watch Tooth Fairy, which makes making that statement easier.  Karl Urban also was a welcome edition, although he seems to always play the same character (John Grimm, Vaako, and Eomer are all the same troubled by honorable warrior).  The entire cast delivers in this film an impressive performance, with each character being made interesting and believable, hooking the audience's attention quickly in what is a very fast-paced film.

 Doom is extremely well written, building on the familiar story set by the video games.  The discovery of an alien instantaneous transporter which creates a gate from Earth to Mars has lead to the exploration and colonization of the planet.  The exploration is focused on learning as much as possible about the humanoids that left the technology and Mars behind thousands of years earlier.  It is discovered that the aliens were human in almost every way, and were enhanced by the addition of artificial chromosomes.  Experiments on modern humans leads to an emergency situation, and a Marine Rapid Response Tactical Squad is called in to eliminate the threat, secure the facility, and retrieve the facility's research.

 The CGI and special effects are seamless and impressive, and the film is shot beautifully.  The monsters are freakish and sometimes amusing (Pinky), and the film gets the mix between stings and gore just right.  Several scenes and elements are taken directly from the game itself, with the film adding its own twist to each.  Unlike House of the Dead, which clumsily interjected scenes from the video-game into the film, Doom even provides a welcome first-person shooting sequence, using the special effects and high production values of the film to give fans an experience like playing the game itself.  The film also keeps your guessing, providing an interesting lesson about human nature and what resides within each of us.

 Doom is one of the best video-game adaptions to date, second only to the first Resident Evil in my opinion.  After seeing the film, I purchased and played the original game, and was not disappointed.

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