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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Rock cooks his usual stew of fun, gun and dumb with 'Doom'

Given the limited concept, Andrzej Bartkowiak's cinematic re-imagining of the popular video game "Doom" works surprisingly well. The film will appeal primarily to the segment of the population who remember the original video game from the early-to mid-'90s and those who have played the newly released "Doom 3" game. If you recall the cheat codes, love to deathmatch and know who John Carmack is, you will enjoy this film. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this will just be another mediocre horror film in the "Aliens" mold.

The first 15 minutes of the movie are devoted to the strange concept of "plot," introducing us to the various Marines who will in fact meet their doom in "Doom." The premise of the movie is slightly different from that of the video game. The setup in the video game is that a bunch of badass space Marines are called to a remote research facility on Mars in order to investigate some kind of catastrophe, only to discover that the scientists at this facility have opened a gateway to hell through which all the evil monsters are now streaming. This original plot of scientists opening a gateway to hell is too unbelievable, so instead, the movie follows scientists experimenting with genetic engineering who somehow unleash a gene/virus that causes people to morph into evil creatures and gain superhuman strength. Oh yes, and in the movie, dead scientists come back as evil zombies with projectile tongues that turn other people into zombies. It seems that a gateway to hell is less believable than zombies with projectile tongues. Go figure.

The group of space marines, including the hero John Grimm (Karl Urban), is led by Sarge (The Rock). (In a particularly painful interlude, The Rock and Urban, bless them, awkwardly attempt to create backstory and add emotional resonance to some of the later scenes involving John Grimm's sister, Samantha Grimm.) We are also introduced to the rest of the men, each with their own special quirk. We have "Wise Guy Who Hits on John Grimm's Sister for Comic Relief." We have "Big Black Guy With a Chain Gun." And rounding out the motley crew is "Quiet Yet Badass Asian Guy," "Young Guy" and "Religious Guy."

After character introductions and plot development are out of the way, the carnage begins -- a lot of carnage. Almost no one is spared. Marines die. Scientists die. Monsters die. Monsters in wheelchairs die. Monkeys die. Dogs die. Scientists come back to life as zombies only to be killed again. And so on.

Throughout the proceedings, the film gives off a low-budget vibe. Almost everything is shot in dim light. Monsters are only briefly and never fully revealed. Relatively few explosions actually occur. To compensate, there is an incredible amount of gore. Everyone is soon covered in blood and chunky things that look like giblets, and open cadavers are prominently displayed and dissected. Moreover, there is a human hand that makes a recurring appearance and, quite possibly, experiences more character development than some of the Marines.

"Doom" shines when it stops trying to develop story and instead revels in its campiness and video-game origins. All of the battle scenes against monsters are done one marine at a time -- no "squad tactics" or whatnot, just like in the game. The BFG ("Big Fking Gun") from the game makes multiple appearances. Plus, The Rock clearly relishes his role and is not above poking fun at himself. All of the choice quotes come from him, including "Semper Fi, Mother Fk!" and "I'm not supposed to die!"

The much-ballyhooed first-person scene in the movie is, thankfully, rather short but extremely well done. There is a chainsaw-fight sequence and, yes, a marine does die and respawn multiple times.

Oddly, a moral dilemma appears towards the end of the film, complete with a discussion about what it means for a soldier to follow disagreeable orders and when it is acceptable to knowingly kill civilians. Although this is a timely discussion to have, it is completely out of place in a movie whose premise is to shoot everything that moves. This jarring scene almost manages to completely disrupt the flow of the film.

This aside, "Doom" is by far the best film in the lackluster video-game adaptation genre. Aside from the random attempts at character development and the unfortunate changing of the video game storyline -- such as it is -- this film offers up some genuine scares and has some macabre funny moments. It is recommended for B-movie horror fans, lovers of dumb action movies and those who love the video game.