The video game adaptation has been a tricky genre in the past few years. Doom marks the 20th video game adaptation to hit the silver screen, and only one of them so far, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has surpassed the $100 million plateau at the box office. I'm not quite sure if Doom will be the second, but this flick will be the first to usher in a new generation of vidgame adaptations in the coming years, with many high-profile adaptations such as Spy Hunter, Halo and Hitman, among many others, to receive the cinematic treatment. Even if Doom fails, it will certainly be the first vidgame flick to truly embrace the game that it's based on, not just use it for a backdrop.
When you think of a video game like Doom, you surely think carnage, mayhem, blood and explosions, and there is enough in here to suit any Doom fan's needs. But what truly impressed me about this flick was the approximately 5-minute scene towards the end that was shot completely in the first-person format, and it looked exactly like the game itself. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, a cinematographer-turned-director, handles the scene with Doom cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts incredibly well, using familiar bad "things" from the game, utilizing the sniper scope for one shot, and capturing the essence of gameplay to the silver screen phenomenally well. The only thing more you could've asked for was a joystick or keyboard and mouse attached to the seat, because it reels you into the action so much that you want to control the character's fate yourself. Even with the flaws in this flick, this 5-minute scene alone is well worth the price of admission for any Doom fan, or anyone willing to see something new on the silver screen.
It's not all downhill from here, but there are definitely some rough patches, mainly in the acting and characters. Now, I played the first game immensely many years ago, but I haven't played the sequel games or really remember too much detail about the first game, so I'm not sure how accurate these characters are, but, regardless, they're rather lame. Karl Urban plays the main character here, John Grimm, although you'd hardly notice it from the marketing campaign since Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gets most of the billing here. His performance doesn't really merit a top-lining spot on the marquee anyway, though, so it doesn't matter too much. Urban's Grimm is part of the Marine unit sent to a research facility on Mars where unknown chaos breaks out and they're there to save the proverbial day. Of course, it can't be nearly as simple as that, so they have Grimm's sister, Sam Grimm (Rosamund Pike) as one of the researchers there as well. But the sibling bond isn't quite as strong, as they haven't seen each other in years, quarralling about his choice to be a jarhead and not follow in hers and their parents footsteps as a scientist. More conflict: this facility they're at is the same site their parents died at many years ago, hence his decision to turn military.
Anyway, Urban plays Grimm with a dullness that is supposed to pass for insecurity, pain and grief, but really doesn't. He has the screen presence of a doorknob and rarely commands any attention to his character, something that a top-liner is, you know, supposed to do. Pike is equally flat as the devoted scientist, true to her cause but about as fun to watch as paint dry on a space shuttle. The rest of the Marine unit is as cliche as they come, with the greenhorn kid on his first mission (Al Weaver) who's even known in the flick as "The Kid," the arrogant, anti-authority prick (Richard Brake), the silent-but-deadly white dude with the standard high-and-tight (Ben Daniels), the womanizer (Razaaq Adoti) and a few other cookie-cutter Marine dudes. Their characters and behavior is nothing new here, and neither is The Rock's character, Sarge, even though he gives the best performance of them all, and probably the best performance of his short but successful career apres pro wrestling. The Rock has usually played these loveable hard-asses. His characters are usually dudes not to be trifled with, but they're usually a big frickin teddy bear, deep down. Not this cat, Sarge, though. It's the first bad guy character The Rock has ever played, and he plays it wonderfully. He's devoid of pity, remorse or compassion, the ideal Marine, who's mind functions simply on orders, willing to spare a few innocent human lives so that the Earth as a whole can be safe.
The script, written by Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick, isn't too bad, with a nice set-up and some decent patches of dialogue sprinkled throughout the flick. However, while they do a nice job of setting us up for the inevitable realization of what's going on at this research facility, the pay-off is rather dull, and isn't followed through at all to the end. It's not a happy ending, sad ending, dramatic ending or any ending. It's just an ending. It's like they give us the cliffhanger, and instead of slowly rappelling us down the cliff, they just drop us off the edge, unaware of what will happen in the long run. It shifts gears too much and lacks a lot of focus, switching from character-driven to plot-driven throughout the flick and with a seasoned writer like Strick on board, that kind of surprised me.
Director Bartkowiak does a fine job here, enhancing his status as a solid action director. His past work as a cinematographer is apparent, as he deftly works with his DP very well and has a keen eye for action and fight scenes. I've already praised his first-person scene a lot, but he does a fine job in the fight scene at the end, and does a good job at the other action scenes as well.
Doom is a flick about the dangers of travelling to Mars... like we didn't already know that from watching Total Recall or anything. It's probably the best video game adaptation to date, and while I know that's not saying a whole hell of a lot, it's a solid flick with one of the coolest single scenes I've seen in awhile and a rock-solid performance by none other than The Rock.