In 1993, id Software released the classic PC game Doom. It wasn’t the first game to take a first-person perspective behind the player’s weapon of choice, but it was the one that became popular enough (and then some) to launch the first-person shooter genre into the bedrock of game development that it is today. And as video games fall more and more into the shifty sights of Hollywood insiders looking for a safe bet on their investment, it was inevitable that such a revered game would hit the silver screen (I’m still waiting for word on when someone is going to produce a Grand Theft Auto movie).
So how does it stack up against previous video-game-to-movie predecessors like Resident Evil and the utterly forgettable Alone in the Dark? You know, all things considered, Doom is not so bad. That is, of course, coming from someone who A) loves video games and B) didn’t expect much of anything out of this movie. I was only hoping for a few cool special effects and a basic homage to a gaming great. That’s pretty much what I got, but I was surprised to find that Doom had a little, if only a little, something else up its proverbial sleeve.
The plot of the original game, for what it was, revolved around a lone space marine (you) who was stuck on a remote military installation on Mars fighting off waves of invading aliens. In the movie adaptation, New Zealand’s first son, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Scorpion King, Walking Tall) leads a group of elite soldiers into a science facility on Mars that has lost several of its researchers to some pretty freaky circumstances. Right away The Rock smells more than Bunsen burners cookin’, and the movie quickly moves to the action everyone came hoping to see. A significant deviation from the game is that the creatures in the movie version are not invading from another planet, or hell itself as in Doom 3. No, these monsters have more local roots, but that makes a lot more sense for the movie when you consider that Doom was not given the kind of budget that, say, Men In Black was. In other words, Bartkowiak didn’t have millions upon millions to spent on CGI creatures from another planet/dimension, and the movie’s story was written in a way that allowed the director to make a decent project with what he was given to work with.
One aspect of this movie that pulled it slightly away from most other similar sci-fi/horror flicks is the less-than-cliché cast of grunts. Sure, Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King) is pensive and brooding (for reasons explained in the movie, of course), but there were enough vagaries amongst the remaining characters to make them seem like they might be an interesting mix of guests at your next Super Bowl party (of the future!). The pervert, the playa’, the religious masochist, the tank, the guy who doesn’t get many lines and dies right away = accounted for and ready to eat your favorite nacho cheese dip (of the future!). And while these guys won’t live long enough in the movie to develop deep story arcs of their own (heh, like the movie itself has one), they are at least provided with a number of genuinely funny lines that beat the hell out of the pre/post-action one-liners that riddle the dialog of so many other movies of this ilk.
Yeah, the plot is heavily borrowed from James Cameron’s Aliens, and I really wish Bartkowiak had been give a larger budget to make some seriously kickass CGI monsters (most of the special effects are pretty good, but you can tell they couldn’t do much with the main baddies), but I have to say that Doom is an entertaining movie for what it is. If you watch it expecting more than what it appears to be on the immediate surface, then I don’t think anyone will feel sorry for you. Doom is, and I know this isn’t saying a lot, one of the better movies based on a video game, and I hope it’s a sign of things to come for movies based on digital distractions from my past. With the money that the game industry has seen flood in over the last few years, I think we all should get used to the idea of game-to-movie adaptations being more and more the norm. With the recent announcement that Peter Jackson will be the executive producer for the upcoming Halo movie, it seems that future is just about here.