Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DVD Review: Doom: Unrated

Doom wasn't the first first-person shooter (FPS) video game, but it was the game that defined the genre. In the action packed shooter, scientists experimenting with Star Trek style matter transportation accidently open a portal into Hell. Video game players around the world battled demons who had been released as a result of this accident. Doom was a veritable clinic in how to combine action with horror. At the time Doom was released there was very little, in any medium, that could compare to the nervous, frightened, excitement players felt while playing the ground-breaking FPS.

In 2005, over a decade after the original video game release, the film industry released a theatrical version of Doom. The film was a large financial disappointment. With an estimated budget of $70 million, the film only managed to bring in a domestic gross of $28 million. It appeared that fans and critics were disappointed with the Hollywood version of the classic shooter. But it is common knowledge that DVD sales have replaced box office as the primary revenue source for films. The Doom DVD was released on February 7, 2006, uncut and with added documentary features.

At first glance, Doom looks like a perfect popcorn film, guaranteed to entertain. No one expects a movie based on a video game to have important social commentary. The Rock, a very entertaining and charismatic actor who has proven to be a box office draw, stars in the film and his inclusion brings the promise of humor and athleticism. Karl Urban, the hunky Eomir from the Lord of the Rings movies, stars as Reaper. The very pretty Rosamund Pike, recently of Pride and Prejudice, adds a character who contributes to the drama of the film. Beauty, brawn, a box office draw, and affiliation with a successful license, it seems like a match made in marketing heaven.

But apparently Andrzej Bartkowiak has opened his own little portal to Hell and has decided to make Doom fans everywhere suffer. This film misses the mark in so many ways that it would take to long to list them, but the potential viewer at least deserves a couple of highlights.

The first mistake Doom the movie makes, is to leave its source material behind. "Scientists accidently opening a portal to Hell?" the producers ask. "No, no, that is unrealistic. Hell should be metaphoric. Let's have the 'hellspawn' be the product of genetic manipulation." After all, what fans of Doom want to see is an adaptation of Resident Evil that takes place on Mars and not an adaptation of their favorite FPS.

Doom begins with a team of marines being sent, via an archeologically discovered transporation device, to Mars to investigate an outbreak at a scientific laboratory on Mars. From there, the action begins. Or at least that is what is supposed to happen, you know...action. In the spirit of Aliens, the marine squad is whittled down one by one, but unlike Aliens it's through a rather boring set of scenes that in which this whittling occurs. There is little to no tension and no horror in this horror/action film.

The film features a gimmick that fans giggled about the most prior to the film's release. There is a five-minute long first-person shooter perspective sequence where the audience becomes Reaper. Ironically, this segment is more entertaining that the rest of the film. One could argue that this is because the director of this sequence, Jon Farhat, has a better understanding of pacing and tension. In fact, I watched this segment of the film three times.

Doom commits the one sin that is unforgivable in an action/horror film. The movie is just plain dull. It's hard to explain why the film is so dull. There is no one flaw that makes it so, like being overly "talky" which Doom most certainly isn't. It's a combination of things. The film fails to frighten, it fails to excite, and it fails to make the audience laugh. Okay, I laughed once, but if I tell you when it will be a huge spoiler for those brave enough to journey through the Hell that is Doom.

The DVD contains a few, very interesting, documentaries about the making of the movie, including one about the FPS sequence. These are well worth watching if you are a Netflix subscriber. The unrated version adds a little more gore, some unneccessary (and not even worth it) nudity, and a spoonful more boredom to the original.

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