Futuristic Movie Month: "Doom" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: October 21, 2005
Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Genre: Action / Adventure / Horror

"Doom" is a combination sci-fi and horror film that chronicles the adventures of a team of Marines known as the Rapid Response Tactical Squad as they travel to colonized Mars in the year 2046 to find out what happened to the inhabitants of a research facility. The team, led by Sarge (Dwayne Johnson), travels to the Martian research facility via the Ark, a device in Area 51 that allows for teleportation.

Once on Mars, the team learns from Dr. Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike) that human remains have been found on Mars that contain a 24th chromosome that either turns people into super-soldiers with fast healing, disease resistance and incredible strength or into monsters with elongated skulls, massive teeth and a need to destroy. The chromosome has the ability to detect evil in people and decide how it transforms them. The monsters created by the chromosome are called Imps, and the chromosome has turned all of the people in the research facility into Imps except for Dr. Grimm.

Along with Sarge, Dr. Grimm's twin brother, John "Reaper" Grimm (Karl Urban), tries to contain and destroy the Imps. The Imps begin to wipe out members of the team one by one before slipping through the Ark portal and causing mayhem on Earth. The remaining members of the team return to Earth to try to stop the massacre. When Reaper is critically injured during the fight, his sister injects him with the 24th chromosome, turning him into a super-soldier. When he wakes, Reaper finds Dr. Grimm badly injured and Sarge turning into a monster before his eyes. Reaper defeats Sarge, the last of the monsters, and carries his sister away from the devastation.

"Doom" is based on the video game franchise of the same name. As a homage to the original game, the sequence that takes place while Reaper is searching for Dr. Grimm after his transformation near the end of the film was shot from a first-person perspective. The sequence creates the feeling that the audience is the hero of the film as Reaper kills Imps and zombies while racing to find his sister.

The use of first person, even for a short sequence, is at first a bit dizzying. Once the audience fully understands the implications of the camera perspective, the film becomes almost interactive. The audience members feel like they are actually playing the game and that they are the ones defeating the monsters rather than Reaper. At the end of the sequence, the film switches back to a standard perspective to show the final confrontation between Reaper and Sarge.

The creatures in "Doom," the Imps and the zombies, play a large role in the overall storyline, so it is imperative that they are believable to audience members. Rather than relying solely on computer-generated effects, the production utilizes a combination of practical effects, prosthetics and CGI to create the monsters and gore in the film. Stan Winston's creature shop provided the make-up, prosthetics and other design elements for the creatures which were further enhanced by CGI. Using the practical effects and prosthetics allowed the actors to better play the monsters, lending a realistic feel to the Imps and zombies. This bit of realism often lost in horror films helps the audience remember that the monsters were once human, a thrilling piece of the overall storyline that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats wondering who will be turned next. Reaper being injected with the 24th chromosome provides a second turning point for the film that leaves viewers breathless, wondering for a moment how Reaper's body will handle the transformation.

"Doom" is a rollicking thrill ride from start to finish, taking viewers on a visual roller coaster through space and back again. The connection between the men on the tactical team speaks of brotherhood, creating an emotional impact when they are forced to turn on each other as they are attacked by the Imps and later by zombies on Earth. The transformation of Sarge from leader who seemingly cares about his team to a vicious killer with little to no conscious is stunning. Throughout the film, Reaper's humanity is grounded by both acts of conscience, such as trying to save his fellow team members, and his obvious bond with his twin sister, who he is willing to save at all costs. The ending of the film is somewhat unsatisfying and seems to have been obviously left as a cliffhanger to encourage the making of a sequel at some time in the future. For gamers and fans of the video game franchise, "Doom" is a must-see film.