When such seasoned directors as Brian De Palma and John Carpenter can’t make movies set on Mars particularly interesting what fucking chance does the director of Exit Wounds have?
Remember back during the time when Hollywood was still struggling to adapt video games into movies that weren’t poorly thought out pieces of crap? Of course you remember, we’re still bloody here, but back in 2005, things were even worse. Amongst all the other cinematic boogers that fell out of the nostril of tinseltown was Doom, a somewhat long overdue adaptation of one of the premier first-person-shooters to come down the pipe (sorry Wolfenstein, no movie for you) that stood out due to it’s high level of blood-letting and a concept that sounded like someone describing an 80’s metal album cover while gargling liquid LSD.
Oddly enough, the movie chooses to downplay the concept of a dude shooting his way out of Hell and instead opts to remake John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars but with more monsters…
It’s 2046 and a squad of Predator-esque space marines are recruited to travel to Mars to deal with an apparent security brench via The Ark, a mysterious wormhole discovered under the Nevada desert 20 years prior. Why on earth anyone would want to travel to another planet via a method that absolutely no one knows how or why it works is beyond me but maybe everyone’s just stupider in the future… anyway, once there the marines, led by the charismatic Sarge (top notch nicknaming there), find that a strange virus has consumed a group of scientists that were examining misshapen skeletons found at a Martian dig site that has turned them all into mutated monsters – Jesus, did no one think to wear gloves or something? While John, one of the marines reconnects with Sam, his estranged twin sister – who also happens to be a researcher at the site – the trigger happy soldiers have to stop these slathering creatures from getting to earth while avoiding getting a dose of the alien virus that nails the DNA like an STI and the pressure starts to affect the men as the glistening, mutants close in on them and threatens to give them such undignified deaths as being beaten to death against the walls of a toilet cubicle (not exactly how I’d want it).
As Sarge starts to show his true colours – a nice shade of psychotic red in case you were wondering – and Sam claims to have figured out the virus, John has to try and single handedly hold off a small army of rapidly changing humans in order to try and save humanity from complete and utter… DOOM.
We’re very much in overly familiar territory here with endless drippy corridors being populated by hordes of slimy, inhuman cannon fodder, but considering all of it’s faults at least Doom is appropriately gory. Pretty much what you’d get if Aliens had been produced by Vince McMahon, this jacked up, sweaty action/horror has no time to waste on being subtle or even smart. In fact one of the aspects that truly works in Doom’s favour is that the whole movie is nothing more than a bunch of standard tough guys messily ripping holes in dudes in big rubber monster suits and vice versa which may not exactly be particularly up market but does prove to be fairly fun. Watching one of the marines get into an energetic hardcore death match with a thick necked aberration while surrounded by an electrified cage like the WWE has started recruiting straight up demons compete is enjoyable enough and goes toward making up for the fact that the whole enterprise has all the originality of a beauty contest for clones.
The cast is suprisingly stellar for this sort of thing, especially considering everyone has names like Reaper and Grimm, with over-achieving genre staple Karl Urban being joined by a game Dwayne Johnson (obviously in one of his earlier roles as he has hair), a stern faced Rosamund Pike and… Dexter Fletcher as a scientist who’s lower extremities have been replaced with a wheelchair.
The film is best when totally embracing it’s more outlandish concepts, be it the introduction of legendary in-game hardware The BFG (aka the Big Fucking Gun) or Johnson (amusingly trading in on his fame as the increasingly deranged Sarge. “I’m not supposed to die!” he incredulously yells as various grasping claws yank him through a door but the best moment is when the film itself audaciously riffs on the game and we go on a first person killing spree through the bulging eyeballs of a pumped up, chainsaw wielding Urban. In fact if the film had taken more memorably ludicrous turns like this than maybe Doom would have been somewhat reguarded a little higher but despite it’s overexagerated charms (choice Johnson line: “Semper fi, motherfucker!”) it failed to lift the notoriously poor opinion of video game movies any higher than that of an adolescent shooter.
Fun, maybe even somewhat of a blast. But it hardly reaches another level.