When the Doom feature film was officially announced around two years prior to it’s actual release, it wasn’t too much of a surprise. Coming off the back of a resurgence in video-game-to-film announcements in the years before, a feature film based on the franchise seemed quite high on the list of potentials. It helped too that at this point the release of the third major game title, Doom 3, was certainly underway (and eventually released in August 2004, just over a year earlier than the film did). It only became more of a shock when later on it was revealed that the movie was going to have more in common with that newest game title than those of the earlier games that were already much more known and popular.
Game Over #16: Doom
Dir: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Box Office: $55,987,321 Worldwide
In any case the rights for the game had been sold off by id Software sometime in the mid-to-late 90's, seemingly changed hands a few times, before ending up at Universal Studios sometime around 2003. Doom 3 sold well enough, but wasn’t as beloved as the original titles. However by then the film was well into production and stuck with the original plan to be closer tied to the newer title than the older ones.
As it was the announcement and a film might have happened earlier than it did, and it’s possible other studios had gotten cold feet on the project in the late 1990's when Doom was one of the things connected to the Columbine shooting in April 1999. The two student shooters were fans of the game and specifically mentioned things about it in videotape recordings made prior to the shooting they went on, and one of them had created user maps for the game.
Wesley Strick and David Callaham provided the screenplay Universal went with, which if the internet is to be believed members at id Software signed off on in pre-production. There was rumors that the studio was pushing the project in the direction of a PG-13, which given the aforementioned Columbine connection and the way studio-trends were heading at the time wouldn’t be surprising had they done so. However the resulting film did release with an R rating in the US. Had it been put into production just a year or two later, it’s probably likely the studio would have mandated a PG-13 for the feature as it became the trend at the time, taking away even more possible connections to the game.
Doom was supposedly budgeted for a $60 million cost, and domestically it bombed - making less than half of that back for it’s entire US run. It still even came up short around the world, with just short of a $56 million worldwide total. The disappointing returns scrapped a planned sequel from taking place and contributed, along with the response to the third game, towards an extended break for the gaming franchise - which has only just returned this year.
The film was released with a 105 minute run time theatrically, but the home release, labelled the “Unrated” cut, extends this out to almost 113 minutes. This is the version I’m going to be watching for the purposes of this article. The concept pushed away the “Hell” themes, and instead was going more towards a sci-fi horror-thriller feel. Was it a miscalculation that upset gamers from seeing the film, or was it just weak in it’s attempts to make a film for everyone? Lets’ find out.
It’s recounting to us over a star field the setup for the film. A portal is found in 2026 in Nevada that links Earth to an ancient city on Mars. It is named “The Ark.” But for 20 years no one still has figured out who built it or why.
The Universal logo. It’s over Mars instead of Earth. Nice touch I have to admit. It allows the film to zoom directly into the planet where we’re taken into the location a large chunk of the film will be set in. We then zoom into the building through the air duct.
Dark hallways, shaky camera, yelling and screaming... people in lab coats and shirts running away from something. A large arm grabs one from above, someone else is grabbed from below. One man and one woman remain. The guy gets ahead of the woman, a key and keypad is used. Our first nod to the games and bearly minutes in. The woman yells out “Dr. Carmack” repeatedly as she tries to catch up - our second nod, specifically a direct nod to John Carmack, co-founder and lead designer on the Doom video game. Doom is already going for broke on selling us on the video-game relevancy.
He closes the door on her before she can get in, but she sticks an arm through which is crushed - but she is clearly also being lifted and dragged away by something we can’t see... while the door slams shut and cuts off her arm. The door is then being pounded at while Carmark quickly reports on the “breech” that’s happened and requests to implement Quarantine procedures. It’s either an SOS or a recording he’s making, but we’re seeing it from the computer.... behind him, the door is smashed open and we see something is standing in the shadows.
Cut to logo animation. It’s actually quite cool.
Meanwhile... back on Earth...
The camera moves down the hall and in on Dwayne Johnson’s back (he was still happy to be credited as “The Rock” at this point) which has a large tattoo of “SEMPER FI” written across it. He’s on a computer with a headset talking about a mission briefing being given to him from the “UAC” (Union Aerospace Corporation) which is to go to Mars and look into what has happened at the Ark’s connection site.
We’re then visually introduced into the rest of his his team hanging out in their quarters, doing generically different setup things. Like hanging out on their beds playing crappy looking handheld games (“this games layered man!”), standing around, praying, checking and cleaning guns, and playing err... orange baseball inside for some other reason. One of them complains about the transports being late so they’re missing out on R&R, so they’re all just hanging around waiting to go on leave after six months. Clearly the audience know that ain’t going to happen.
Bickering and some hostility between members become apparent, and then sure enough Johnson’s “Sarge” appears and tells them all their leave is cancelled. It goes down as well as you’d expect. “We got us a game” he says, with an almost winking sense of the script writer chuckling away to themselves at putting that line in there. The team is the “double R TS” or Rapid Response Tactical Squad - which we’re introduced to via “the kid” - aka the newest member of the team. So far we’re pulling out every cliche in the book possible and we’re only about five minutes into the film.
But one of the team is being told to stay behind. John (Karl Urban) is told the mission is at Olduvai on Mars, which he doesn’t react well do. He asks if it’s an order, but is told that it’s a recommendation that he take the leave. The rest of the team are geared up and load up onto a chopper to be taken to the Earth entrance to the Ark. They grab their weapons on board, which scan their finger/palm prints and announce their names - a convenient way to introduce the ones we didn’t catch earlier. Destroyer, Mac, Portman, Goat, Duke... The Kid. Seriously? Ugh. Even “The Kid” questions it. And of course Sarge. Just before he closes the door, a hand pops through... it’s John, and he’s ignored the leave. Sarge smiles as he goes past and grabs his gun. The ID tag announcement gives us his call name - Reaper - as the helicopter takes off.
Now it’s time to place your bets on the order of who’s killed and who gets to survive.
After some more cliche banter, Sarge gives them the lowdown and shows the clip of Carmack which we saw him record earlier, followed more asinine banter. Sarge and Reaper then talk, and we get the understanding that there is a woman Reaper knows who he hasn’t seen for ten years at the Olduvai base on Mars. “Guess you’ve got to face your demon sometime” he spits out, while the script writers again get giddy in their chair for putting that one in there too. But it’s now landing time, or “game time” once again, as the helicopter lands and the men unload.
A platform appears out of the ground and expands, and then an elevator arrives and the men load in. The Kid hesitates loading in and the Sarge tells him off, saying if he does that then people will die. Foreshadow much? They head down in the elevator and we see inside the busy lab that is the Ark’s lab at the Nevada end. A UAC public relations guy takes them to the actual Ark chamber while explaining there is 85 people at the location on Mars.
The men get prepped, Sarge says to the UAC rep that the elevator at this end needs to be locked down for six hours for quarantine purposes. A giant bubble comes out of the middle and Reaper walks towards it. After a short countdown he’s sucked inside and flashes into light. We’re then transported across from Earth to Mars where we see the last of the crew landing. Many of them have been sick from the trip. They’re confronted by men from the UAC and Marcus Pinzerowsky, or Pinky, who was injured from a bad trip through the Ark that separated his top half to his lower half. No explanation as to how the hell he survived it is given, but now he rolls around in a half machine wheelchair.
Pinky takes them to comms area, where the guys line up their comms gear, weapon cameras, and go through a mission brief. Mac is ordered to stay behind to help secure the entrance, and the rest move out. Inside the remaining people in Quarantine space are hanging around awaiting when they can go out on the Ark. Portman sleazes his way over to some women, before noting another walking towards the group that he tries the same thing on, only to be ignored. This ends up being Dr. Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike). Ah, clearly the connection to John... Grimm “Reaper.” Some great work there writers... ugh. Anyway, she’s a science officer and has been put in charge of getting the data out of the lab for the UAC.
Unsurprisingly things are a little hostile between the two, with John playing what one would assume at this point is big brother to her and trying to avoid taking her with them. However the orders given to the Sarge require her coming along to collect the requested data from three areas. So once again corporate policy wins over safety and sanity when we all know this is going to go bad fast. But then of course it would because well... movie. Reaper loses the argument of course, there is some banter which includes confirmation of the brother-sister thing, and the team heads out.
The lab their entering has three sections; Archaeology, Genetics, and Weapons Development. Six people were in the team with Dr. Carmack, and a phone recording was made from a phone left off the hook which clearly sounds of something non-human inside. The team access an airlock, check a schematic map of the facility (in what would assume is another game nod), and Sarge splits the teams up into two people to an area each. Goat and Portman to Genetics, Destroyer and Kid to Carmack’s offices, Duke and Sarge to the Weapons lab, while the two Grimms together so Samantha can get the data for the UAC.... in what seems like either a really good idea or a really bad idea. Probably a bad idea.
Out of the airlock, the film moves into real dark mode as the crews begin to explore and split up. The film spends the next while of it’s run time jumping between the groups.
Duke and Sarge roam the hallways, clearly something is watching them. Back at the Genetics lab area Goat and Portman come across some standard scenes of mad experiments, things in jars, and so forth and the upset a bunch of various test animals in cages making them all go wild. After that they go onto another room past the Genetics area where they find some sort of holding cell in the ground, which has electrified walls to boot. Destroyer and The Kid continue to explore on their way to the offices, finding tattered and bloodstained clothing on the way. Later on The Kid ends up shooting at a pipe in a bad attempt at a jump scare.
In the Weapons area, the Sarge and Duke find the place scattered with weapons, and a display catches the Sarge’s eye. The BFG (which the movie has tamed to “Bio Force Gun”). Duke ends up asking about the Grimms which gives up some backstory about their parents being archaeologists who were killed while coming on one of the first expeditions to the location when John and Sam were kids. Sarge tries to access an experimental weapon room, but without “DNA access” scan of of a hand with access it won’t open.
The Grimms make their way into an archaeology room, where Sam tells her brother she needs 30 minutes to get the needed data there. While awaiting the data transfer the two end up arguing over their family history. John notices the remains of a body recovered from on the planet, which ends up finding out they are humanoid but with an extra chromosome - which the team on the planet believes makes them superhuman - “...super strong, super fit, super intelligent.” And fast healing to boot. But it looks like this was engineered by them, as there was older non super-human remains found. But no one has any idea what killed them all off.
Their discussion is interrupted by Goat and Portman noting something moving around. John leaves Sam to go join them and the rest of the team at their location. Somehow they’ve ignored their orders and gotten ahead of Destroyer and The Kid to Carmack’s office, where they’ve found the door ripped open. They explore the inside of the office, where it’s been overturned, and are eventually confronted by something jumping around the room which they shoot at while it runs off. Other members of the team see it briefly and attempt shooting at it, and they all eventually catch up to it.
They find it’s a guy holding an arm, who’s very twitchy and doesn’t talk. Samantha turns up, having ignored her brother’s orders to stay, and tells them it’s Dr. Carmack. Approaching him, he drops the arm, goes crazy and rips off his own ear. Sarge decides to put him in the infirmary and sends Portman and the Kid to go and secure and wait at the airlock.... before he decides to see if they can find the body that went with the arm.
Split up once again, Portman winds up the Kid on their way back, which causes The Kid to ask him for some sort of drug Portman has on him, which he gives him. Later, instead of heading directly for the airlock, they head into a locker area where they come across a naked woman with her back to them. They get her attention, only for her to attack with a pair of scissors forcing them to shoot her down. They realize this is the where the arm came from (which for the audience was the woman who got her arm cut off in the opening of the film) and report it to Sarge. She had also sprawled “SUFFER” in blood across the lockers. While this was going on Goat and Reaper have a short scene, which basically just gives up Goat’s strong religious beliefs, explaining his praying at the start of the film, and excusing the writers to put more demon/devil references into the feature.
Sam, Duke, and Carmack arrive at the infirmary, which is protected by a door with a “nanowall” on it - which is some sort of liquid barrier to stop something not yet explained from getting through. Duke’s not happy about it, seemingly seen or had a bad experience with one, but ends up heading through to make sure it’s secure on the other side. It’s clear and they come through. Its now I realize there is another woman who was with them, who hasn’t been explained and seemingly has appeared out of nowhere... she seems to be a nurse or doctor of some sort, but hasn’t had any introduction other than some discussion about her husband, Steve, being out there somewhere supposedly. Carmack goes crazy and talks normally to Sam, he says he can feel it in there and that they need to “shut it down.” No one listens to this seriously of course.
Back in Genetics, Reaper and Goat end up back in the room with the animals only to find the place has been torn to shreds and the animals all seem to have been killed. They come across a guy with their back to them (we’ve already seen how cliche that was once just minutes ago, now they’re doing it again!) only to find he’s chowing down on some small animals. He turns around and grabs a knife and attacks, so they shoot him. Talking on the comms with Sarge they confirm he was Dr. Olsen.
Back with Sarge and Destroyer, they end up hearing a noise in an air vent only to be attacked by some sort of monkey. Which Destroyer kills with his mini-gun. However the blood that drips out of the bullet holes in the vent is oddly lumpy. We cut to the same blood being taken out of Dr. Carmack, who seems to have changed a lot in the short time since we saw him last.
Cutting once again, Reaper and Goat clear the Genetics area only to have something large drop from the roof and run off, which they chase while shooting at it. Sarge and Destroyer join in trying to track it.... and I come to the realization that the cross cutting pace of this film is way too rapid to build up any real tension when enemies are turning around and attacking all the time and then stuff otherwise is jumping from the ceiling every other scene.
In any case they track it to a sewer grate it’s ripped open, which leads - unsurprisingly - towards the med lab. A jump cut leads inside the hole... “I thought being in the shit was a figure of speech...” Portman quips, poorly, as they stare down the hole that he’s then ordered to go down. Again, I think to myself... wasn’t he ordered elsewhere? He and The Kid were supposed to be securing the airlock - but the continuity is screwed again, and this jump cut doesn’t help.
Back in the med lab, the random woman who hasn’t helped much is now let go to be with her daughter we’ve not seen (!) and Sam’s test on Carmack’s blood is not coming up with a human match. Clearly not a good sign, and one that has Sam going to check on Carmack only to find... surprise, surprise, he’s chosen this exact moment to vanish.
The whole team arrives into the exceptionally dark sewer... which is saying a lot because I already thought this film couldn’t get any less light on it’s actors already, but I was wrong clearly. Aside from the occasional extreme close up it’s almost impossible to tell who is who in these tunnels from the audience perspective. Destroyer is asked to stay and guard the ladder back up, but with the way things have gone so far I won’t be surprised if he just appears in two scenes time without reason (assuming he’s not killed for standing guarding a ladder first). The rest of the team come across another blood covered lab coat floating in the water, this time a Dr. Willits name badge is attached. Steve Willits (Willits is another reference to id Software staff). Sorry random woman earlier, your husband is gone.
Goat gets in some religious rambling about the devil devouring things (ding! another point for an attempt at foreshadowing) just before Portman seems to get dragged under the water. The guys pull him back up, just to find out he fell in a hole they couldn’t see below the dirty water. At least that was kinda original I guess? The tunnels split and the guys split up again (great... more cross cutting coming up I guess... ). Goat is sent by himself, Portman and Sarge, and Reaper and Kid. Indeed the cross cutting begins.
Goats torch plays up. Kid starts babbling and Reaper tells him off about giving away their position, before noticing the kid is high on some drugs... only for something to seemingly appear and disappear behind him, and head towards Goat... who’s torch goes completely dead, super conveniently. He sees some eyes in the dark, which become many eyes and something attacks him as Reaper and The Kid try to make it to him. Instead of killing him however, it attaches something into his neck and runs off when Reaper turns up and shoots at it. The thing falls off Goat’s neck and into the water. The creature attacks Reaper, who smacks it in the face with his gun and then shoots at it knocking it over, seemingly dead.
Basically ignoring the idea of quarantine he put in place, we smash cut to Sarge running through the safe part of the Ark ordering an evacuation of the facility with all the rest of the squad, as they take Goat to the infirmary and drag a giant bag behind them. The team work on him as Sarge notices Carmack has escaped. Goat dies on the table and they are unable to revive him (if you bet on Goat for first death, you win!). Sarge yells at Sam about what the hell they were doing research on in the facility and then shows her the creature they shot and dragged back with them.
Sam says she’s never seen anything like it before. Arguing about where it comes from takes place, and the possibility it came from the planets surface is considered. Sarge orders Portman, Destroyer, and the Kid to secure the hatch to the surface just in case. They also note there is another entrance to the surface, via the dig site itself, which the rest of the team plan to check.
Pinky is given weapons and ordered to secure the Ark much against his protests, while Mac then joins back up with the crew and everyone else left on the station is evacuated via the Ark back to Earth. We’re given an awkward flirty scene between Duke and Sam while she tries to dissect the creature, which requires Duke to go through his favourite nano door to get a bone saw. The rest of the team are back in the main entrance and are briefed by Sarge that their mission is to kill everything left on the station before the ark can be reopened. Portman actually tries to be the voice of reason for getting reinforcements, but Sarge talks him down in what’s the first decent piece of acting between two members of the cast in the film so far. Only took close to an hour.
Back in the Infirmary, the power flickers on and off while Sam works, causing her to call out for Duke. She flicks open the nanodoor and goes exploring until she runs straight into him with the saw. We get an answer to who is older (it’s her by two minutes! so much for the “older brother” act earlier), before the power completely goes out and we hear screeching by something. But it turns out to be a dog which seems to be growling at Duke, but eventually it runs off and it’s revealed it was growling at a creature hiding in the shadows behind Duke - which now attacks. He runs and clears the Nanowall just in time for Sam to close it, trapping the creature in it. It spits one of the parasite things we saw on Goat at them which misses and flies across the room. “That’s why I don’t do nanowalls” Duke one-lines.
Sarge and Reaper explore the dig site, with Mac ordered to secure the dig entrance. Reaper begins having memories of when he was a kid and what happened to his parents as he stares out a window looking at the planet. Sarge tries to talk to him about it, but he ignores him. They find two more bodies, name tagged as Clay and Thurman, who appear to have been trying to get out on the planet surface and killed by something rather than trying to stop something from getting in. Radio chatter confirms the main outside door elsewhere is still locked and has been for more than a day, while Mac is now attacked and has his head swiped off by some creature. The other two return to the entrance to find his body on the ground.
The two see it running off and chase it, with Pinky’s help, back in towards the lab. They eventually come across bloody tracks which confirm where it headed, and the rest of the team regroup. Pinky is ordered to blow it up with a grenade should it come in it’s direction, Portman and Destroyer to lock the airlock and secure the location, while the rest of the team are ordered to hunt it down. Sarge plans on heading towards the armory to get “...something with a little bit more kick.” He recovers the hand Carmack dropped earlier clearly to open the door he needed DNA access to.
In the Infirmary, Sam is opening the creatures body and inspecting the inside with Duke by her side. Behind them, in another room with a window, the body bag containing Goat is moving and then ripping open. This is made clearly obvious to us but they continue their work completely unaware. Sam comes to the realization the creature was originally human, while Duke finally notices that Goat has gotten up and tries to attack them through a reinforced glass window - which he just bounces off and continues to smash his head through until he collapses. However Sam concludes that Goat was changing into something and killed himself... and then the penny finally drops and Sam realizes the creature on the table didn’t attack Steve Willits, it IS Steve Willits.
Back with Portman and Destroyer at the airlock, Portman continues to be the voice of reason complaining about being there to be a solider, not to protect some corporations science project... He then follows this up by telling Destroyer he needs to go “take a dump” or else “shit his pants right here” and seems to begin heading off to find a toilet. Back with Sarge and his spare hand, he gains access into the advances weapons section of the armory using the palm. Lucky for him the woman who got her arm cut off had security clearance I guess? Inside is a single weapon, suspended in air, which is made clearly important as the camera spins completely around it before he picks it up. If you know the games then you don’t need more than a single guess as to what it is. And Sarge calls it as he sees it. “Big Fucking Gun.”
Portman enters a bathroom and checks to see that it’s clear, and once he confirms so enters a stall and sits down and after arguing with Pinky who sees just the floor on his camera, goes off comms. For some reason Destroyer has now abandoned staying at the airlock and is wandering around, eventually making his way to the holding cell area behind genetics. Here he’s attacked by a creature, who repeatedly smashes him into a wall and pipe before throwing him into the cell. Sarge heads in his direction with the BFG, while Destroyer wakes up and finds himself stuck down there, without his weapon, unsure if the creature is hiding in the shadows.
Portman however isn’t going to the toilet, nor is he using any drugs like you may also have thought, instead he’s broadcasting a message back to Earth about the situation at the Olduvai. Back with Destroyer, he pushes some equipment into the wall which sparks and shows off where the creature is before using some hanging chains to kick the creature into the wall, to electrocute it, and following that up by spinning a chunky CRT monitor on a very strong cable at it.
However it manages to grab it and use it to reverse throw him against the wall. The fighting goes on, a slash here, a grab there, a stab of a small knife, some electrocution, and smashing with a large pipe. He eventually pins it to the wall with the large pipe, which he jams up against the other side and attempts to climbs out via the chains while the wall continues to electrocute it. However before he can escape, the creature smashes free, grabs the chain, and pulls him all the way back into the cell pit.
Portman finishes his transmission, but then realizes something is moving around outside of the toilet stall. Sarge finds Destroyers gun and tries to get him or Portman on comms, with no luck. Later, Sarge looks into the pit and sees his body in the bottom.
Portman checks his gun and realizes the clip is empty, and has to reload a new one - which he drops and slides across a number of stalls. Of course it must apparently be his last one of course because he has to go get it rather than putting yet another one in... a dreadful piece of cliche writing. He checks under the door to see if it is clear and then begins to crawl his way towards it. He eventually gets to the stall beside it and gets stuck from a pack on his back, which obviously should have happened already from one of the other stalls he climbed under.
Regardless of this terrible error of logic, he is now a short distance reach short of the clip and is being watched by something he hasn’t seen. He manages to clear the bag, grab the clip, reload and exit the stall to find nothing by a white mouse on the floor. But of course then he’s grabbed from above/behind... picked up through the roof and flung all around the stall by a creature. Pinky sees the whole thing on his gun cam, and just laughs at the whole thing because of how Portman was earlier rather than telling the others and then seemingly lies when asked if he’s got him on any camera or comms. Ugh. Dumb move.
Reaper and The Kid make their way there and start shooting, but the sound seems to imply Portman’s been killed by being thrown around. Sarge arrives a split second later and then fires off the BFG at the roof where the creature was, before stating “Holy shit” at the outcome of the weapon’s fire. The Kid goes into check on Portman, only to find he’s dead.
The remaining crew return to the infirmary with the bodies of Destroyer and Portman. Duke’s distraught at the loss of Destroyer who he earlier told Sam was his only real family. Sarge questions the creature stuck in the nanodoor and the blood stains which was from Goat smashing his head against the glass. He’s told the obvious answers and the whole situation is explained, including the creature stuck in the Nanodoor is Dr. Carmack. Sam explains that it’s some sort of genetic mutation most likely and that a case like Carmack may even be able to be reversed. Sarge disagrees, claiming it’s irreversible... before shooting Carmack in the head, against Sam’s protests, truly making it irreversible. It’s a good piece of writing, a rare thing so far in this film that I can’t really sell as well as the actual scene.
Duke and Kid are ordered to check the bodies at the dig to make sure they won’t change, while Sarge and Reaper confront Sam about what is going on. Sam is certain the project here was just a dig for research, but Sarge requests to know what the data research she was told to recover was really about. They end up watching a video file which confirms Carmack was in charge of not just researching the site but using the info about the extra chromosomes in tests on human subjects, coming as a complete surprise to them but absolutely no surprise to anyone in the audience.
We are then shown a flashback to what originally happened with the research and leading up to the start of the film, via a very original transition which moves us between Sam’s face and the test patient on a bed. The test subject was a prisoner, a multiple murderer, who was supposed to be executed but instead used to test on. He was secured into the holding cell and watched as he transformed. Sam is confronted by the realization of what the company is doing, including the fact the research was right in front of her - in vials marked C-24. Reaper gets another Hell reference in on behalf of the writers doing everything they can to do so and decides they need to destroy the data. However Sarge grabs the data and tells him they have to return it as that is their orders, and orders Sam to get the rest of the data she was supposed to. Dick move.
Back in the dig site, Duke and The Kid find the doorway and shoot the first body, however the second one has vanished. Reaper leaves Sam a comms unit before he and Sarge join up with the rest of the team, while Pinky lets them know something has begun cutting through the door to the Ark chamber. Sarge tells Pinky to use the grenade, but something has already gotten into the ark center and the ark itself was used... by Pinky, and possibly the thing(s) that broke in followed. Before they can discuss their next plan, all the lights go out and the system for the facility is being rebooted - which will take five minutes. The plan is to go back to Earth as the quarantine has been broken. Reaper tries to contact Sam but has no luck, so he heads back.
When he gets there he finds Sam okay, but we get unraveling explanations as to what caused the monsters via a bunch of science mumbo that basically comes down to things with the extra chromosome either becoming superhuman or monsters, and the monsters are attracted to turning people with violent natures into more monsters. It also tries to shoehorn in some stuff about good or bad genetics in DNA... it’s all a bit silly but not the craziest thing the movie has done so far I guess. Sam and Reaper leave, while Sam grabs a vial of the chromosome, C-24 for some unknown reason that clearly will become a plot device.
After more orders not to let anything get to the surface back on Earth the Sarge returns via portal the the UAC facility with Kid and Duke. When they arrive they find the facility is full of bodies and no survivors. Portman’s message got through and reinforcements are on their way, which will open the surface entrance. To make matters worse they have less than one hour before the Quarantine is automatically lifted anyway, and they are unable to change it. The three of them go around and start shooting every body on the floor in the head to stop any of them returning as monsters, before continuing on to explore the complex trying to find the creatures within. They eventually find a bunch of them eating, which basically makes them little more than a bunch of space-zombies or something, which the three soldiers then shoot to bits.
Sam and Reaper arrive on Earth via the Ark to find the bodies, all with the new additions of bullet holes to the head. Reaper tries to contact Sarge to tell him not all of the people are infected, however Sarge ignores this info and kills a survivor anyway before ordering The Kid to clear the rest of the area and meet him back at The Ark chamber. Meanwhile Duke continues to shoot bodies, only to come across Pinky alive in the middle of a bunch of them. The Kid comes across a room of survivors still all clearly alive, including the random woman married to Willits from earlier in the film.
Sam meanwhile is trying to convince Sarge about her findings on the infected, however he’s not buying it - rather intent on following the orders to make sure it doesn’t get out into the general public. Compared to his requirements they hand over the research which caused this, this seems like a fair reason but seems completely counter to him providing the company the info to do this all over again possibly. Duke and Pinky arrive, but Sarge seems to be ready to shoot them.
Then The Kid returns and tells him about the people in the storage room, however Sarge only responds saying they are supposed to kill them. Specifically... “We kill them all. Let god sort them out.” The Kid argues with him some more, eventually refusing to follow his orders with a “go to hell”... so Sarge shoots him in the neck instead. Killing him.... and basically going full psycho, claiming it was mutiny and punishable by death. That foreshadowing about hesitating clearly is paying off.
Reaper is shocked by the needless shooting and seems ready to draw his gun on Sarge, who is also ready to do the same however they’re interrupted by Pinky who still has the handgun and is pointing it at Sarge. However he reaction on Sarge’s face says a lot more, and Pinky quickly realizes there is something behind him... which indeed there is, grabbing him up off the ground, slamming him around, and running off when being fired at dragging Pinky and his chair behind. The guys all chase after it, but Reaper tells Duke to grab Sam who joins them in a hallway.
They’re attacked by a bunch of the space zombies again, which they fire at while backing up behind another nano wall. The wall malfunctions meaning the zombie things can try getting through. While they’re distracted Duke is grabbed from below and pulled down into a grate on the ground, and then Sarge is grabbed by the legs through the Nanowall... spouting off “I’m not supposed to die!” before vanishing through it. These days a character played by Dwayne Johnson probably wouldn’t die at all, so this almost comes off as wall break of a joke now. Reaper keeps firing at the wall, however eventually a bullet bounces off and hits him which stops his fire. And instead he and Sam run and hide in a store room and barricade the door behind them.
In the store room Sam tends to Reapers seemingly fatal gun wound, but clearly we as the audience see that she takes a needle to the vial of plot device C24 which she goes to inject into his arm. He refuses to have it when he finds out what it is, but she convinces him while he tells her to shoot him if he turns into one of those “demons.” She injects it, he falls over, and we zoom into the black of his eye.
Cut to a viewpoint of the room on it’s side. We’re now seeing the world through his eyes, Sam is gone, Reaper is now superhuman, and this movie is about to go fully into the world of the game that inspired it.... a first person action sequence that lasts a number of minutes. I’ll have more to say about this later in the conclusion, but basically it’s a shooting gallery filled with space zombies, mutants, mutants with weapons, and Pinky returns as... a pink mutation still attached to his wheel chair.
First person scene over, Reaper arrives at the elevator area to the surface, with less than 2 minutes until the lockdown is over, and a hole in the wall clearly matching the one made by the BFG earlier in the film. He follows down a hallway and finds Sam injured on the floor, who is happy to see him alive. However a familiar voice booms off screen. “Last man standing Reaper.” Sarge appears, BFG in hand, with damage to his neck - clearly infected. Reaper tells Sam to try get to the elevator, and confronts Sarge about the survivors The Kid found being taken care of and about being a killer. Sarge is clearly changing, the two face off - BFG shot misses Reaper, and the bullets he fire miss Sarge as they both scatter in different directions.
We move to the Ark chamber, Reaper searching weapon drawn for Sarge. It’s now cat and mouse, or maybe cat and cat rather as the two superhumans each move around the area. Sarge attempts to attack with a piece of something from the room, only to have Reaper vanish and appear behind him shooting it out of his arms and knocking him back. Sarge returns after, smashing through a glass panel and knocking Reaper around... while yelling “Semper Fi motherfucker!” I’m assuming this was an unrated addition, but it’s a terrible line. Sarge drops his weapons belt, Reaper fires his final bullet into the air... the two drop their remaining weapons and instead decide to go at it in a superhuman wrestling match.
After almost choking
The Rock for the title Sarge, Reaper is thrown off into the roof and the final face off begins begins. Sarge wraps some rebar around his arm and smacks Reaper in the face, chest, and throws him around some more. Reaper returns the fight, ducking and throwing Sarge against a wall. The two end up locked against the wall, Reaper tries to get the rebar off the rapidly mutating Sarge only to bend it and have it pushed through his hand and towards his face.
Reaper notices the Ark launcher is online and quickly activate it, and wraps the rebar around his arm locking the two together, taking Sarge off guard. He then uses it to pick him up and swing him around towards the Ark portal which has now opened up. The countdown happens, and on the count of one Reaper rips the rebar through the top of his hand, making Sarge fly through the portal. He picks up one of the grenades from his weapons belt on the ground, preps it, and delivers his kiss off line. “Like the Kid said... Go to hell.” The grenade goes through the portal and explodes in slow motion just above the Sarge, filling the screen with white which then fades to black.
We are given one final shot, looking up at the elevator rising towards the surface, which we then pan down through the glass roof onto Reaper standing, Sam being carried in his arms. “Almost home” he says. Fade to white. Credits.
The above is Dwayne Johnson talking about Doom’s failure in a 2009 interview with Josh Horowitz on MTV News. It’s honest, if oddly worded (what’s with the “we” thing?) about the failure of the film, and nails one of the major issues with the direction taken with the film but doesn’t tell the whole story.
As the description of the film above tells first and foremost, it’s not exactly a bunch of original award winning writing. And while I try not to be overly critical of cliche and tropes in sci-fi monster films too much, there is only so much of them you can have in one movie before it becomes a retread of every other movie you can think of close to the film you’re watching. And with that in mind sadly Doom just mostly copies and recycles things from better films, barring one or two little things.
But as Johnson notes, the film suffers in this because they attempted to really push the film into a sci-fi thriller area rather.. complete with the genetic story line and evil corporation overshadow rather than taking the portal to hell concept and unique enemy designs that probably was one of the most original and important things that made Doom... Doom, outside of the first person shooting thing anyway. So in this regard it’s not surprising the fans may have been disappointed when the Doom film wasn’t really a Doom film. Cheesy jokes about demons, games, hell, and religious connections don’t make that the case, which someone should have told the writers.
The Alien franchise is clearly the target Universal went for. However instead the mutated enemy designs feel unoriginal and under cooked... like cast off alien-human hybrids rejected from Alien Resurrection. The cast are treated like poorly updated versions of the people in Aliens, and the film never builds neither the tension or action of most of the films it’s trying to emulate. At the other end it’s not even accidentally entertaining enough going through the motions as a sci-fi monster fest either and the pacing makes the almost two hour run time feel even longer than it is. While I watched the longer cut, I’ve seen the list of additions.... and even removing those, it’s likely big chunks of the film probably could have been lost beyond the original run time.
As I mentioned the cross cutting, while making sense for the squad splitting up, sucks a lot of the possible tension up. Ironically for all the copying of what others films do but mostly worse, this choice is different and goes against most movies try - which is to keep the squad together, especially after the early attacks pick off some of the first of the team. Sadly this is one choice that doesn’t work and would have been better not being different from the norm.
Visually the film’s set design is exceptionally decent, as is the make up effects and general frequent use of physical effects wherever possible. Some of the CGI has aged poorly now, but probably was decent enough in 2005 when combined with the choice of physical effects work - which probably wouldn’t happen these days. Unfortunately the partly mutated humans just come off as zombies, as I referred to during the write up, and the last third mostly becomes an below average zombie shooter fest. What I also found striking is the choice of visuals when it came to lighting in the film however. As I also commented the film is often very dark, and this came up in a lot of the reviews when the film was released in 2005. Oddly though the director is Polish cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, so you’d think he’d know a good lighting balance from a solid career in shooting other peoples films... maybe this really was his artistic choice, but in any case it often makes many of the hallway scenes unbearably annoying to watch as things are too dark to see in details, including often the main cast.
On the main cast, no one stands out and barring a couple of scenes which I think really work (Sarge dressing down Portman on the reinforcements, the scene where he shoots Carmack’s mutated body, and anytime Portman actually says what the audience is thinking) you’ve seen it all before and better. They all do an okay job, hardly ever distracting - aside from the poor lines they’re sometimes given, but it’s nothing you’re going to remember either.
Of course instead everyone ended up talking about the showpiece of the film, the five minute long* directly game inspired first person shooting sequence. In some ways this is cool as an idea, and clearly was a very unique and difficult sequence to make in 2005 (compared to these days when you can shoot an entire film with Go-Pro’s in first person), but at the same time feels like it’s included against the rest of the changes as if to justify the use of the Doom gaming connection. Likewise the end credits which also use the first person style.
* This is the length of the version in the unrated/DVD cut, apparently the original theatrical release was shorter.
The in movie sequence sadly, 11 years on almost, hasn’t aged greatly. The first shots with the reflection of Reaper have an oddly floaty look to the movement, and are kinda cool in their own way, but the rest of the sequence is a mixture of often odd movement, disorientation - especially when he jumps over enemies - and the final fight against a fully CGI pink monster version of Pinky - named after and ripped almost directly from Doom 3 - probably didn’t even look that great at the time it came out (I know I saw this film once already in 2006, but have little memory of what I thought of the film... which probably means I found the whole thing forgettable).
Clearly a lot of work went into it (the sequence took 3 months to plan and two weeks to shoot by it’s own seperate unit), and it’s hard to see often where edits are made, but the whole this is overshadowed by just how unnecessary it feels to the film. That’s not even to mention probably the chances a large chunk of the audience might even find the whole sequence just makes them ill due to motion sickness. They might not play first person games for that reason, but probably aren’t expecting this sort of thing to appear in a film.
To add insult to potential injury, the music score they supply to the FP scene sounds like someone was told to make it sound like the most generic rock styled “shooting video game like” bit of music they could. Just to say “this is a videogame... right?” It’s almost as bad as the equivalent of when you see some kid playing an game on some TV program, but they haven’t got anything to show them playing, so it stays off camera and instead they put some random outdated bleeping blooping shooty video game sound effects over the top just to sell the idea of them controlling a game. It’s just terrible.
Universal tried to tie up Dwayne Johnson on projects after his appearances in The Mummy/Scorpion King franchises, and aside from Doom they tied him into another video-game film announcement in 2003 of Midway Games’ Spy Hunter franchise. John Woo eventually was connected to direct, but the whole project went into development hell - sometime after Doom released, which it’s failure might be a connection, and thus never eventuated. Doom seemingly never impacted on the careers of it’s main three leads, Johnson, Karl Urban, and Rosamund Pike. They all had decent history before the films and have all continued to have successful careers after it’s release as well.
The producers on the film mentioned prior to release if it was well received then a sequel would likely happen, but of course it wasn’t and so it never eventuated either. As I mentioned at the top, the tepid response to both the third game and the film meant that the franchise vanished also for a long time, before eventually the latest main title - just called Doom - released just a few months ago. It was well received and reviewed, and will probably kick start a new interest into the franchise. I’ve been unable to find out if Universal still holds the feature film rights to the franchise, but if they decide to return to a film world of the games, perhaps they should actually find a way to stick the core bits, outside of the shooting, that made it what it is... then maybe we could see something interesting.
Adaption? Not really.
First person section, id Software staff references, very loose weapon and enemy connections, and poorly placed hell/demon references aside... Doom is basically a generic sci-fi monster movie with a military team. Aliens rehashed poorly. So no, not really.
Of course this begs the inevitable question of if Doom is even a good property for adaption in the first place. Personally I want to say no. While indeed I think it could be done much better by actually sticking to the hell aspect and focusing on some more specific additions - like Doom’s weapons being used much more, the way the game plays as a single player experience benefits from the things that make that a unique experience and cannot be replicated on the big screen to be shared with an audience.
I don’t, for example, find an issue with the movie using a military squad for example because otherwise the movie would be one guy mostly by himself for the run time and that wouldn’t make an entertaining film for example. But the way the characters are mostly handled in the end result is clearly unoriginal and uninteresting, and the setup for the creatures likewise is dull and uninteresting.
The thing that makes Doom, Doom, is that experience of being put into the shoes of someone fighting demons. Something that works much better as an interactive experience than it does as a lengthy scene, be it up to five minutes - or like how the makers of Hardcore Henry found out - feature length, won’t work as a film experience.
I’m not talking about the creature designs too much (although I did like the the Willits design with all the eyes a lot) but the production design of the locations, the use of practical effects, and the designs of the unique elements - logos, maps, weapons, etc. are all really good and fit the world well. It might be closer to Doom 3 in a lot of ways, but the one way it really shines - be it adaption or not - is in this area.
Lessons learned? Is it even worth adapting!
I touched on this above and I asked this somewhat of Silent Hill last time, that if it was really something worth adapting. And I ask it here again. Silent Hill had a unique visual edge, and it really came down to both the blend of storytelling and sometimes vague nature plus the combination of it’s game elements that made it a possible poor choice. Here with Doom... well....
...I have to ask... is a very limited story with a solid core concept still enough to push across? Additionally then when you do so as in this case, you’ve basically stripped away big chunks of what the unique parts were left... how could anyone not have expected this to be poorly reviewed and fail at the box office? Leading to that obvious question of if it was even worth trying to turn into a film?
In the earlier Doom titles, if you typed in IDDQD your “Doomguy” was given infinite life and you couldn’t be killed. Someone should have revoked this ability for the film, and never allowed the project to live past the early development stage. The Doom film was given a decent budget, with decent production values and design, plus a fairly solid enough cast.... the intentions might have been to grow the franchise or do something specific with the brand. But unfortunately no one did anything unique with it, making it entirely derivative and dull... But even worse than the crime of what happened when they made it, was that no one didn’t even think to ask if just because it was popular it was even worth trying to make it to the big screen in the first place.
Sorry Doom, lets hope they don’t try again.
IDDQD. God mode disabled.
Next time - Bald assassins are rebooted.
About ‘Game Over: Failure of the Video Game Feature Film’
A series looking at the top 20 profitable video game feature films to figure out what is lacking and what should be done to make a successful adaption of game to film. There are a set of rules to stick by, so for an introduction on the whole series I’m doing please check out the original post located right here.
Movie fanatic, writer and publisher of numerous gaming and movie websites of the past, and former video game guide writer. Started making content in 1997 and ran or assisted with several successful sites, mostly in the realm of Horror and Survival Horror gaming through the early and mid 2000's. Includes sites such as ResidentEvilFan.com, Streets of Silent Hill, EvilGaming.net, SurvivalHorror.org, ShenmueDojo.com, VGN, Gamers Alliance, GamersLounge.com, and BHXnet/BIOHAZARDextreme among others. Usually under the name Rombie. Still occasionally appears around on old video game and Resident Evil forums and semi-frequently appears on the ProjectUmbrella.net Resident Evil podcast.
All images copyright to respective studio/photography owners. Used under fair use for critical comment on video game feature films only.