Parasitic Cinema

'Doom' sucks less than other video-game movies, but it still kinda sucks

I admit to an appreciation for the modern-day video game. Personal interest in the time killers waned for me in the '80s when I got burned out on Atari and Nintendo. I didn't revisit video gaming until Sony PlayStation 2 came out. I still don't play much, but I crank the thing up every now and then for a chance to run around in the streets and cause crap in the guise of Snoop Dogg.

My admitted yet relatively unenthusiastic appreciation for the modern-day video game doesn't necessarily extend to movies based on modern video games. The Tomb Raider movies, Super Mario Bros. and Alone in the Dark are all evidence that some plots should remain under the control of a joystick and on a small screen.

I never played Doom, and that's probably an advantage in seeing the movie. Those friends of mine obsessed with gaming have called Doom the scariest game they have played, but I wasn't even aware of the plot. All I knew is that The Rock looked pretty pissed in the preview trailer, and that some sort of mutant monsters were trying to take a bite out of his ass.

Some distant science experiment, where a large archeological dig took place, is plagued by unwanted visitors. An elite force, headed by The Rock, is told that they can't go on vacation, and they must go investigate. Upon arriving on the planet, they are besieged by super-monstrosities looking to plant some sort of parasite into their bloodstream (blood extracted from a victim looks like it's full of chocolate chips). The soldiers battle the monsters, eventually discovering something that calls for the location to be quarantined and contained by any means necessary.

The plot of Doom owes plenty to Resident Evil, and a little bit to the George Romero zombie movies and James Cameron's Aliens. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak throws much against the wall to see what will stick, and that includes the entrails of many a shot monster. The film is gory stuff, and has earned its R rating.

Some of the action sequences work nicely. A trip into sewer tunnels where monsters await is quite scary. A final gun battle where Bartkowiak does nothing to hide his film's video game source (we see monsters being dispatched as if we were playing the game itself) is a pretty funny little trick.

The supporting performances are, for the most part, terrible. A rescued scientist who eventually rips his own ear off out of fear gasps and sticks his tongue out a little too much to make his work convincing. Some of the soldiers are supposedly on drugs while executing their mission, and those actors playing them seize the opportunity to appear drugged out with glaringly obvious results.

As for The Rock, I just sort of like this guy, even if he isn't a master thespian. His role here gives him the chance to play more than your average hero, and his character's insistence upon following orders, no matter how inhumane, proves to be a rather nasty flaw. The Rock's acting camps it up a bit at times, but he often seems alone in these moments, because the performers around him are taking things a little too seriously. Doom actually had the chance to possess a sick sense of humor, but most of the cast seems to have taken the film's title to heart.

Lovers of action movies will probably find a few things to appreciate here and there, but will most likely leave feeling a sense of letdown. Even though it has some good passages, Doom is too derivative to be appreciated as an original film, and when your best acting asset is The Rock camping it up, you are pretty much in trouble. Still, I'd take this any day over Super Mario Bros.

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