“Film” * Andrzej Bartkowiak * Doom “The Rock” Doomson * 2005
Look, sometimes you’re feeling fat and sleepy but not quite fat and sleepy enough to actually sleep so you have to put on the dumbest possible thing in order to shut your idiot brain up so you can finally surrender to sweet sweet oblivion. So I watched Doom. Does anyone remember this thing? Because I have a distinct memory of seeing this in the theater, but I haven’t seen it since and before rewatching it I couldn’t tell you single thing about it. Wait, no, I can. There’s that first-person sequence at the end that I totally remember, mostly because it just sucked so much. Like, not your regular kind of suck either, but a whole new category of suck that belongs to Doom and nothing else. Anyway, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The whole movie is bad, but even if you’re only just now hearing this movie even exists, you knew that. It’s called Doom. You don’t even have to realize it’s based on a video game to know it’s terrible.
Dumb, bad movies can still be fun, of course. It helps if the movie knows that it’s dumb and rolls with it, and Doom absolutely knows what kind of movie it is. One of the first things The Rock says (this being before his Hollywood identity shift to his actual name) has the phrase “extreme prejudice” in it, and that’s a thing we say to make fun of dumb action movies, not one that actually exists anywhere. Yet here we are, and it sets the tone. The movie also assumes you’re here because you fucking loved Doom in the 90’s. It is correct in this assumption, which I guess is why I showed up to see it in the theater. Right away, the movie starts making ridiculous references. The Space Marines are ready to teleport to Mars to do their extreme prejudice, and one of them says to another “I guess it’s time to face my demons,” and that’s both deeply stupid and pitch perfect. Because in the game you shot a bunch of demons, you see. Oh, and then shortly after that you meet a character with the nickname “Pinky,” because that’s the nickname of one of the monsters in the game. It’s subtle like that.
Once The Rock and his gun-bros show up on Mars, it becomes readily apparent that the movie was going to fail. Somehow, some way, one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen managed to overthink its premise. Here’s what happens in the original Doom. Something, something science people open portals to actual Hell and you shoot the fuck out of a bunch of literal demons. That’s it. This fucking movie says to itself: “that’s dumb, let’s fix it.” The premise then becomes more complicated, but still stupid. Now the science people, portrayed by Rosamund Pike and her ridiculously tight sweater, are doing experiments with chromosome juice what turns people into rage zombies. Then Doom makes the worst possible mistake and tries to become an Alien movie. And no. Just… no. It’s weird because it’s clear they knew they were making a stupid fucking movie. It’s very self-aware about that. But then they pull back from just going for it and try for a more reasonable premise than the game. As it stands, most of the movie is just sweaty beef-men shining their flashlights in my fucking face every eleven seconds. It’s a weird choice.
Now that I think about it, I guess part of the reason this movie turned out the way it did is because Doom 3 was the newest release in the game series, and it was very much focused on flashlight-based spooks. I think? I never actually played it. Anyway, the movie would have been better served had it just gone for it. All anyone wanted was to watch The Rock roam around and shoot off energy orbs at sick-looking demons with the BFG. And that’s in the movie, for about four seconds. Seriously, the BFG gets fired twice and he misses both times. That’s a good metaphor for this movie. Doom tries to pander to its idiot audience and fails. And let me be emphatically clear: I am that idiot audience. All I needed was literal demons and we’d have been good.
Instead, the movie tries to have a plot. John and Samantha Grimm (hoo boy) are siblings. John’s a Marine and Samantha is his hot science sister. She has nothing but contempt for these meatheads, let me tell you what! Anyway, blah blah blah, the chromosome juice comes in two flavors. If the person has violent tendencies, they turn into mutant-zombies. If they’re cool, they turn into Wolverine or something. As it happens, John Grimm is cool and The Rock is a psycho. I think I forgot The Rock was the bad guy in this, but it barely matters. He’s all about being a Marine first, follows orders no matter what, and shoots one of his own teammates because The Kid didn’t want to kill civilians. Then he says “Semper Fi, motherfucker,” and that’s pretty good.
I’m not sure what else they could have done. Doom almost would have been better if they had committed to the first-person viewpoint. That five minute sequence at the end, as it stands, is utterly pointless. And it looks bad. It’s slow and feels a lot like a ride through a shitty haunted house. The camera will slowly roll around a corner and oh no! A spook! It’s supposed to be the viewpoint of John, who is now Super-John because of the aforementioned chromosome juice, but who cares. He looks in the mirror a couple times just to remind the audience that the viewpoint is anchored to an actual person. In case you were confused. Now, you shoot the whole movie this way and maybe I’m more interested because of the novelty. Like The Rock gets mad at John he just mugs the shit out of the camera and really gets in there with his stupid Rock eyebrows. Or the demons shoot fireballs at John and then the camera turns red. Look, I don’t know. In the end it doesn’t matter all that much, because Doom is dumb. But, sadly, it’s the wrong kind of dumb.