Dir: Andrzej Bartkowiak. US. 2005. 101mins.
Just as knowing one's own intellectual limitations isits own form of intelligence, so it is wise for a film to have a keen sense ofboundary and mission. Sometimes economy is the smartest choice, as
While it does notnecessarily break much new ground, its makers are smart enough to not try to domore than they have the means to convincingly accomplish.
Thusly, box office prospectsfor this mid-budget action flick - which opens in the US on Oct 21 - should berobust, both among avid fans of the source material and those simply lookingfor a diverting genre romp.
The premise is also easilygraspable and its characterisations comfortably familiar enough for
Ancillary income, too, willbe strong, for if the $100m worldwide gross of broadly similar videogameadaptation Resident Evil is enough towarrant a sequel, then this too should kick-off a profitable franchise.
Set around 40 years in thefuture, Doom makes quick work ofestablishing its setting and plot. At the OlduvaiResearch Station, a remote scientific facility on Mars, some sortof creatures have escaped. The team of scientists call for a quarantinelockdown, and the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, an elite unit of eighthardened US Marines headed up by Sarge (The Rock),are summoned to investigate, retrieve research data and, if necessary,terminate with extreme prejudice.
Sarge and his crew transport through a gelatinous portalcalled "the Arc," which links the Mars site to a militarised bunker in theNevada desert. While Sarge is the gung-ho,no-nonsense id of the movie, its taciturn centre is Reaper akaJohn Grimm (Karl Urban).
Once the RRTS arrives at Olduvai, they meet up with Reaper's sister, scientist DrSamantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike, sporting oneexpression of blank puzzlement throughout). Dr Grimm and her team have beenconducting archaeological research about a race of deceased humanoids with amysterious 24th chromosome, but unauthorised human testing has resulted in someunholy genetic mutations that Sarge, Reaper andcompany must contend with in big-gun fashion.
The real knack of co-writersDavid Callaham (in his first produced script) andWesley Strick's screenplay is its smart structure.The movie trades in generic admonition and directives, clipped delivery andall.
It also requires itscharacters to too-frequently state the obvious with regards to what's justhappened on screen (eg "Your pupils are dilated," and"He's gone") but it's rooted to an admirable, though never really risky, degreeof suspense rather than brawn, particularly in its first 45 minutes.
Director AndrzejBartkowiak may have broken into directing via astring of cheap, East-meets-West action features (Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds),but his credits as a cinematographer include Thirteen Days and Speed,and date all the way back to Prince Of TheCity and Terms Of Endearment. Herehe gives Doom a streamlined sense ofpurpose and clarity, and its grasp never really exceeds its means.
The acting certainly isn'twhat's going to carry Doom, or evenspur most of its positive word of mouth. TheRock, in fact, so good in Be Cooland well focused in tailored productions like Walking Tall, backslides here a bit, playing Sargewith a pinch of demented glee out of step with the bleak (arguable) realism ofthe rest of the picture. Urban, though, is quite good, bringing a woundedgravitas to Reaper that really grounds the picture.
The creatures themselves aremostly CG biped variations of the Alien-inspiredslimy things we've come to expect from sci-fi flicks, but Bartkowiakwisely cloaks them in shadow.
He also gives considerabletime to the surface complications of the bickering human protagonists, whilealso serving up a great third act first-person shooter set piece, straight fromthe game, to tide over diehard Doomgamers.
John Wells Productions
John D Schofield
Lorenzo Di Bonaventura
David Callaham and Wesley Strick,from a story by Callaham, based on the videogame