Dir: Neil Marshall. US. 2008. 109 mins
Written and directed by Neil Marshall, Doomsday is reformulated post-apocalyptic genre pap, plain and simple. It's also devoid of narrative ambition, atrociously staged, full of baffling incongruities, and not much fun to boot.
Obviously pitched at fans of the popular Resident Evil series and 28 Days/Weeks Later films, the UK-set film - which opened yesterday in the US without screening for critics - should have a short but decent domestic theatrical window with young males, courtesy of a slick, effective, turn-out-the-base advertising campaign and lack of direct genre competition. Aiding international totals will be the foreign embrace of Marshall's 2006 sci-fi potholing thriller The Descent, which rang up $57 million worldwide, $31 million of that overseas. Overall, though, poor word-of-mouth should dent theatrical earnings. The DVD marketplace will be kinder.
A narrated, seven-minute prologue set in the present day opens Doomsday, detailing the spread of the highly infectious 'Reaper' virus. Having decimated the population of Scotland, the decision is made to block off the top half of the United Kingdom via a 30-foot-high wall of reinforced steel just south of Newcastle. More than 25 years later, with a new strain of the virus now threatening an overcrowded London, Major Eden Sinclair (Mitra) is sent by her boss (Hoskins) to the infected zone to find a cure from survivors that the government has been keeping secret. Upon arrival, she finds herself confronted by a population gone wild, descended into utter savagery and cannibalism.
On some level Marshall obviously wants Doomsday to be 'timely' and tackle governmental conspiracy, but his script addresses this in only the most perfunctory and purposeless way, through an ineffectual prime minister (Siddig) under the spell of a scheming second-in-command (O'Hara).
The Reaper virus survivors, meanwhile, are weirdly divided into a medieval constituency, headed up by disaffected former doctor Kane (McDowell), and the more outlandishly roguish, Road Warrior-type thugs under the sway of his mohawked son, Sol (Conway). It's as if crucial story points were based on what costumes were most readily available.
Other decisions (including Eden having a removable eyeball that she can use as a portable DVR, as well as a messianic rave/human cook-out set to the Fine Young Cannibals' 1989 pop hit Good Thing) are merely odd, or come across as parody - definitely out of step with the rest of the movie.
Most plainly damning, though, is the fact that Marshall simply cannot firmly establish any sense of space within his action scenes, leaving audiences awash in nonsensical cross-cuts and jump-cuts.
There's not enough meat on the script to convict or acquit any actor's work; all performances match the bland, wafer-thin characterisations of the screenplay.
Composer Tyler Bates' contributions are all over map tonally, and additionally mixed far too loudly in simple scenes of dialogue and expository set-up.
The sole stand-out elements are a few technical credits. In addition to some mildly diverting special effects work involving a few beheadings, Simon Bowles' production design is of positive note.
Rogue Pictures (US)
Intrepid Pictures (US)
Crystal Sky Pictures (US)
Scion Films (UK)
Marc. D. Evans
Director of photography