Friday, October 21, 2005


So I just saw DOOM. **SPOILER WARNING **

I expected it to be as bad as all the reviews indicated, but you know what? Entertaining enough. Nothing really egregiously stupid. The dialogue and character development were, well... it coulda used another few weeks of polish. No real groaners, but also nothing to write home about. The action scenes were pretty good, some fairly creative bits. As many reviews have pointed out, it's tonally a retread of movies like Aliens. Thankfuly, there wasn't a single moment where I had to roll my eyes and say, "Oh, come on," and I'm the guy who stood up and shouted at the screen during Godzilla and Wing Commander.

What finally became clear is that the character development was not designed into the core structure of the story; it was added on later, laid overtop like a bedspread on a lumpy mattress. *The Metaphor Cannon skulks away quietly.* The characters had, you know, character, but how they acted during the dialogue-heavy exposition scenes had no apparent bearing on their other choices. Not that they were inconsistent; but in the action scenes, everyone's just, you know... doing standard military stuff.

The Rock was miscast. He plays Sarge dead serious, and I understand that barking out military jargon is de rigeur for movies like this, but can't we mix it up a little? When Sarge says, "We're going in hot," you hope that someone will make a witty remark, but instead everyone just nods grimly and gets on with the unpleasant business of wiping out mutants. He was almost believable later on when he decides that they have to kill everyone in the Secret Lab Facility, even though some of them are demonstrably not infected with the mutant DNA.

Karl Urban wasn't miscast, but his character, John Grimm, nicknamed "Reaper," lives up to his name; he has no sense of humor. He came this close to having a soft, chewy, moral center, but ultimately he seemed merely resigned to his destiny of being a bad-ass. Reaper should have, at the very least, had some gallows humor covering up his painful past.

Goat (yes, Goat) has two short scenes where he evinces devout religious faith -- one where he carves a cross into his arm after accidentally taking the Lord's name in vain, and one where he's reciting what I think is supposed to be Bible verses, but sounded made-up (that is, more made-up than the rest of the Bible). Then he gets "killed." Then he comes back to life as an almost-zombie, with enough sense of self to kill himself for good -- after he makes the sign of the cross.

There's no evidence of the religious angle before that first scene. The Kid, youngest member of the squad (it's his first mission--guess what happens to him) starts out timid, then has this pair of weird scenes where one of the other squaddies gives him uppers, and then Reaper gets mad at him for being high; then the drugs never figure into the plot again, then the Kid grows a backbone, and then he dies. Ad-hoc character development at its finest.

There was one very good scene, that actually had some emotional weight. The backstory on Reaper at this point is that his parents started the initial archeological dig at that site (on Mars), and there was an accident where they died when Reaper was a kid. That's all we know; no details.

Anyway, Reaper and Sarge are exploring the very dimly lit archeological dig room, looking for the surface door. As Reaper moves along, we start to very faintly hear the sounds of children laughing. The sound comes up until we are basically hearing the echoing memory of the accident occurring. We don't see it, we only hear Reaper's memory of it. He moves to a window and opens the blinds, providing some reddish sunlight as the memory finishes. The sound fades away, and Reaper looks crushed. We never learn any more about what happened to Reaper's parents, or why he chose to become a marine when his sister became a scientist. I really liked that they understated that part of his backstory, instead of trying to give us the laborious details. We can imagine.

Alas, Sarge comes into view a moment later, in the background, and sees Reaper standing at the window. At this point, Sarge is holding his rifle to his shoulder, aiming around because a mutant might leap out at any moment. And then Sarge asks, "Is this where it happened?" Which was a stupid, stupid thing for that character to say. Sarge never before or again evinces any interest whatsoever in anyone's feelings or thoughts. He's in the middle of a dark room, there could be monsters anywhere, he sees one of his soldiers aimlessly staring out the window, and he asks about the guy's past. No. He should have snapped at Reaper to quit dilly-dallyin' and get on with the mutant-huntin'.

So, yeah. It's an odd movie; it's not as bad as it should have been (especially given the pedigree), it wasn't nearly as bad as a video game movie of this type usually is. It wasn't really bad at all, per se, it was just... okay.