While video game devotees, myself included, continue to wait around for a legitimately great film to be made out of a video game, for now at least we have "Doom." While it's nowhere in the realm of great, it is at least decent, and leagues better than "Mortal Kombat," "Resident Evil," and the rest. Baby steps, folks.
The main reason why we've yet to see the great video game movie is that, for the most part, film producers have been picking the wrong games to adapt. "Resident Evil," "House of The Dead," etc., were already in themselves cheap knockoffs of various movies made interesting by their interactivity, so as film adaptations they were predestined to knockoff-hood. Such is the case with "Doom," which was already borrowing heavily from "Aliens" as a game and now borrows even MORE heavily as a movie. But, then, everything has ripped off "Aliens" by now.
The film takes place at a research facility on Mars, where the discovery of an alien "24th Chromosome" has unleashed a swarm of big, burly monsters. Chromosome 24, we're eventually told, differs in it's effects depending on one's status of the yet-unmapped 10% of the human genome which "some believe is the genetic code for the soul." Long story short: It turns bad people into monsters and good people into superheroes. God, how I love movie-science.
Anyway, a team of "Aliens"-issue Marines (handles: Duke, Destroyer, The Kid, Goat, Portman, Mack and Johnathan "Reaper" Grimm) under the command of The Rock as "Sarge" is sent to the station to contain the situation, only to find that hell has already broken loose. For about 45 minutes, the film meanders and loses it's way, getting bogged down in too much nobody-gives-a-damn business attempting to "characterize" the cannon-fodder and not enough time establishing any sense of geography to the facility tunnels where most of the action takes place.
Then, around the halfway mark, "Doom" finds it's sense of self and really starts to cook. The action scenes get better, the tone turns darker and there's a surprising and genuinely grisly revelation involving the true moral (or amoral) nature of a character who many will be expecting to be the hero of the piece. It doesn't morph into high art, but it's a marked improvement over a somewhat clunky first half.
Much discussed will be the "first person" sequence, a lengthy action setpiece toward the end that essentially replicates in live action the barrel's-eye-view run-and-gun style of the original game. For the record: It's excessively cool looking and well executed, but it goes on for a touch too long all at once. (Though the surreal lengths it goes to to recreate a particular aspect of video game existence I found admirably daffy.)
Here's the important stuff: It's better than average. The gore is copious, if obviously trimmed to avoid the NC-17 in places (bring on the Unrated DVD!) The monsters are pretty cool-looking. There's a standout not-like-anything-you've-seen-lately sequence. The action is fun. There's a good character twist in there and a solidly kick-ass final fight scene. It ain't "Aliens," but it's working it's butt off anyway.
So, here it is. A mostly solid action movie based on a video game. Well done, fellas. Now, can someone please get their ass moving on a "Zelda" adaptation so this doesn't have to stay the best game movie ever for too long?
FINAL RATING: 6/10