Doom (2005) Review
Doom was directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave) and written by Dave Callaham (Mortal Kombat, Wonder Woman 1984) and Wesley Strick (Arachnophobia, Cape Fear), who adapted it from the video game by id Software. It stars Karl Urban (Hangman, Dredd), Dwayne Johnson (Skyscraper, The Rundown), Rosamund Pike (Radioactive, Hostiles), Richard Brake (Bingo Hell, The Numbers Station), Razaaq Adoti (Haven, Amistad), Deobia Oparei (Death Race 2, Mr. Nice), Ben Daniels (Captive State, The Crown), Al Weaver (Grantchester, Kill Your Friends), and Dexter Fletcher (Band of Brothers, Eddie the Eagle).
It’s about a squad of space marines being sent to Mars to investigate an attack on a research facility, only to find more than a few assailants awaiting them.
The Plot: Most film fans have probably heard the joke that “every movie released after Aliens is an Aliens clone”. That’s entirely untrue, but if you watched Aliens and Doom back-to-back, it wouldn’t seem too far off.
In 2026, humanity found a portal to Mars, in the years following there have been human developments on Mars, most of which were by the UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation). At the research station that the portal links to, there’s been a security breach and the marine rapid response team headed by Sarge (Johnson) and made up of John “Reaper” Grimm (Urban), Portman (Brake), Duke (Adoti), Destroyer (Oparei), Goat (Daniels), and the Kid (Weaver) are going to check-in and contain whatever threat there may be. Sound familiar? They meet Pinky (Fletcher) and Doctor Samantha Grimm (Pike) and begin their search and destroy mission while Samantha retrieves data.
It’s only natural that the corporation is more interested in anything with questionable ethics, so they’ve reopened a dig site on Mars and found humanoids with an extra set of chromosomes that made them more powerful (uhhhh). After this bombshell is dropped, the doctor who sent the distress signal begins mutating (no demons in this Doom movie) into something else. With a flood of mutants hiding within the facility and the team being picked off one by one, they have to find the entry point and close it before more people get mutated and sent after them. Even though all of the personnel have already been evacuated.
Doom’s plot is simple but the writers tried to make it smart with chromosome talk, some technobabble, and minute changes from its source, which is Aliens and not Doom; it’s a trainwreck.
The Characters: Presumably because the writers didn’t want to run into a lawsuit, they stop short of creating characters with personalities like those in Aliens, or personalities full stop.
Grimm used to be a sensitive guy but after he saw his parents ripped to shreds by whatever came through the dig site in 2026 he went down the military path. There’s nothing done with that brief glimpse of motive though, his only trait is that he went down a different path than his sister. Samantha followed in her parents’ footsteps, working as a scientist of some sort. Likely a biologist but the movie mentions that she worked directly on uncovering the dig site so there may be multiple Phds in her past. We don’t know.
Sarge at least has some kind of arc. A suggestion of one anyway. He starts out as a typical confident sergeant that’s dead set on completing the mission without questions, but seeing his men die starts to get to him, as does seeing the mutants (sigh), which causes him to do something drastic when one of the marines second-guesses a couple of his orders. Even this is undone by the end of the movie thanks to the character going completely over the top, which would’ve been fine if the movie started out by jumping the shark.
The rest of the marines are basically nothing characters that exist to get killed, but the movie insists on spending time with them for some reason, so we get cardboard cutouts at the center of several scenes across the first hour, making no one happy. None of the characters will make you happy, but it’s worse when the movie makes you watch them.
The Horror: Since this movie came out shortly after the third game, which puts more emphasis on world-building, ambience, and confined spaces, the movie “adaptation” falls more into horror territory and fails at providing scares.
Doom opens with a Dr. Carmack (wink wink) running from a mutant with a handful of other scientists in tow that’s meant to show what the creatures can do as well as provide some scares, but it fails at that because of the way Bartkowiak directs the scene. The mutant is evidently able to teleport, as it snatches all the doctors that follow Carmack from different angles. Even when that’s over, the actor playing Carmack doesn’t even act scared, he just blinks repeatedly in the camera as though he was trying to deliver some sort of eye-based coded message. It’s more laughable than horrifying.
Bartkowiak offers some gore to try and make up for that opening, but it doesn’t land, almost entirely because the marines encounter Carmack before they see any of the other mutated scientists. When they find him and try to assist him, he yelps into the camera, tears his own ear off, and acts poorly. When the movie isn’t using gore in an attempt to scare, it goes down the slasher route, with loosely connected environments being the final resting place for several marines who’ve gone off on their own. Its execution is lacklustre at best and spatially confusing at worst.
Human horror is the focus of the third act, but that too is a failure. With the intensely stupid development that the 24th pair of chromosomes somehow has the ability to choose to infect some and leave others alone, the movie tries to frame Sarge going unstable and making sure the infection(?) doesn’t leave the UAC facility some kind of moral horror. Since the characters would have to wait around and find out who’s infected and only find that out when the civilians start to attack them, killing them is the sensible option when viewed from his perspective; it doesn’t register as some kind of dramatic horror dilemma.
Doom 3 was intermittently scary. The Doom movie is never scary. Bartkowiak attempts a variety of methods to set the audience on edge, and not a single one works.
The Technics: With a helmer of such little talent as the one picked to direct Doom, it’s a miracle that there are some merits, even on the technical front.
Darkness doesn’t automatically make something scary (not to most people, anyway). It does make the movie harder to see. Doom is so dark that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that the budget was blown on the production design instead of a few studio lights. During the scenes meant to scare or raise heart rates, it’s so difficult to see anything that the movie becomes frustrating instead of engaging, which is a huge shame considering the sets created for it are very accurate and effectively detailed.
It’s a decently shot movie too, as the cinematography is at least passable, refusing to linger long on scenes. Pacing isn’t a problem here either, with the movie hitting its beats before extending itself to an unbearable runtime. All of that is a surprise when considering the director, who’s almost indisputably to blame for the terrible performances from almost every actor.
Those looking for a faithful adaptation of a beloved franchise will be disappointed in Doom, those looking for a fun action movie will be upset by the lack of clear action, and those looking for a scary sci-fi horror movie will be busy pointing out all of the incoming rip-offs. Send this movie to Hell, where it belongs.
Doom is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming platforms from Universal who also made its DTV sequel Doom: Annihilation. And if neither of them are quite what you want, FilmTagger has some other suggestions.