Released in 2004 as a vehicle for Karl Urban, back when he was Eomer rather than Bones McCoy, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, back when he was simply The "Dwayne Johnson" Rock, Doom was the latest part of a long and glorious tradition of people trying to turn videogames with plots that boil down to "Go here, shoot this thing, go there, shoot that thing" into movies which tried to justify why its characters went there to shoot that thing. Despite coming closer than any film previously to recreating the experience of watching someone play a videogame, Doom somehow failed to bring about a new dawn for videogame adaptations. Yet, we may learn from its failure. We may learn about the world, but more importantly, we may learn about ourselves.
Things I Learned from Movie X: Doom
By Edwin Davies
May 19, 2011
Finally, that adaptation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle that we've all been champing at the bit for
The characters in Doom display an unusual flexibility when it comes to their defining characteristics, in that they don't really have defining characteristics until Reaper (Karl Urban) spends any time with them. The character of Goat (Ben Daniels), for example, starts the film off as just one of several faceless marines (figuratively faceless; the film would be far more disturbing - and therefore interesting - if the supporting cast looked like the extras in that section of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind where Jim Carrey starts re-entering his old memories after they've been deleted) following The Rock and Faramir around, and other than looking a bit old and weathered he isn't all that special. He certainly doesn't do anything to suggest that he is religious, and he definitely doesn't do anything to establish him as a fervent I-have-taken-the-Lord's-name-in-vain-so-I-must-carve-things-into-my-flesh type, until he is alone with Karl Urban as the sole witness to his madness.
Similarly, Kid (Al Weaver) takes drugs to keep himself sharp fairly early on in the film, yet doesn't act in any way high until after Bones accuses him of being so, at which point he starts rolling his head around and slurring his words like Nick Nolte doing a Lindsay Lohan impersonation. This raises two distinct possibilities; either Reaper is some sort of psychic who is able to cause people to act in ways that are counter to how they would usually act, which is not really supported by the rest of the film (though nothing much else is, really), or, more likely, the screenwriters decided to apply Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which can be interpreted as saying that the observance of an event can alter the properties of it, to their screenplay. Merely by observing them, Reaper fundamentally alters the nature of the people around him in ways which are narratively convenient. It's that, or we assume that the screenwriters didn't know what the hell they were doing, but I think we can give the men who wrote Doom a little more credit than that.
There is such a thing as a Martian accent
It's a sad fact that, try as they might, sometimes the people who make films can't get exactly the right person for any given role. Sometimes they get lucky and cast The Rock, who is perfect for any role. (The, can I call you "The"? If you're reading this, I've got a script for a remake of The Sound of Music that will blow you away. You get to play Maria and Leisl!) Other times, they might find someone who has the right look, but has a voice that is wholly inappropriate. (Oddly, this has never stopped Adam Sandler from getting work. Seriously, the guy sounds about as lively as drywall looks.) In such an instance, would you keep looking in the hopes that you might find someone who both looks AND sounds perfect, or make do with what you have? The makers of Doom took the latter option, casting Rosamund Pike, a talented English actress, as a scientist who is required to sound at least vaguely American. Her accent is...interesting, to say the least, veering from coast to coast and across the Atlantic Ocean depending on how terrified she is required to be.
Hold up a second, those of you who are quick to judge her. Ask yourself this; is her accent a poor attempt at American, or a brilliant attempt at Martian? How are we to know what people will talk like hundreds of years into the future when we don't talk the same way that people did a hundred years ago? Who is to say that Martian colonists won't develop a way of talking that, to our primitive ears, sounds like someone putting on a silly voice in a film? Not I. Not I.
Don't bow to peer pressure
Towards the end of the film, Sarge and Co. (by which I mean The Rock and his team, not the short-lived late-70s sitcom about a Vietnam vet who opens a removal company that I just invented) discover that the freaky-ass demon things they have spent the rest of the film alternately running after, running from, killing and getting killed by, are being created by a sort of self-propagating virus that alters the DNA structure of everyone who comes into contact with it. In order to contain the infection, Sarge decides in a fit of pique that the best course of action is to kill everyone who may or may not be infected. This understandably causes friction in the group when they encounter people who are clearly not infected, but who Sarge kills anyway.
The ethics of this situation would be fairly clear cut if it weren't for one brief moment when Sarge and Kid (who I prefer to think of as Fetus Boy) come across a whole corridor full of crazies crawling over a pile of corpses. After they have slaughtered the ones that approach them, a clearly uninfected man appears and asks for mercy, only for Sarge to viciously put him down (with bullets, rather than pithy banter). The thing is, the man isn't hiding amongst the bodies; he just seems to be hanging out near them, suggesting that moments before he was taking part in the veritable bacchanal of innards. Assuming that he is uninfected, which is what the film expects us to believe because otherwise it doesn't have even the light dusting of moral ambiguity that it pretends to, then are we to believe that he was just following the crowd and chomping on some of his fellow scientists to fit in? Are humans by nature so easily swayed? If so, and if we're going to have to start making PSAs about how it's wrong to give in to peer pressure and try cannibalism, then we might as well just declare civilization over and done with right now.