Roland Emmerich’s 2012

Released: November 2009

Director: Roland Emmerich

Run Time: 158 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Composer: Harald Kloser

Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Disaster

John Cusack: Jackson Curtis
Amanda Peet: Kate Curtis
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Adrian Helmsley
Thandie Newton: Laura Wilson
Oliver Platt: Carl Anheuser
Woody Harrelson: Charlie Frost
Danny Glover: President Thomas Wilson
Tom McCarthy: Gordon Silberman

As a kid growing up, I was fascinated with the world.  More specifically, I was fascinated how the planet itself worked inside and out.  I was very curious about the stuff going on beneath our feet as well as the stuff that was going in the sky.  So, I got library books about all that stuff, but when I started learning about natural disasters, that’s what I started focusing on.  What were volcanoes?  How did they work?  What about earthquakes and their connection to volcanoes?  How do tornadoes form?  All that stuff.  So, when I was young, I started reading up on all that, and I learned a great deal about how our planet works as far as these natural phenomenon go.  While movies about natural disasters weren’t new, we started seeing a surge of new natural disaster flicks during the 90’s starting with Twister.  That movie blew my mind.  The tornado effects were extremely convincing right down to the twisters picking up cows and obliterating houses and such.  The following year, we got two different volcano movies: Volcano and Dante’s Peak.  While I certainly enjoyed Volcano with Tommy Lee Jones, Dante’s Peak was far more compelling, because it felt a bit more realistic than the other movie.  When it comes to disaster movies, few can do it the way German director Roland Emmerich can.  The thing is, this guy doesn’t focus on just one particular city or town.  No, he likes to destroy the world.  After being inspired by the Mayan calendar and their debated prediction about the end of the world on December 21, 2012, Mr. Emmerich unleashes the film, 2012 on the world.

2012 begins as geologist Adrian Helmsley is visiting India to meet with a colleague about certain issues regarding the sun.  He learns that certain kinds of nuclear particles have mutated and are starting to have a physical reaction within Earth’s core.  So, he races to the White House to inform the President about the coming catastrophe.  Meanwhile, failed author and estranged husband/father Jackson Curtis is taking his kids on a camping trip to Yellowstone when they run into Charlie Frost, a raving conspiracy theorist who is convinced that the government is keeping the upcoming apocalypse top-secret.  After taking his kids home, a massive earthquake strikes California.

Like I said above, when it comes to destroying the world, few people can do it the way Roland Emmerich can.  There’s a reason this guy is the Master of Disaster.  He’s a good director too.  But his disaster films are really something to behold.  From Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich knows how to destroy things and look good doing it.  There are a lot of movies about the end of the world, but most of them generally avoid the major catastrophe by some kind of miracle.  Not with 2012.  Oh, no.  Right from the get-go, we are informed that the world WILL end and there’s not a whole lot that anybody can do about it except try to survive it.  In the years up to 2012, there were many people and scientists who feared that the world would actually face a global catastrophe on December 21, 2012.  They cited the Mayan calendar which supposedly ended on that particular date.  I’m writing this on May 26, 2016, so I’m pretty sure the world didn’t end in 2012.  Either that, or I’m in some kind of simulation of some sort.  People had taken that calendar so seriously that they were literally preparing for the world to end.  Oh, I can imagine the faces on the people who were duped into thinking that.  The world WILL end at some point as nothing lasts forever, but I doubt it’s going to happen in MY lifetime.  I’m getting sidetracked.  When it comes to movies about natural disasters, 2012 is undoubtedly the biggest.  It’s an apocalyptic movie so it has to have disasters in it.

The disasters depicted in 2012 are nothing short of breathtaking.  The first disaster is an earthquake that literally tears California to pieces.  It’s nuts.  John Cusack grabs his family and they try to outrun the quake in a limo with buildings and bridges falling all around them.  Then they get to a plane where they try to take off with a massive crevasse opening up right behind them.  It’s absolutely exciting and visually spectacular.  They follow that up with the Yellowstone Caldera erupting.  Yeah, Yellowstone erupts and it is bonkers.  It’s extremely massive.  The  initial explosion is immense.  It’s something that you would see come out of Revelations in the Bible.  After the first two major disasters, the film kinda slows down a bit to focus on the characters, until the massive tsunamis show up and then it’s on like Donkey Kong.  This is a spectacle film in which the visual effects are the star of the film, and let me tell you, they are top-notch.  For the first earthquake, there are points where it looks real, even though it’s mostly CGI.  That is how good CGI has gotten since the early 90’s.

So, the effects and the action are spectacular, but what about the rest of the movie?  The acting is pretty solid around.  We’ve got some real heavy-hitters headlining 2012.  John Cusack plays the absent-minded father who tries his best to reconnect with his family.  Danny Glover plays a noble and very impressive President.  Chiwetel Ejiofor astounds as Dr. Adrian Helmsley.  This is a character that is not only looking out for people and trying to do the right thing, but he’s also willing to question the decisions of his superiors.  Oliver Platt plays Carl Anheuser, the adviser to President Wilson.  You would think Anheuser is the villain of the film, but he’s not.  He’s not evil, he’s trying to be practical when it comes to save what will be left of the human race.  He makes some really good points on why it may be a bad idea to inform the public early on about the destruction of the world.  There’s definitely some butting of heads here and there.  The stand-out here is Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost.  I’ve always liked Woody Harrelson as an actor.  He’s got incredible comic timing and he’s allowed to go over-the-top here as Charlie.  The guy himself is an effect of sorts.  The character is clearly nuts, but he’s not necessarily an idiot.  He knows what’s going on.  He just steals the show every time he’s on screen.

When it comes to the “science” behind the film, it’s best not to think about it.  The idea that neutrinos can mutate and affect the Earth’s core physically is 100 percent bullshit.  Neutrinos do exist, but they rarely interact with any normal matter, so the film’s premise is pretty much fantasy at this point.  In fact, most of the science in the film is mostly bullshit.  If you really want to get into why the stuff in 2012 will NEVER happen, I suggest you take a look at this blog post by Roy Kilgard: Conceptual Astronomy: Science Fact Vs. Science Fiction.  It’s very informative and very amusing at the same time.  This guy is a professional astronomer and teacher at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  He’s not the only guy that shot 2012’s science full of holes.  There are many others.  Don’t watch 2012 for the science, it’ll probably piss you off.

Since 2012 is a disaster movie, it pretty much follows the standard disaster movie manual to the letter.  You’ve got skeptics, the “evil” government guy, estranged father/husband, and the whole nearly dying in a massive disaster only to be saved at the last minute.  It hits every single mark and doesn’t even change it up at the end.  The coincidences are constant and baffling.  The most egregious example is when the family arrives at the airport only to find the pilot dead.  At this point, the wife says to Gordon, “You can fly!”  To be fair, he admits he’s only had only a couple of lessons on a single-engine plane, but that just came out of nowhere.  That’s the kind of writing that really irritates me, because it’s so damned convenient.  It’s not the only situation that happens.  It just so happens that a Russian billionaire needs to get a plane to fly to China.  So, HIS pilot who is qualified needs a co-pilot(Gordon) and they just happen to find a giant plane that has a lot of cars in it.  Anyone care to see where this goes next?

So, besides bad science and plot points that have more holes than Swiss cheese, is 2012 actually worth watching?  In my honest opinion, yes.  2012 is a movie that’s big on spectacle and not much else.  If that’s the kind of movie you’re looking for, than 2012 will deliver in spades.  It is a visually spectacular film that doesn’t really feel too long, despite running at 158 minutes.  Yeah, some of the acting is pretty corny, but at least you’ve got Woody Harrelson, who looks like he’s having a great time.  It’s a genuinely thrilling film that actually some real heart when it comes to character development.  Is 2012 the best movie?  Not by a long shot, it’s a lot of dumb fun, though.  If you’re a huge fan of disaster flicks like I am, check it out.  My final scores are as follows:

Film: 8/10.  It’s pretty fun, and visually spectacular.
Science: 2/10.  I’m pretty sure they were making it up as they were going along.

Starship Troopers

Released: November 1997

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rated R

Run Time: 129 Minutes

Composer: Basil Poledouris

Genre: Science Fiction, Action

Casper Van Dien: Johnny Rico
Denise Richards: Carmen Ibanez
Dina Meyer: Dizzy Flores
Jake Busey: Ace Levy
Neil Patrick Harris: Carl Jenkins
Clancy Brown: Sgt. Zim
Michael Ironside: Jean Rasczak
Patrick Muldoon: Xander Barcalow

Book-to-film adaptations are a pretty tricky bunch.  When you try to adapt a book into a film, you should try to follow the source material as closely as possible.  The reality is that you’re not going to get everything out of the book.  You’ll end up with a 4-hour+ movie.  Not everybody wants to see something like that, even though sometimes it works.  You have to be willing to cut stuff out for pacing and dramatic purposes.  Some stuff that may work in a book, are not necessarily going to translate very well to the big screen.  Sometimes, you’ll end up with someone adapting a great series of books into a great series of movies, like The Lord of the Rings.  Absolutely phenomenal adaptation and Peter Jackson should and has been commended for that.  Then, you’ve got garbage like The Lost World: Jurassic Park which bore almost ZERO resemblance to the Michael Crichton novel of the same name.  It wasn’t a bad movie, but they changed so much from the book, that it was almost unrecognizable, if you’ve read the book.  I have.  Another book that got butchered on its way to the big screen was a little sci-fi book from 1959 called Starship Troopers.

The film opens in a classroom where young Johnny Rico, Carl Jenkins and Carmen Ibanez are learning about “the failure of democracy” from their teacher, Mr. Rasczak.  After leaving the class, the trio decide to join The Federation so they can become Citizens.  Carmen gets to be a starship pilot, Carl is going into military intelligence, and Mr. Rico gets to join the Mobile Infantry.  Several months after Johnny Rico hits boot camp, Earth is attacked by a vicious group of alien insects called Arachnids from the planet Klendathu.  The Terran Government decides it’s time to got war against the bugs, so Johnny and his friends are whisked away to Fort Ticonderoga in the Arachnid Quarantine Zone, where they prepare to attack.

When the film came out, the people who saw it, generally fell into one of two groups:  The people who read the book first, and the people who saw the movie before reading the book.  Statistically speaking, the people who read the book first, generally hated the film, because it strayed so far from the source material, it was like it was a completely different entity.  The people who saw the movie first, generally liked it quite well.  I fell into the second category.  I had no idea the book existed until I saw the movie.  After reading the book, I’m going to try and approach this from two different angles:  One as a fan of the film and the other as a fan of the book.  Story-wise, Starship Troopers barely follows the OUTLINE of the book’s plot.  This has been attributed to Paul Verhoeven not actually reading the book, which presents a problem when adapting the material.  On the other hand, though, it is pretty straight-forward without any overly complicated plot devices.  It’s humans vs. bugs, but that’s not exactly what the book was about.  There was a lot more going on in the book than could ever be put on screen at the time.  I’m just going to flat-out say it:  The movie missed the point of the book by a thousand country miles.  The book delved heavily into the history of why the Terran Federation became what it was and why the only way to vote was to serve in the Federation for two years.  There was a lot of interesting politics and military aspects of the book that were left out of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, the book garnered its fair share of controversy over its militaristic themes and its depiction of a fascistic society.  The movie takes the whole fascist thing and just goes over the top with it.  This was done in part because of Paul Verhoeven’s personal experience with fascism when he was a child in Nazi-occupied Holland.  So, his experience kind of influenced the look and feel of the film.  It’s not actually that bad, once you understand why he made the choice he did, and this was something that a lot of critics of the film didn’t understand.  The film is a political satire of a fascist civilization.  The entire movie was done with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.  When you understand how fascism works, the movie is kinda funny and scary at the same time.  Verhoeven poked fun at the whole propaganda thing that the Nazis were doing at the time and how people were essentially brainwashed into doing what the government told them to do.  That is vastly different from the book’s approach to the Terran Federation.  It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and they ended up accusing Verhoeven of being a fascist, which is ironic considering the Verhoeven is a staunch liberal and very much opposed to fascism.

If you can get past the fact that the Starship Troopers film has almost nothing to do with the book, outside of some main characters, the bugs and the Terran Federation, it’s a solid little sci-fi movie in its own right.  The film was criticized for its level of violence, but if you’ve ever seen anything from Paul Verhoeven prior to this movie, then you know that ultra-violence has always been a part of his movies.  Look at RoboCop and Total Recall for example.  The level of violence in those movies is pretty extreme for mainstream action flicks.  Starship Troopers gets a lot right in terms of its action and set-pieces.  You can see what’s going on, and it does get pretty gory.  The action that takes place on the ground is phenomenal.  Using a combination of practical effects and CGI, Paul Verhoeven has crafted a very visually unique world that feels real.

Nearly 20 years after the film’s release, the visual effects in Starship Troopers are still amazing.  You can tell that a lot of effort went into making the film’s world look as real as humanly possible with lots of great sets and space sequences that are simply amazing to behold.  A lot of detail went into the models of the spaceships, so when they get wrecked by bug plasma, it looks phenomenal.  The creature effects themselves are simply astounding, even by today’s standards.

The CG animation, especially on the larger “Tanker” bugs is just mind-boggling.  They are extremely detailed and move fluidly.  This is all thanks to the legendary teams at ILM, or Industrial Light and Magic, the guys responsible for the visual effects in Star Wars.  You can’t tell me that these creatures don’t look awesome, because they really do.  Let’s talk about the acting.  Overall, it’s decent.  Casper van Dien plays Johnny Rico, Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez, and Dina Meyer as Dizzy Flores.  Well, they’re young and gorgeous, so something has to be said about that, but I really do dig van Dien’s portrayal as Rico.  He starts off as kind of a smug and arrogant little rich boy, but over the course of the film, he becomes the bad-ass son-of-a-bitch that the Mobile Infantry needs.  Denise Richards is little more than eye-candy as Ibanez.  Dina’s Dizzy has the hots for Rico, but she more than holds her own on the battlefield.  The real standouts of the film are Clancy Brown as Sgt. Zim and Michael Ironside as Rasczak.  Just watch the following video clips, and you’ll understand why:

Few people can command the screen the way these two actors do.  Everybody knows Clancy Brown as the Kurgan from Highlander, but his performance as Sgt. Zim is the stuff legends are made of.  Like-wise, Michael Ironside just chews the scenery in a way that nobody else can.  I absolutely have to give credit to Paul Verhoeven for getting these kinds of performances out of his actors.  He’s the kind of director that gets down and dirty and really has a hands-on approach to film-making.  His film-making style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Now, if you’ve seen the movie, then you’ve noticed the propaganda commercials peppered throughout the film.  These things are very interesting to watch and gives you a bit of insight into the film’s Terran Federation works as far as controlling the populace goes.  It’s not entirely unlike the way that Germany controlled the flow of information during World War II, just without the high-tech gadgets.  Now, anybody who has read the book, will notice a not-so-subtle absence of the power suits that the troopers wore in the book.  While the bugs that are in the movie are well-designed, there are bugs that the movie hadn’t touched on, namely the laser-shooting bugs and the queen.  These creatures would show up in later films, but in the first Starship Troopers they are absent.  The reason for the lack of the things that fans of the book were expecting is very simple:  Lack of resources.  The budget for the film was about 100,000,000, and a lot of that went into the visual effects.  Yet, even if they had the budget, they couldn’t have done the power suits properly without making them look completely silly and unrealistic.  Again, the suits would show up later, but for the initial film, nothing.  That burned a lot of people, and understandably so.  I had no idea why people who read the book hated the movie until I read the book.  I certainly will not blame people for not liking the movie at all.  It has its share of issues, but personally, I rather enjoyed it.  Also, the soundtrack that was composed by the late Basil Poledouris is nothing short of epic:

The film strays extremely far from the source material, there’s no doubt about it.  But the film has garnered a cult following after its initial release and I think a lot of people are beginning to understand the movie now.  It’s approach to the source material is controversial and unorthodox to say the least, but the results of the film are surprisingly good.  The visual effects are spectacular with some of the most iconic action sequences seen during the 90’s.  As somebody who has read the book after seeing the movie, I can certainly understand and appreciate both sides of the argument on the merits of the film.  I’m going to score Starship Troopers twice.  Once as a film that stands on its own and as a book-to-film adaptation.

As a film that stands alone, I give the film a solid 9/10.  I loved it back then, and I love it now.  As an adaptation: 3/10.  This is one of the worst book-to-film adaptations ever.  It barely has any resemblance to the source material and a lot of die-hard fans of the book were rightfully pissed.  It leaves out a lot of the story and background into the characters and their history, and certain elements of the film just really didn’t make sense.  Truth be told, I will defend the movie until my dying breath, despite its problems.  Would you like to know more?


Doom? Doom. DOOOOOOM!!

While this blog is generally reserved for movies, I do periodically talk about video games, especially ones that I feel that are worth mentioning.  I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember, so I want to discuss a video game that has had an impact on not just my life, but society and pop culture in general:  Doom.  The reason I bring this up is because last Friday, which was the 13th of May, id Software and its parent company, Bethesda Softworks, released the latest iteration of Doom.  Now, before I go over why Doom is such an important part of gaming and pop culture, I want to take you back to the early 90’s, specifically 1991.  In 1991, 4 employees from a company called Softdisk, struck out on their own and founded a company called id Software.  After finishing up on Commander Keen, a 2D side-scrolling game, id Software struck gold with a first-person shooter called Wolfenstein 3-D.  The game put the player in the shoes of protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz, who was sent on a mission to kill Adolf Hitler.  The game was a critical and financial success.  Wolfenstein 3-D is widely considered to be the grandfather of the first-person shooter genre.  It was a game that I absolutely loved, even though my folks were a little hesitant about me playing a game where I shot people.  But these weren’t people, they were Nazis.  HUGE difference.

In the following year, 1993, id Software followed up Wolfenstein 3-D with Doom.  Doom was revolutionary in every single aspect.  From the then-realistic graphics, to the gun-play, music and sound effects, Doom changed everything about video games.  Not only did Doom change how games were made and approached, but it showed audiences that you could do a lot with very little.  The game-play in Doom is very straight-forward:  Point, shoot and try not to get killed.  It’s a kind of purity that the genre would end up phasing out towards the end of the decade.  Part of what made Doom so special was a number of things.  For one, people who wanted to try the game could get the entire first episode for free: Knee-Deep In The Dead.  The game was initially split up into three different episodes with about 9 levels each.  Doom utilized a free form of distribution called shareware.  This was a method that gamers could use to try the game for free.  These days, it’s called a demo.  But back in the early 90’s, the Internet was basically in its infancy, so the free version of Doom came on 3.5 inch floppy disks.  One of the other things that made the game unique was its graphics engine.  While Wolfenstein 3-D appeared in 3-D, you could only move forward, back, and side to side.  There were no elevated platforms.  Doom introduced a fully 3-D environment.  The characters still used sprites, but that’s because of the limitations of technology.  Visually, the game was brilliant, utilizing various lighting techniques that nobody had ever seen before in a video game.  The sound was also astounding.  Honestly, even playing this game today still gives me the creeps.  It still maintains that kind of atmosphere after 23 years.

After the monumental success of the original Doom, id Software began work on a sequel, called creatively enough, Doom II.  This game was released in 1995.  While it didn’t advance the genre forward technologically, it still ended up being a phenomenal game.  In fact, Doom II really popularized the multi-player phenomenon with it’s wildly entertaining “Deathmatch” mode.  I played it myself, and it was simply an amazing experience.  While I was definitely a gamer back in the day, it was Doom that really cemented gaming as my go-to hobby.  I’ve been playing games for over 20 years and I have no regrets.  First-person shooters were my bread-and-butter at the time, so that was the genre that I was really attached to.  Doom has influenced so many gamers and game developers over the years, it’s hard to really get a footing on who the first imitator was.  Duke Nukem 3D was the next evolutionary step.  It took the concepts introduced in Doom and took to another level, with the ability to look up and down and jump.

That’s not to say that Doom doesn’t have its detractors, it does.  There were a lot of conservative groups at the time that railed against the game because of its Satanic imagery and it’s level of ultra-violence.  It was definitely a gory game at the time.  You look at it today, and it’s tame by today’s standards.  But during the 90’s, parents and politicians were incensed.  Unfortunately, the game would further gain notoriety because of a tragedy that happened in 1999: The Columbine Massacre.  What happened was that two of the students from that high school thought out and planned an attack that took the lives of 12 students and one teacher.  The pair would end up committing suicide shortly after.  What was brought into question as to why this happened was emphasis on gun culture, outcasts and violence in video games, among other things.  The game that came into the crosshairs of politicians at this time was Doom, as it was proven that these two kids played the game obsessively.  A lot of people blamed the video game directly for the actions of the killers.  While this is a topic for another time, I feel that people really didn’t understand the issues of mental illness at the time, as the two suffered from massive depression.  Multiple studies have since proven that there is no direct connection between violent video games and people that commit violence.  People have always tried to find something or someone to blame.  First, it was rock’n’roll music, then it was television and now it’s video games.  People want a scapegoat instead of actually trying to understand why people commit acts of violence.

After the release of Doom II, id Software would begin focusing on a new IP called Quake.  See, id Software was always about really pushing and improving technology in video games, which made the company a major pioneer in the industry.  Quake was the first truly 3D first-person shooter.  I’m not just talking about the environments, but also the characters and creatures themselves.  Instead of using sprite, id started using polygons, so the creatures and objects had a fully 3D look to them.  The company would focus on Quake until 2004.

In 2004, id Software finally brought Doom into the 21st century with Doom 3.  Doom 3 sported a brand new graphics engine that actually pushed PC to their limits.  It was also one of the first games to require Windows XP.  While Doom 3 was fairly well-received by most people, others railed against the game, because the game-play was different.  Instead of the usual run-and-gun play-style of the first two games, Doom 3 opted for a more “survival-horror” approach.  Instead of running ahead and shooting everything that moves, you had to reserve your ammo for the right moment, because ammunition was in short supply.  It was still a shooter at its core, but the overall feel of Doom 3 was different.  I loved the game, personally, but I understood why some people didn’t.

Over the course of the past 20 years, Doom has been ported to multiple platforms including the Nintendo 64, Sega 32X, and PlayStation.  Doom has also been adapted into other forms of media including comic books, novels and a film in 2006.  I recently reviewed the Doom film in my last post, and while it was not that great of a movie, it was certainly a fun time.  But I’ve also had the pleasure of reading the first four novels of Doom.  They weren’t particularly great, but they kind of expanded on the universe introduced in the original game.  I don’t think it was a universe that needed expanding, but that’s what happened.  After the released of Doom 3, id Software began focusing their efforts on a new Quake game, and a new IP called Rage.  In 2008, id Software announced that production would begin on a fourth Doom game.  After multiple starts and stops, we finally got a brand new Doom this year.

On Friday the 13th of May 2016, the new Doom was unleashed.  Featuring a brand-new graphics engine, the new game would actually return to the original game-play style of running and gunning with a few new improvements.  Initially, I had played the multiplayer beta a few weeks back and I was not impressed, mostly because it wasn’t developed by id Software.  However, after hearing many good things about the single-player campaign, I picked up the game last night.  After spending a significant time in the campaign, I have to say that I’m fully impressed.  I don’t have the PC to run the game at maximum detail, but it does scale pretty well to older machines, and it still looks freaking amazing.  Gone is the survival-horror element of the previous game.  With new graphics and old-fashioned game-play, Doom 2016 is a very, very good game.  With a new “glory-kill” system, taking out demons has never been this much fun.

So, what does Doom mean to me?  I’ve been playing the game since 1993 and it’s one of my favorite video-game series of all time.  Despite all the controversies and detractors, there isn’t a bad Doom game.  id Software is one of my favorite developers in the industry, and while some of their games have not been up to the usual quality that id is known for, they are a great deal of fun.  Doom, for better or worse, is an important part of not just pop-culture, but culture in general.  It’s one of the most significant pieces of software ever released, and all the notoriety the game has attained has only served to make it more popular.  It’s caused a lot of discussion about violence in video games and just how big that gaming has become.  At the time, gaming was considered to be a kid’s hobby, but now it’s a part of many people’s lives and will continue to be so in the years to come.  Doom has played an instrumental part in that, and it will go down in history as one of the most influential and controversial games to be released.

Doom: The Movie

Released: October 2005

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Run Time: 113 Minutes

Rated R

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Genre: Action, Science Fiction

Karl Urban: John Grimm
Rosamund Pike: Samantha Grimm
Deobia Oparei: Destroyer
Razaaq Adoti: Duke
Dwayne Johnson: Sarge
Richard Brake: Portman

Movies based on video games have a reputation for being absolute garbage.  Why?  The answer is not as simple as saying that the film-makers have zero understanding of the source material.  Video games and movies are two completely different mediums and need to be treated as such.  A movie is a static experience which everybody experiences the same way.  A video game is an interactive experience that relies on the player him/herself to advance the story or whatever the game is presenting.  When you try to take a story or a game and try to make that experience into a movie, things get lost in translation every single time.  It’s the same thing with adapting a book into a movie, you can’t bring it all into a 2-hour movie.  The length of time for a movie pretty much makes that impossible.  That’s not to say that there aren’t video game movies that are terrible.  On the contrary, there are some that are more than decent.  Mortal Kombat is one of them, just don’t bother with the second movie.  Doom, surprisingly, is another.  I won’t go into a spiel about how the video game of Doom changed everything and whatnot, I’ll save that for another post.  Meanwhile, I’m going to discuss Doom: The Movie.

Doom begins as we see a bunch of scientists running from something on a base on Mars.  One of the scientists successfully barricades himself inside a room and sends out a distress signal.  The signal is picked up by the “Rapid Response Tactical Squad” or “RRTS” for short.  The RRTS is lead by a tough-as-nails commander, Sarge.  After canceling leave, the squad heads to a facility that houses an ancient teleportation device called the Arc.  Stepping through the Arc, the team ends up at the Olduvai Research Facility on Mars.  After establishing quarantine, the team realizes that they got more than they bargained for when they run into some pretty nasty critters.  Story was never a real priority for games back in the early 90’s.  When Doom came out, nobody cared that you got to shoot things, that’s what the game was all about.  No overly complicated story-line, just a straight-up fight against the demons of Hell.  It was glorious.  The story in the film is it’s biggest and most significant failing.  The essence of Doom was going up against Hell itself, and the film cuts that out entirely.  The creatures in the film are not demons, but genetic mutations.  That was a major mistake and is the MAIN reason why people hated the movie.

Let’s talk about what DID work:  The creature effects are simply amazing, and with the exception of one, they’re practical.  They’re men in suits, and the gore effects are also practical.  That’s another thing that the movie got right.  They went for an R rating and it shows.  It’s bloody, brutal and violent.  Just how a Doom movie should be.  It’s also dark, which the game also was, and it’s extremely intense, even though it was predictable.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the leader of the elite squad with gusto.  Every time Dwayne Johnson is on screen he steals the show.  I don’t necessarily think that he’s the greatest actor, but boy he’s got real presence and charisma.  He’s absolutely fun to watch.  Karl Urban is the second-in-command as John Grimm.  While his earlier stuff isn’t particularly great, Urban has since become a phenomenal actor in his own right starring in movies like Dredd.  Richard Brake plays the resident pervert, Portman.  Rosamund Pike plays Grimm’s sister, Samantha.  Overall, the acting is serviceable if nothing else.

The action is where it’s at, and the movie definitely delivers on that front.  It’s dark and you can barely see what’s going on, but the same could be said about the game.  The film really nails the atmosphere.  At one point, Sarge ends up getting infected with a virus and becomes the main villain.  The fight between Grimm and Sarge is phenomenal.  But the real big draw for the film is the first-person sequence that takes place towards the end of the film.  For a good 6-7 minutes the action takes place Doom-style in the first-person perspective.  I loved it.  That was definitely fan-service right there, and they did good.

Unfortunately, the film strips out the one thing that really could have made the movie more than just generic:  Hell.  I can’t state this enough:  Taking Hell out of Doom was one of the dumbest moves that the screen-writers pulled.  If they had left that in, Doom: The Movie could have been one of the best, if not the best video game film ever.  Instead, the film-makers opted for a more generic, Resident Evil-style film that, despite all the good things, fails to even come close to being faithful to the game.  It’s a damn shame, too.  I really enjoyed this one.  But for the Doom purists, this one is a failure.  Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a bad movie.  It gets enough right to get a pass from me, but it does get a few marks against it for taking away the one thing that made Doom…well….Doom.  My final verdict is a 7/10.  Would I still recommend it?  Not to the hardcore fans of the game, no.  If you’re looking for a fairly decent sci-fi romp, this will fit the bill.