Sarge (THE ROCK) and Destroyer (DEOBIA OPAREI) enter a corridor, guns blazing. ©2005, Universal Pictures.

Video games have never been my forte, but that fact did not keep me from spending hour after hour playing Doom 2 on my girlfriend’s computer during my first Junior year of college. I was a terrible, terrible player – but my hand/eye coordination issues were supplemented by my brazenly unabashed use of “cheat codes” that were built into the game for players such as me. This approach worked fine for me because my object in playing was not simply to accomplish any of the pre-determined objectives, but to instead be responsible for as much video game carnage as humanly possible.

It was with these fond memories of searching for chainsaws and BFG’s that I greedily anticipated the release of “Doom”.

“Doom”, the film, bares a resemblance to the video game which inspired it; but because Hollywood cannot simply adapt good source material as-is, certain changes have been made to make the story more “accessible.” Apparently there is a studio suit somewhere convinced that the idea of Marines teleporting to Mars to fight horribly mutated genetically modified humans who have been exposed to the DNA of an alien race is somehow more plausible than the game’s premise of fighting demonic creatures.

My reaction to the change in the overall premise was basically a shoulder shrug of indifference. Regardless of where they came from, I expected nothing more from this film then to see the aforementioned creatures get blown to smithereens at regular intervals. For the most part this film delivers.

The film wastes no time setting up the premise. It opens with a team of scientists who are stationed on the planet Mars scrambling to escape from an unseen menace…a menace that kills the more slow-footed scientists amongst them in appropriately bloody fashion. A lone scientist is trapped in the quarantined area of the facility and he sends out a call for help while someone or something tries to break down the door. Back on Earth, a shirtless Marine named Sarge (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is briefed on the incident and dispatched to Mars with his team, which consists of John Grimm, aka Reaper (Karl Urban), and characters with names such as Destroyer, Duke, Portman, The Kid, Mac, and Goat. Your duty, as a viewer will be to try and determine in which order these characters die.

The Marines arrive via an ancient interplanetary teleportation device that was apparently built by a race of people who have seen the movie “Stargate.” The Marines arrive on Mars within the films first 10 minutes, locked and loaded, and ready to blow shit back to kingdom come. At this point I was thoroughly engaged in the film, and I looked forward to a 90-minute long trip through the gore-laden bowels of cinema that lead to B-movie nirvana.

And then the plot got in the way.

I suppose I should be thankful that director Andrzej Bartkowiak (“Cradle 2 the Grave”) attempted to add some character development and plot contrivances, however in this film these scenes do little more than create inert pauses that the action must struggle to overcome. A side-plot involving John Grimm and his Wonderbra-sporting, estranged sister Dr. Samantha Grimm (played by Rosamund Pike) goes pretty much nowhere…and goes their slowly. I would describe their relationship further but the film hints at their past but never fully develops it.

As with all movies of this genre, the fun really begins once the characters split off into pairs to search the facility. They find an assortment of dead bodies, fake scares, and shadowy rooms. They also find the scientist from the opening scene, still alive yet obviously infected with some sort of ghastly disease, or at least one would assume this given that he is covered with blood and pustules…and he tears off his own ears. Not long after he begins to change into a full-fledged genetically mutated monster and mayhem ensues.

The second act is where this movie falters, I think, but it never completely collapses. The action is interspersed with attempts at plot development, and while it builds slowly, it does lead to a third act that attempts to deliver the goods.

It seems that the combination of the alien DNA discovered on Mars has different effects on certain people. Some become disgusting mutants while others become superhuman – the effect the DNA has is determined by whether or not a person is inherently good or bad. Based on that “logic” the monsters attack certain people in attempt to infect them with monster DNA, but others they attack to kill as enemies. By this time, with chaos all around them, Sarge starts to lose his cool. He becomes mean and belligerent and keeps his team in check by force instead of reason. Sarge orders his team to kill everyone in the space station, infected or not, in order to stop the spread of the virus. His team, led by John Grimm, opposes him. At last, the die is cast for a showdown once both the Sarge and Grimm are exposed to alien DNA.

It is here that the third act opens, with a hilarious, campy and fun homage to the video game. We see through the eyes of the now superhuman John Grimm as he blows away and chainsaws everything in his path in an attempt to save his sister and stop Sarge from destroying everything and everyone. This scene is so over the top that it is nearly impossible to not enjoy. Sure enough Grimm and Sarge finally square off, man versus monster, with entertaining though predictable results.

“Doom” is obviously not a film that has any illusions of greatness. It was not made to win awards, and Lord help us, it won’t. It wisely goes for the lowest common denominator, and in that regard it mostly succeeds. The acting is merely adequate. The script is unfocused and frequently incoherent…but when it needs to it delivers humor, frenetic action, and cool-looking gore-laden deaths. There are scenes of mayhem that will make audiences laugh and cheer, a few that will horrify, and that is all it sets out to do. It may not be the noblest of cinematic causes, but at least it accomplishes its singular goal – which is simply to entertain.

Running Time: 100 minutes • MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore and language. • Distributed by Universal Pictures

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