I’m not a big fan of video-game movies. I was bored out of my tree by Street Fighter (1994), and by the original Resident Evil (2002), too. And pretty much the only thing I liked about Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004; my review) was the sight of Toronto City Hall getting nuked. I guess the silly Alien Vs. Predator (2004; my review) owed more to the video game of that name than to either of the movies that inspired it, too. So, I’m not a fan of the genre.
But so help me, I actually came out of a video-game movie smiling this week. The wife and I caught Doom a couple nights ago, and we were both impressed. Granted, it’s a video-game movie, so it’s pretty cheesy and you have to keep your expectations lower than you would if you were going to see a regular action movie. But within the confines of its genre, it’s actually more complicated and interesting than you might expect. (Those who don’t want any inkling of its twists and turns should probably stop reading.)
First of all, The Rock, who stars as the leader of a rapid response team summoned to a facility on Mars, plays his role surprisingly straight. This is good, because while he is kind of funny at times, humour of this sort is even funnier when the character doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. What’s more, his character takes a few interesting turns. I daren’t say more without getting into spoilers, but suffice to say it might help to remember that he began his movie career playing a hero (The Scorpion King, 2002) who turned into a villain (The Mummy Returns, 2001; my review), so he’s got plenty of range to work with in between those points.
Second, the leading lady (Die Another Day‘s Rosamund Pike) turns out to be not a love interest for one of the main characters, but rather, she is the slightly older twin sister of a para-military type named John Grimm (The Lord of the Rings‘ Karl Urban). And the scene in which this fact is revealed is very nicely done. Since the lack of films about adult brother-sister relationships is one of my longstanding pet peeves, I must say that this detail warmed me up to the film, and might explain why I like it as much as I do.
Third, I really like the “nano-wall”. Walking through that thing looks a little like walking through bubble-wrap.
Fourth, I get a kick out of how the film implicitly links its monsters to the ancient heroes and giants who were wiped out by the Genesis flood. (Note how the ancient device that teleports people back and forth between Mars and Earth is called “the ark”.) This kind of reflects the ambivalence you find within the Hebrew text. Genesis 6 tells us that “the sons of the gods” (or “the sons of God”, depending on whether you think “elohim” in this case is a singular name or a plural noun) mated with “the daughters of men” and produced offspring who became “the heroes of old”; but it seems that these half-breed giants came to be seen as evil, and their very existence — at a time, between Eden and Babel, when God was repeatedly reaffirming the separation of, and distinction between, heaven and earth — may have been one reason for the Flood.
There is also some blather about how the unmapped portion of the human genome might contain what we call the “soul”, etc., and it seems that the virus that turns some people into monsters is drawn towards those people who have a genetic tendency towards evil but avoids those people who have a genetic tendency towards good. Those of us who resist pure materialism and believe in the fallenness of all humanity may quibble with this sort of thing, but what I find especially interesting is that one of the men infected by this virus is a religious type who, on becoming infected, crosses himself and then commits suicide to prevent himself from becoming a monster. So, the film does imply that faith can play a part in helping us to stave off our depraved natures.
All right, that’s enough. No doubt you will say I am making too much of this film. And yeah, I am — but that’s part of the fun!