Thursday, October 27, 2005

Doom: the Movie

A group of filmmakers set out to make a movie.

They start with a story about a scientist named Dr. Betruger, who works for the research wing of a huge corporation. In the course of excavation of an archaeological dig at the behest of his employer, Dr. Betruger's research team located an ancient artifact which, it was ultimately discovered, was useful for facilitating instant teleportation from one point in space to another. The corporation's executives, thrilled at the prospects of this amazing new technology, fully funded Dr. Betruger's research activities.

Upon further investigation, Dr. Betruger found that the ancient artifact also facilitated contact with an alternate universe, a fact which he decided, for whatever reason, to keep to himself. In the course of experimenting with this aspect of the technology, Dr. Betruger personally made contact with sentient beings in the alternate universe. As a result of this contact, Dr. Betruger's mind ultimately came under the control of these beings, and Dr. Betruger began working clandestinely to open a permanent multi-dimensional portal between our universe and the alternate universe in order to allow the beings to enter our universe. Dr. Betruger ultimately succeeded in creating the portal, thereby allowing the beings from the alternate universe to cross over into our own.

Shortly after the story begins, Dr. Betruger's portal to the unknown opens up, and strange demonic creatures begin pouring out into the region surrounding the portal. Some humans working near the portal are killed by the creatures. Research and maintenance workers are converted into mindless, cannibalistic zombies. The creatures take control of the minds of nearby military personnel, who then form themselves into an evil army ready to do their new masters' bidding.

Once the portal is opened up, all contact between the research facility and the outside world is lost. At least two marines stationed at the research facility survived the initial onslaught. As the marines make their way through the facility, they learn, one clue at a time, just exactly what Dr. Betruger had been up to. They learn the horrifying evil that has consumed the alternate universe and which now threatens to consume their own. The creatures from the alternate universe are able to manipulate the marines' perceptions of time and space; the marines are facing psychological attacks as unrelenting as the physical ones, and they are not always certain what is real and what is an illusion. In the meantime, they are battling all manner of zombies, cyborgs, and other vicious otherworldly creatures bent on killing them and all mankind. Ultimately, one marine makes his way to the dimensional portal in order to shut it down and close it up permanently. Once he reaches the portal, the marine learns that it can only be closed by going through to the other side. He must pass over into the evil universe and literally go through Hell in order to close the portal and save mankind. Of course, along the way he kicks lots of evil monster ass with huge badass weapons. (Think Ash from Army of Darkness)

Oh, and the entire story takes place on the planet Mars.

And the marines are armed with shotguns, chainsaws and wicked high-tech ray guns.

Some of the bad guys throw plasma balls; others have rocket launchers for arms.

If you think you could make a kick-ass movie from that story, you must not be a Hollywood professional.

See, if you were a sophisticated Hollywood professional, you'd know to make the following changes to the story:

1. Scratch Dr. Betruger
2. Scratch the mind control
3. Scratch the ancient artifact
4. Scratch the whole inter-dimensional portal thing
5. Scratch the evil universe
6. Scratch the cyborgs, shotguns, plasma balls and rocket launchers
7. Add some other Marines
8. Add a hot scientist chick
9. Add a zombie/monster virus

As a result, you get:

A team of marines is dispatched to to a research facility on Mars to search for some missing scientists. Once they get there, they encounter a bunch of rampaging zombies and monsters, along with a hot scientist chick. With the help of the hot scientist chick, the marines ultimately learn that a virus created by a research team from a "24th human chromosome" has infected certain of the scientists and turned them into the zombies and monsters. The marines fight with the zombies and monsters, trying to keep from getting infected while preventing the zombies from reaching the teleporter from Mars back to Earth. There's a little character development. Turns out the hot scientist chick is the sister of one of the marines, and their parents died on Mars when they were young. The brother (played by Karl Urban) is something of a good guy crusader, while his boss (played by Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson) is a hardcore "by-the-book, do the job, don't ask questions" kind of guy. This difference of perspective causes serious tension when the team is faced with a decision as to what to do with a roomful of human survivors, some of whom may be infected with the zombie virus. There's even some kung fu near the end of the movie, which seems a little over the top, but is well-executed.

In other words, Doom the movie = 28 Days Later + Alien. It's not bad, but it could've been really good. I really fail to understand why they completely removed Dr. Betruger and the "evil universe" theme from the story. Dr. Betruger made for a very creepy villain in the game. The mad scientist and his "portal to Hell" are really the core elements of the game storyline and they would've added a lot to the movie. Of course, in the game, there's a lot of time to bring the story out one piece at a time, through a bunch of mechanisms. One really effective mechanism is the use of personal voice logs you find around the Mars base. One piece at a time, you get a very disturbing picture of normal Martian life steadily collapsing into complete and total chaos as Dr. Betruger secretly carried out his bizarre experiments in and around the Martian base. Incidents of minor and major psychological disturbance, hallucinations, acute paranoia and spontaneous acts of violence racked up one after another in a spiraling pattern until all hell literally broke loose. Granted, there isn't enough time in a 90-minute movie to explore all of this as fully as game designers are free to do in a 15-hour game, but the inclusion of more of these story elements would have made for a much richer storyline and a better movie.

For what it is, Doom the movie is fine, I suppose. Loads of guns, fights, zombies, monsters, scary dark passageways, a BFG 9000, the Rock and a hot scientist chick add up to a decent but not outstanding flick. Despite what everybody else seems to think, I think the Rock did a decent job of acting, just like most actors do. The last time I can remember really bad acting was de Niro trying to cry in "Analyze This." Overall, I give it a C+, or maybe a B-.


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3:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Betruger was removed under pressure from the Scientist anti-defamation league's lobbyists.

1:13 PM  

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