Karl Urban as John Grimm
The Rock as Sarge
Rosamund Pike as Samantha Grimm
Deobia Oparei as Destroyer
Ben Daniels as Goat
Razaaq Adoti as Duke
Richard Brake as Portman
Al Weaver as The Kid
Yao Chin as Mac
Dexter Fletcher as Pinky
Robert Russell as Dr. Carmack
Brian Steele as Hell Knight
The long, long in development film adaptation of the classic video game shooter, “Doom” is a decent enough action film as long as you don’t expect too much out of it.
For a relatively short film – only 100 minutes – it has a fairly slow build. Most of the major action set pieces are saved for the last act, which gives the climax a fair amount of juice, but at the expense of the rest of the film. Director Andrezj Bartowiak (“Cradle 2 the Grave”) spends most of the first two thirds explaining what is going on and building situational suspense amongst the characters; the first half of the film veers quite a bit between a suspense film and an action film. And, just as it finally does reach a sustainable level of tension as the commanding officer starts killing civilians, and anyone who gets in his way, in order to contain the outbreak, it quickly switches to action mode and suspense is largely tossed out the window. For suspense to work it needs strong characters and character dynamics to build off of, and characterization isn’t really “Doom”‘s strong suit. With the exception of Grimm himself – who’s story is nicely underplayed by Urban in by far the strongest performance in the film, and never hammered home in the kind of clunky exposition that is usual in these types of films – the various soldiers are fairly lightly created with character ticks standing in place of true characterization. It’s just enough to tell them apart from one another when the shooting starts, but not enough to build adequate suspense from and occasionally is quite unbelievable as this supposedly elite military unit of professional soldiers very quickly begin behaving quite unprofessionally and turning on each other. The Rock, usually a strong screen presence whether he’s being intimidating or funny, is left unfortunately bland for most of the film, and Rosamund Pike as the story’s scientist is relegated mainly to being an exposition device.
Once it does finally get rolling, however, it’s quite a bundle, occasionally reaching levels of adrenaline brilliance. The First Person Shooter sequence really and truly completely captures the feel of the game – sometimes a bit too well – and brings the audience into the experience in a way action films have never really attempted, especially when it goes hand-to-hand (or hand-to-claw as the case may be). There are few too many tries at cool action movie lines – something that should have been written out of the Hollywood playbook a long time ago – but nothing horribly laughable.
If you’re any type of gamer, and even if you’re not, the First Person Shooter sequence is worth seeing on the big screen at least once. If only the action had been spaced out a bit more, or the truly suspenseful moments had been zeroed in and played upon earlier, it could have been more than it is, but what it is isn’t too bad, and there may be a fair amount of character gold to mine from John Grimm in the future.
“Doom” is rated R for strong violence/gore and language.