2 stars (out of four)
Though the impact of video games on film is undeniable, movies based on video games tend to make subpar entertainment.
Evidence: "Resident Evil," "Tomb Raider" and their lackluster sequels. Need more? How about Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Street Fighter" or the slick-looking but vacant "Mortal Kombat." Do we even want to go into 1993's "Super Mario Bros." with Dennis Hopper? Let's not.
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak's "Doom," based on id Software's mega-selling game, attempts to buck the trendand almost makes itwith an ambitious, austere adaptation.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as Sarge, head of the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, which storms a futuristic Mars-based experiment facility where science has gone ka-blooie. Muscle-bound mutants are killing the residents, and Sarge is called in to express displeasure via many, many bullets. His band of merry NRA members include Duke (Raz Adoti) and Reaper ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy's Karl Urban). Along for the ride is Reaper's estranged scientist sister, Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike), for drama and some semblance of story.
Now, the game "Doom" and its sequels were always shy on plot, tending to focus more on gore, special effects and outrageously powerful weapons for its players. It's a pure adrenaline game, especially in "arena" mode where the object is to kill or be killed by other players or slobbering monsters of all kinds. No story arc, just action!action!action! and fast-paced carnage.
"Doom," the film, aspires to be more than just a gory shoot em' upthough it'd still be a stretch to call it a thinking man's action movie. The Rock's Sarge is no hero with a heart of goldhe's a soldier with a mission, which, in this context, is a very different thing. Orders are orders, and with "Semper Fi" tattooed on his back, Sarge can't be bothered with details such as innocent bystanders. He's concerned with containment; God can sort out the collateral damage.
"Gentlemen, we've got ourselves a game," he says to his troops, announcing the mission.
Screenwriters David Callaham and Wesley Strick keep the dialogue spare, avoiding that cherished stratagem of action thrillers: violence followed by a witty joke or one-liner. All their soldiers can do is swear. A lot.
The Rock made his mark as an upcoming action star in 2003's "The Rundown." Arnold Schwarzenegger even appeared in cameo, as if passing the mantle to the former WWE wrestling star. The Rock's role in "Doom" furthers this promise, especially when the story takes a dark turn in the final 20 minutes.
In the future, however, scares are depressingly domestic. Flashlights fail, a damsel needs to be rescued and corpses rise from the dead. Add this to a bit of pseudo-scientific dialogue about the last, unmapped 10 percent of the human genome being the blueprint for the soul, and "Doom" spirals out of its tight little narrative.
In the closing minutes of the film, "Doom" quickly devolves into an on-screen homage to the game itself, and the audience becomes one of the characters, hunting down monsters in computer-generated landscapes and battling flesh-munching zombies. Despite some solid moves against viewer expectations, "Doom" ultimately embraces the cliched doom of all video game movies.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak; screenplay David Callaham and Wesley Strick; cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts; art direction by Peter Francis, Dominic Masters and Honza Zazvorka; music by Clint Mansell; edited by Derek G. Brechin; produced by John Wells and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. A Universal Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:44. MPAA rating: R (for strong violence/gore and language).
Sarge - The Rock
Reaper - Karl Urban
Dr. Grimm - Rosamund Pike
Destroyer - DeObia Oparei
Goat - Ben Daniels
Duke - Raz Adoti
Portman - Richard Brake
The Kid - Al WeaverCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times