'Doom' Nauseating, Depending on Your P.O.V.

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When the folks at Universal Pictures set out to adapt id Software's videogame "Doom" for the big screen, they decided to showcase the game's "first person shooter" perspective in one of the film's key sequences.

Although id broke ground with this first-person point of view approach, the tiny company from Mesquite, Texas wasn't sure that such a scene was necessary for the film's success.

"When we originally read the script and saw the P.O.V. shot in there, we thought it almost was too much of a nod to the hard-core [fans] -- that it could be very alienating to mass audiences because they wouldn't understand why things were happening," explains the company's CEO Todd Hollenshead. "But the way that it was actually pulled off by [Visual Effects Supervisor] John Farhat and the moviemakers ended up being more of a home run than a strike out."

"Doom" stars Karl Urban as John "Reaper" Grimm and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, as Sarge -- two members of a group of Marines known as the Rapid Response Tactical Squad that is ordered to evaluate and then contain a mysterious threat on the Olduvai Research Station on Mars. What they find is a horde of nightmarish creatures stalking through the facility, killing any of the foolish people who've remained.

A pivotal scene near the end of the film mimics the game's first person perspective, plunging the audience into the position of maneuvering Olduvai's corridors and shooting the various demons, imps, Barons and Hell Knights that cross their path. A majority of the sequence was filmed in one continuous live-action shot that was later enhanced by computer graphics to create the necessary effects and the barrel of the gun.

"I think that there might be a lot of cross pollinization that occurs as the result of that [scene]," says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. "Non-gamers are going to see that and understand why gamers like what they like. So maybe it will break down some of that snobbery."

The producer regrets that the brief scene, which only runs about four minutes, wasn't repeated.

"After you see it and you know how well it works, it certainly makes you think, 'Boy, we might have been able to do that twice in this movie,'" says di Bonaventura. "It's pretty expensive as a sequence, so our budget would have limited us from doing it a second time."

Even if the filmmakers didn't risk blowing their budget, the scene needed to remain short so the audience wouldn't get sick of it -- literally.

"The first time I played 'Doom' I got nauseous," says The Rock. "And then I read somewhere that that's what happens. You just get nauseous with the chaos of the first person shooter and all that."

Adds Hollenshead, "My seminal experience in video games was playing the [id Software's first game] 'Wolfenstein 3D' ... I was so addicted to that game, I would literally play it until I was so sick that I couldn't get out of bed."

Although gamers have hardened themselves to the sickening effects of the first person shooter games, Universal knew that film audiences might be more susceptible.

"When you're looking at it in the computer, you have a lot of visual reference around it, so that you're not getting lost inside of it," explains producer John Wells. "But when you're in the surround sound and the entire screen is dark around, you're in that, it's so sensorially you're taken over by it."

Thus, a crack team studied simulator-type amusement park rides -- such as Universal Studios Hollywood's "Back to the Future" attraction and Las Vegas' "Star Trek: Klingon Encounter" ride -- to determine the optimal time that audiences could endure the effects on a movie screen before becoming overloaded.

"We literally talked a lot with our visual effects guy about that period of time, and that's the period of time we ended up using," says Wells. "When you see it full screen in a big theater, you love it and then you're really ready for it to end at the end of it. I think 30 minutes of it would be rough going."

Even though The Rock feels the action-packed sequence turned out well, he's not about to risk nausea on any simulator rides after one stomach-turning experience.

"I went to Universal [Orlando], and everybody tells me 'Get on the Spider-Man ride. Get on the Spider-Man ride,'" says the 6-foot-4 actor. "Okay. I get on the Spider-Man ride. I was that close ... you know how your mouth starts to salivate when you're getting there? I was like, 'Oh, this is it.' It was the worst. So after that, no, no more rides for me."

"Doom" opens nationwide on Friday, Oct. 21

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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