Doom (2005): The Videogame Movie That Didn't Give a F**K

by Paul Deeter

Flashback to 2005 for a minute. Specifically lets analyze what the video-game climate was like. The Playstation 2 and launch of the Xbox in recent years have never been more successful. To put numbers to it we can look at this quote on Gamespot's website: "For the year, US retailers sold $10.5 billion of gaming hardware, software, and accessories, 6 percent higher than last year's $9.9 billion. The 2005 tally also sets a new record for the industry, breaking 2002's previous high of $10.3 billion." I looked at the releases of 2005's games and didn't find much relevant of note, but if we go back to 2004 we can understand how monumental the time was for FPS (or First Person Shooter) games was. The Mature Rated FPS games of 2004 included Valve's masterpiece Half-Life 2, but more popularly the second Halo game, which would be a landmark not just in local co-operative playing but an early game for online multiplayer as well. Xbox Live launched in 2002 by Microsoft, 20 years ago now. Its hard to imagine that once it wasn't the hit compared to the success it is today, but the FPS was there to propel it into popularity. Most importantly, 2004 was the year that Doom 3 came out, to some arguably the best bout of the entire series. Doom 3 was a technical and graphical masterpiece. In addition to being balls to the wall fun, it implemented horror elements and a more immersive environment to the Doom franchise. It was a critical darling and went on to sell a whopping 3.5 million copies which would make it id Software's most successful release to this day.

So in the calm down of 2004, its safe to say people were still either playing or just now starting the newest Doom release. The franchise has been around since 1993 but most notable as a rip-n-tear PC experience in the style of the similar franchise it was loosely based on: Wolfenstein. Therefore a film on the game would not just be a potential coup of the recent success of Doom 3 but also a love letter to fans of the 90s franchise as well. And that was the idea of Andrzej Bartkowiak's Doom. After years of cinematography work Bartkowiak began working as a director to mixed success with Romeo Must Die in 2000. The film was a critical mess (and oh yeah it sucks) but did well in the box office for an R-Rated original feature. He would go on to make Doom in 2005 after a long history of pre-production hell that the concept of a making this video-game movie: "Between 1994 and 1995, following the success of Doom II, Hollywood began gaining interest in producing a live-action film adaptation of Doom. Universal Pictures initially acquired the rights, which were later obtained by Columbia TriStar. Former CEO of id SoftwareTodd Hollenshead stated that a number of factors prevented the project from moving forward such as the Columbine High School massacre, lack of producers, and poor scripts." Such tragedies would point the finger at FPS games as a source for inspiration of violence in teenagers. So was 2005 a good year for Doom? Let's dive in.

Karl Urban and The Rock.
Karl Urban and The Rock.

Doom is a star-studded film, with a leading role by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who would then go only by The Rock. While the lead spot included scouting for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel, the Rock was a good choice here. He's still fresh off his WWE career and you can definitely "smell what the Rock is cooking" with the action and finesse he brings here. You may think I'm being sarcastic when I say that there is finesse to his performance, but lets not forget that Dwayne Johnson is something of a serious actor now, and he's not phoning in his stony cold antihero performance here. Karl Urban plays another soldier (names don't matter much here) who represents a more empathetic character to the contrast of the Rock's steely reserve. Rosamund Pike plays a doctor on Mars in an early role for her as well. It should also be briefly noted that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were contacted to write the dialogue for the film (imagine!).

The movie was created with true intentions for legitimacy, with each actor receiving actual military combat training for their roles, and the use of Stan Winston Studios to create the monster makeup and costuming. The monsters look and feel real, partly due to the fact that so little of them rely on CGI effects to pop out in the film, and this is one of Doom's strengths. So there's a lot of love behind the camera, and you can see that Bartkowiak wanted to make a love letter to the videogame franchise that new and old fans could enjoy. But enjoy they did not.

Doom was a box office bomb, seeing 58.7 million dollars after a complete world wild run against a 70 million dollar budget. It was also a critical disaster and sits at 18% to this day on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert may have put it best when he said, "Doom is like some kid came over and is using your computer and won't let you play." This videogame anecdote about the film is a fair point when considering its most famous controversial scene: an entire FPS shooting sequence from the POV of Urban's character. A scene that took 14 days to shoot and 3 months to pre-produce, the FPS scene is by far the best moment of the film, something that hasn't quite been nailed or attempted successfully ever since. Its moments like these that make Doom sincere. Videogame movies like the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider films to name some, aimed (no pun intended) for a higher stakes and more serious tone. This movie hits its highs in the ridiculous nature of its goofy characterization of some of the supporting soldier characters. The Rock is great because he works off of the fact that he's absurdly morally bankrupt, shooting civilians and "letting God sort 'em".

The OG.

On top of that, in retrospect, the movie with its mostly practical effects has aged quite well. The monsters look scary, the set pieces in the alien airbase setting are strong and the violence is fun. Sure the heavy metal soundtrack is ridiculous, but a NIN song in the credits? Sign me up! With the heavy metal moments of the score its notable that the movie leans into a tone of silliness that doesn't quite remain entirely consistent in the movie. A movie with an FPS sequence is not afraid to admit its a videogame movie, and that's admirable. The action is also bonkers and the law of physics simply don't imply here. Characters swing computers on wires like lassos and bounce off walls in impossible flips

But the movie should have offered more of this, and that's where the problem lies in its legacy.

Videogame movies are not favored and over time have not established much lasting power in spite of all of their releases. There's a risk that takes making a movie like Doom, and to this day its considered one of the worst videogame movies ever made. But I like to think that Doom doesn't give a fuck. With the crazy action and obvious score I would have loved it as a kid but missed it on its home media release. Its 2022 and I wish more movies attempted the stupidity of Doom without worrying about breaking the genre's poor track record of quality. We may never see a great videogame movie. But if we receive more videogame movies of the caliber of 2005's Doom, we're in for more to love and enough to put down the controller and let the movie play the rest.

17 views0 comments