I went into Doomsday expecting the worst. Despite being written and directed by Neil Marshall, the man behind The Descent, I had little hope that Doomsday would be anything more than a piss-poor Mad Max-meets-Resident Evil rip-off. In many ways it is, but Marshall embraces the ludicrous nature of his film with open arms - and it works.
Doomsday is set in the near future where much of Great Britain has been quarantined after a deadly virus has run amok, killing almost everyone. Within the now walled-off area, those who were immune to the virus were left to die off. Years later, however, a new outbreak occurs in London, forcing the government to act hastily to cover its ass. Having recently discovered signs that there are still survivors in the quarantine zone, the Prime Minister sends a small team inside to look for a cure. What the team finds is a splintered civilization of cannibals and killers.
Rhona Mitra stars as Eden Sinclair, the badass woman of the day. Not too different from Milla Jovovich's character in the Resident Evil films, Eden is tough and willing to do anything to stay alive. Mitra, who is both the very essence of hot and tough merged into one sensational being, is the perfect choice for the role. She carries the film well, though she isn't the one that makes the film what it is.
Doomsday works because it is just so damn insane. Sure, it has some decent action scenes, gore and excitement, but I could get the same in a dozen other films that have been recently released. The movie works because it rips off so many other films and doesn't for a moment blink an eye about it. Everything from Gladiator to Braveheart, Mad Max to 28 Days Later, First Knight to Escape from New York and many more are blatantly "copied" to serve Marshall's whims. Doomsday, as it turns out, is a "brilliant" hodgepodge of other movies.
It's hard to describe, but Doomsday is just an entertaining thrill ride. It's funny because it's absurd. The movie goes so many odd directions that it's hard not to be enthralled. After entering the quarantined zone, Mitra and her soldiers are attacked by a bunch of crazies like the first action sequence in Aliens. From there, they are captured by the cannibalistic crazies, only to escape to none other than a castle where its inhabitants have resorted to medieval culture to survive (though the castle is still equipped with emergency exits and gift shops from its tourist days). When Marshall grows tired of knights and gladiator fights, the film shifts to the countryside, where we get the Mad Max car chase and so on and so forth. The movie is a film for those with ADD, one where the focus never stays on one genre or even time period for too long.
Of course, the movie is pretty stupid and suffers from a few storytelling flaws. Its main problem is that, because of its constantly shifting attention, none of the bad guys are developed all too well. There are two or three different groups of bad guys, and each get their own section of movie to show their stuff. While Marshall attempts to develop a central villain, he never really succeeds. The cannibal guy comes in and out of the picture, and the stint with Malcolm McDowell is short lived. As such, the movie never establishes a high level of suspense or anticipation, despite having a fair amount of action.
Doomsday is an oddly engaging movie, not because it's particularly smart or explosive, but because it is just absurdly ridiculous. It's not for everyone, but the right audience will get a kick out of it.
Review by Robert Bell (B-)Filmmakers have rarely shown the world of tomorrow as being particularly promising. Whether mankind is ruled by machines, fascist governments, military regimes, scarce resources, dystopian landscapes, or blissful consumer ignorance, it's never a symbol of progression or forward evolution. Perhaps it's base humanity itself, which bridges on anarchic, even within current shaky societal constructs, behaving only as a survival mechanism rather than actual concern for fellow man. It doesn't take a genius to sense that it would take very little for etiquette and code to break down to an animalistic level. The survival instinct leads us to believe that we are far more caring and intelligent than we actually are. In exploring the many ways in which society can break down, filmmakers can explore psychological and allegorical aspects of current trends in a far more dramatic and conflict based setting.
Doomsday is a mishmash of liberally borrowed ideas from an array of post apocalyptic hits. It has some highly entertaining sequences, and certainly pleases on a visceral level, but simply isn't developed or cohesive enough to really be considered any sort of a success. This movie should entertain those out for an amusingly gratuitous raunch-fest, but marks a sharp decline in the filmmaking abilities of Neil Marshall, who showed a great deal of talent with Dog Soldiers, and The Descent.
Pic opens with a deadly "reaper virus" sweeping through Glasgow and rapidly spreading. In order to contain the virus a giant wall is placed around the hot zone to protect the world from sure demise.
Jump to 2035 London, where Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) shows a take-no-prisoners attitude as a military police major, sporting a high-tech removable replacement eye. When the virus reappears, her boss Nelson (Bob Hoskins) sends her and a team of professionals into the "hot zone" to find a cure.
The success and failure of Doomsday stems greatly from the many texts it borrows from. The film most closely resembles Escape from New York and Mad Max, but also finds roots in Resident Evil, Conan, AI, Gladiator, The Warriors, First Knight, and even Mortal Kombat. There is an element of fun in identifying the many references Doomsday makes, and Neil Marshall certainly directs it all with energy and glee, but the sheer randomness and lack of cohesion in it all lead one to believe it possible that Rhona Mitra will suddenly decapitate someone and yell "There can be only one!".
Marshall's direction is propulsive, and really shines in later car chase scenes, but struggles with frenetic camera work and rapid editing in some battle sequences. The movie clips forward well, lagging only somewhere in the middle during the scene of ritualistic cannibalism, while 80's new wave hits blare on loudspeakers and strippers twirl around poles.
Another area where this film suffers is in characterization. While this film obviously isn't aiming to be a character-driven drama, it does aim for the ragtag military fun of the Aliens crew. Unfortunately, there is no one anywhere near as interesting as Vasquez, Hudson, Bishop, or Apone; and Eden Sinclair is no Ellen Ripley. That said, Rhona Mitra certainly carries her own weight throughout the film, and seems a natural for the action genre, but everyone around her is interchangeable and replaceable.
Doomsday is really a very gratuitous and derivative exercise in shallow filmmaking with a perfunctory ending. It is however, a fairly well crafted derivative exercise in shallow filmmaking, which will likely entertain the very audience who wants to see a raunchy dystopian action flick.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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