V.G. Movies #21: Doom.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]


It's the year 1992, and a man named John Carmack has developed a new 3D game engine. And with that game engine came a new game with a strange origin. It was all-around inspired by three films: Aliens, Evil Dead II, and The Color of Money. Yes, that one with Tom Cruise. While ideas for characters, atmosphere, and story came from the former two films, the third brought us the famous title. In the film, Tom Cruise is asked "What do we have here?" to which Cruise replies "Doom."

So in 1993, a company called id Software released a first-person shooter game, Doom. In fact, it is the game that popularized the genre, making it one of the most popular gaming genres, even today. And if you don't know what first-person games are, they're basically when you see things from the eyes of the character (usually involving a weapon/gun immediately in front of you on the screen). The first game has you take on the role of an unnamed space marine who is posted on Mars. While acting as security for the UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation), a UAC experiment goes wrong. You see, UAC was experimenting with teleportation between the moons Phobos and Deimos. Unfortunately, they accidentally opened up a gateway to Hell itself. So you, as the space marine, are sent to Phobos to see what's going on.

The game grew so popular that it was estimated in 1995 that there were more computers with the game installed worldwide than Windows 95. This fact even made Bill Gates consider buying out id Software, but instead made a Win95 port to help sell the game and the operating system. A lot of its popularity came from it specializing in and popularizing the "deathmatch" mode--basically the origin of online competitive gaming, which is so popular today in such games as Halo and Black Ops.

The game wasn't without its controversy, though. With high levels of gore and violence--not to mention satanic visuals and themes--it was hit from multiple organizations (including many religious groups). It again gained controversy in 1999 when it was revealed that Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were avid fans of the game. They even compared their actions to things they could do in the game. This is why, in part, video games have been near the top of the list in teen violence arguments, but has since been scientifically debunked. Also, along with Mortal Kombat, this game was a large reason the ESRB came into play and video games now have a ratings system.

But none of that stopped the 1995 sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth. It picks up where the previous left off, and the space marine realizes Earth has been invaded by Hell, as well. It was received well. A couple other games came out, not direct number-wise. Doom 3 didn't come out until 2004, and it was a reboot of the franchise, disregarding the stories of the previous games. Why a reboot? It's said to take advantage of new-gen technology. But it also didn't hurt that a movie was in the works... a movie that is adapted from said game.

Universal and Columbia Pictures originally had the rights, but the film was never greenlit. So when they lost the rights, it was given over to Warner Bros. in the promise they would greenlight it within the year. And when that didn't happen, Universal re-bought the rights and began production in 2004. John Wells, the film's producer, was fully aware of how many video game films have sucked, and was adamant this one be done well and even include a first-person shooter sequence, since Doom without first-person would be a "miscarriage of justice!" He had high hopes and a lot of good ideas for how the film should be, making it similar to the game. He even said that if this film did well, they would immediately greenlight a sequel. But apparently the director didn't agree, since the opening weekend barely grossed $15m--the following weekend only adding another $4m--and a sequel was quickly forgotten.

Now let's find out why.


I actually saw this one in theater... but I don't believe I've seen it since. Maybe a quick scene here or there, but that's it. The only thing I remember is the fan backlash on how it was nothing like the games' story. This story follows a group of marines as they're called to investigate a quarantine issue on a science facility on Mars. It's led up by Sarge (The Rock) and also included Reaper (Karl Urban), Destroyer (Deobia Oparei), Duke (Razaaq Adoti), Portman (Richard Brake), The Kid (Al Weaver), Goat (Ben Daniels), and Mac (Yao Chin). When they get there, they meet up with Reaper's sister, Samantha (Rosamund PIke), a scientist at the station. Of course, they slowly begin to realize that the experimentation going on went wrong, and now monsters are attacking and killing/transforming everyone.

I've never played the game, but I know it's a poor adaptation of the story just from what I know. The biggest thing about the game is that you're fighting demons from Hell, due to an open portal to said place. Here... it's just a virus gone wrong that can either turn you into a super human or make you a monster... depending on how much evil is in your soul or genomes or something like that. Also... fun drinking game: any time the movie says the words "game" or "hell," take a shot. It's quite aware that it's based on a game that involves Hell, but instead of adapting it as such, it instead would rather make references to what it could have been.

The acting is pretty piss-poor here, too. The Rock is often picked on in this feature, and yeah... he's bad. But in my opinion, Rosamund Pike is worse. You know, she actually turned down Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to do this flick (well, this one and the most recent Pride & Prejudice, also considered a poor adaptation. Yeah, she makes great choices, huh?). To be fair, Goblet of Fire is arguably one of the worst adaptations of the series, anyway, so she was screwed no matter what. The best performance here is from Karl Urban. He's not great, but he's better than the rest.

Another fun fact--Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were offered the chance to give the script a treatment, specifically to better the dialogue. They refused. Good on them. But the script did need a few more revisions. In particular, there's a lot of head-scratching moments surrounding the character of Sarge. Not only does he seem to continually contradict his own orders, but he just goes nuts for no reason in the third act. He wasn't infected or anything. He just... snaps. There's no build up to it, nothing to explain it. Just one second he's fine, and the next... he's a raving madman. It's really bizarre.

There is something really fun that comes out of this, though: the 5-minute first-person segment near the end of the film. Unlike the rest of the film, it plays up the fact it's based on a Doom video game. It's bloody, action-packed, silly, and very cheesy. It totally doesn't take itself seriously, and because of that, the whole sequence is a lot of fun. There's another similar moment a little earlier where The Rock gets the BFG and goes "Big... Fuckin'... Gun." And then his reaction to shooting it is great, too. These moments play to the fans, unlike the rest of the film.

On the whole, the film isn't bad bad. It's just... not good. Even technical stuff like the lighting and the camera work (outside the FPS segment) is poor. The acting is laughable and the characters, particularly Sarge, make no sense. And if they were going to make so many damn references to Hell and even have a religious character and portals involved... why not go that route to begin with? Why do the whole virus thing? That just doesn't make sense, especially since it's clear they want to at least attempt something fans would appreciate. A lot of people consider it one of the worst video game movies. I don't. It's just wildly mediocre.

Stop Saying OK! OK.

(P.S. This same director isn't done with me yet, either. I happened to see his next feature in theater, as well... and not since. And that one is infinitely more painful... but we'll get to that in a few months.)


  1. A little-known fact about DOOM is that the original working title for the game was "It's Green and Pissed."

  2. Of all the games to turn into a movie...

    1. It actually could have been a decent game to become a movie... had they actually done it right.

  3. My husband still talks about the first-person sequence in the Doom movie. I might have to see it just for that, because usually first-person sequences in movies aren't very good, but sounds like this one is actually a highlight.

    And no bashing on Rosamund Pike! For one thing, Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice is not a bad adaptation at all; in fact, of the three versions I've seen, I might actually like it the best. He gets the sense of place and class distinctions down in a far more relatable and visceral way than other versions I've seen, and yes, I'm including the much-lauded 1995 BBC version as well. Pike's part is pretty small in it, though. She's quite solid as the second lead in An Education.

    1. A highlight in this movie doesn't necessarily make it GOOD. It's just better than everything else in it. Though I admit it's a lot of fun, and really cheesy.

      But you go ahead and watch Doom... and then come back and tell me not to bash Rosamund Pike in it. :P

    2. Fair enough. :)

      Then I amend my exclamation to "No bashing on Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice!"


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