A research facility on Mars sends out a distress signal, and the Rapid Response team is scrambled to deal with the threat – whatever it is. Sensitive data must be recovered, the cause of the problem must be found, and nothing dangerous can be allowed to breach the quarantine and return to Earth.
The team of hardened marines have to deal with mutated monsters, ruthless scientists, and their own interpersonal dynamics in order to survive. It’s not easy, and they have to shoot things a lot.
Doom is a very well-intentioned film. It tries hard to deliver a deep and compelling narrative, despite an awkward starting concept and a weak script. This is a film that wants to be good; regrettably, it does not succeed.
Video game adaptations have a tendency to be terrible. The source material does not normally adapt well from a highly-interactive, often repetitive medium to a non-interactive one with a short running time and a reliance on plot and characterisation more than action. This is particularly a problem for Doom, as the game’s plot – you are the only survivor, kill monsters – has always been nothing more than a thin veneer over the gameplay.
Attempting to stretch that plot to fill an hour or two is a challenge, and there are moments where you can see intelligent and ambitious choices being made. At points, the dialogue is even witty. There’s no romantic subplot in this film – instead, the major dynamic is reuniting estranged siblings. Similarly, the film tries to explore the themes of humanity, community, and duty, rather than just being a extended dumb gunfight. This is clumsily-handled, but the attempt does win some credit.
The intelligent choices are outweighed by the bad ones – the film overcomplicates its core idea with needless callbacks to the games and tropes that simply don’t need to be there. It’s already called Doom – it doesn’t need to keep on highlighting its origins. A sequence towards the end of the film, in which the camera switches to a first-person view as the protagonist acts out a corridor shooter, just wastes all the tension and atmosphere built up to that point. You can see what they were trying to do, but it just doesn’t work that well.
The film’s world-building and script raise several unavoidable questions that wreck any suspension of disbelief. Why do the space marines appear to have zero training in almost anything? Why would you make your sole rapid response unit out of people with no discipline and a host of different personality problems? Why, after the first corpses started attacking you, would you keep turning your back on corpses?
Throughout, everyone is genre-blind to a ridiculous degree, even to the extent of lacking basic information and understanding that everyone should have, regardless of genre or background. The first few times a character does something obviously dumb, you worry for them. The tenth time, you feel that they deserve what they get.
This film has moments of charm and depth. It’s got good actors giving it their best shot. It’s all shackled to a weak and formulaic script with several plot holes though, and that ultimately makes the film unsatisfying. It’s not even bad enough to hit so-bad-its-good. It’s a grand project that just failed.