Thursday, October 27, 2005

Grr. Arg.

Martin removes, stores brain carefully in jar; manages to enjoy Doom

You know how certain movies come out, and everyone on Earth says "It sucks," and you go see it, and it's not half bad? I kind of had that feeling about Doom, a movie that quite unpretentiously doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is: a cliché-packed action movie based on a video game in which monsters get shot in dark corridors. Considering that Doom the game is about as reductionist a narrative experience as you could hope for — walk down very dark corridor; boo! monster leaps at you; shoot monster before you become monster chow — the fact that a 100-minute movie could have even been concocted from it is surprising.

I'm a little disappointed that they didn't go with the game's proper concept, that the monsters are actually devils from Hell, as opposed to rehashing some hackneyed drivel about Evil Scientists doing Evil Scientist stuff and learning to regret it. But for the visceral experience of replicating the gameplay — pow! splat! — it got the job done decently well, except for a climactic fight scene that isn't really very Doom-ish at all (more Mortal Kombat). And as threadbare as the story is, I was rather impressed to see the characters faced with a moral dilemma in act three, especially as the whole point of FPS video games is that they give you the cathartic rush of indiscriminate killing without sweating the moral stuff.

No, watching it wasn't nearly as gut-wrenchingly tense as actually playing Doom 3. But for all its predictability, the movie worked for me on the simple level at which it was meant to work, because I could tell these were fans of the game making it, not just cynical studio bean-counters who only saw a hot trademark to cash in on. Oh, I'm sure there was some of that thinking going on at the production end of things. And yet I can easily imagine loads of multiplayer fragfests occuring on banks of XBoxes in the honey wagon between setups. I think the creative team behind the movie really got the appeal of the game as only fans do, and approached the material with the right sense of laid-back fun. For a matinee, it was okay, really.

Now, I loathed the Resident Evil movie, mainly because — well — it played a lot like this movie: a mindless action fest, when it ought to have been a tense and terrifying horror movie. It seems to me that for a video game movie to work, it has to abide by the same guidelines that a literary or comic book adaptation would have to in order to work: understand the source material. Doom: fast-paced action game, gets a fast-paced action movie — check. Resident Evil: moody and creepy horror game with bursts of action, gets...a fast-paced action movie? No no no, not check, big X. Understand what it is you're adapting, filmmakers. Don't just assume that all video games are the same, and since you're making a video game movie, all you have to do is blow shit up. If you're adapting a game whose primary objective is the blow-uppage of shit, then by all means, make that movie. But if it isn't, then stick with the original concept: it's why that game is popular, after all.

As always, the problem is that Hollywood has now made so many bad game-based movies, by people who aren't fans of the source material and don't get what the fans enjoy, that a movie like Doom simply won't catch a break. Bad apples spoiling the batch, and all that. Well, whatever. I didn't feel ripped off seeing Doom. I got what I was expecting. Monsters. Exploding body parts. Gore. Would have liked to have seen Hell, though, rather than that "24th chromosome" nonsense.

Now, if the Silent Hill movie ends up playing like Doom, I'm gonna be pissed!

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