I watched Doom again yesterday.
Let’s just get it out there. This 2005 film, loosely based on the video game of the same name, stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Karl Urban, both gods of the geek-girl pantheon.
It’s practically porn.
That said, I think there’s a lot to love about Doom, from a story-telling perspective.
There are a lot of characters in this film, and most of them are wearing RRTS fatigues. You might expect two or three of these guys to be important to the story, while the rest fade into the background as indistinguishable red-shirts.
Instead, this film actual develops every team member. The opening scene defines the soldiers in broad strokes before you even know their names. Then, they continue to develop throughout the story.
Sure, you know the archetypes: the rookie, the pervert, the honorable big brother, the religious weirdo, the battle-hardened CO, and the hero – the toughest guy in the unit who also happens to be smarter (and cuter) than he should be. But they are drawn with a sharp pencil and lots of detail.
One of the ways the screenwriters develop the characters is by recombining them. Characters are constantly paired, then repaired, offering different foils. It’s a rich way to explore different facets of a large number of characters while simultaneously advancing the plot.
Shying Away from the Expected
At times, it seems that the writers have intentionally avoided the typical plot points.
- Expecting sexual tension between the hero and the female lead? Oops, she’s his sister.
- Did the monsters emerge from the archeological dig? Don’t count on it.
- Think the final battle will be between the hero and the ultimate bad guy? Not really.
This story manages to stay within the genre (sci-fi AND video game) while avoiding the notes that would make it completely predictable.
I have to admit I’ve never played Doom. I have, however, played Resident Evil – a lot. And I’ve seen those films. So naturally, I assumed that the film’s premise would be grounded in the game story. I was surprised to learn this isn’t true.
There are definitely common plot elements. The film takes place at a scientific research facility on Mars. The “good guys” are a group of space marines who are slung halfway across the solar system by a mysterious teleportation device.
But the premise of the film – the central scientific idea that holds the whole thing together – seems to have been invented just for the film. And it resonates.
What would happen if we discovered a virus that made good people very good, but also made bad people very, very bad? What would happen to a civilization where honest, decent, loving people were super smart, super healthy, and super strong, while evil people were super violent and super dangerous?
And which side are you on?
Worth a Watch (or two)
If you like sci-fi, there are lots of good reasons to watch this film, and Karl Urban is only one of them. Writers will take away some cool ideas for the development of secondary characters and staying on genre without falling into plot traps. Plus you’ll get to think about some pretty cool ideas along the way.