Not to sound too harsh, but 'Doom' is the kind of movie that, quite frankly, adds nothing to the sum of human consciousness. It is not so much a film, as a filmed deal. Based on the hit videogame of the same name, 'Doom' is merely a series of action set pieces, monsters, gore and an incessant industrial-rock soundtrack, strung along something hardly approaching a plot. That it also has characters that speak dialogue is incidental.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as Sarge, the leader of the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, who are brought in by the military to find out what has gone wrong at a remote scientific research station on Mars. All research has ceased, communications failed, and what messages have come through are far from comforting. The only hope its inhabitants have is Sarge and his hardened band of Marines. but even armed with the latest hi-tech weaponry, it will be a bloody battle to the death with the unseen enemy far more terrifying than they ever imagined.
I have nothing against the idea of taking a videogame's concept and expanding upon its mythology to create a new cinematic world, but the problem with 'Doom' is that it doesn't even bother to try. Instead, it just recycles the worst elements from other, better videogame-esque films, and hopes the audience won't notice -- see if you can't spot all the borrowed parts from 'Final Fantasy,' 'Underworld,' 'Resident Evil,' 'Dawn of the Dead' and what I suppose is now the granddaddy of the monsters-attack sci-fi subgenre, 'ALIEN' and 'ALIENS.' Unfortunately, Ridley Scott and James Cameron knew what most of today's new generation of music video-trained whiz kid directors still haven't realized -- if a film doesn't have characters we can care about and root for, it's pretty hard to give a shit.
I suppose on a surface level, 'Doom' is a competent film. It has nice lighting and production design and plenty of whiz-bang special effects (though even all of these elements feel far from original, or unique). I also liked the snappy editing and bone-crushing soundtrack, which at least kept my pulse quickening however tiresome it all became. But I still couldn't help but fall into a stupefied gaze by the halfway point of the film. There are really only three scenes in 'Doom,' each repeated over and over until the end credits: 1.) The Rock barks orders to his military grunts, and says,"Not everyone is gonna make it out of here alive"; 2.) terrified victims run screaming through dark corridors, chased by unseen monsters; and 3.) The Rock blows lots of shit up real good with his big videogame gun. And that's it.
Oh, I suppose I should mention this Blu-ray presents the film in its Unrated Director's Cut, which adds a few smatterings of gratuitous gore to its already ample amount of gratuitous gore. But really, once you've seen one infected radioactive zombie chowing on a severed limb, you've seen 'em all.
This Blu-ray presents 'Doom' with a 1080p/VC-1 encode (on a BD-50 dual-layer disc), and offers no discernible difference from the previous HD DVD release. It's a good-looking transfer, if marred by a few problems.
The image is rock solid -- pristine, in fact, with nary a dot of film grain to be seen. It's also sharp as a tack, with excellent contrast and clarity to every frame. Blacks are pure, deep perfection. And despite the grungy milieu, the color palette is invigorated by frequent splashes of bold reds, acidic yellows and midnight blues and purples.
Unfortunately -- and it is likely an aesthetic choice -- but the film is just so damn dark. I know, it's supposed to be scary, but the film is so bathed in black that I almost had trouble making out what was happening in some scenes. Fine details frequently appear to be lost to the shadows, and even the more dynamic sequences with flashing lights, etc., lacked the three-dimensional pop of the best transfers I've seen.
On the plus side, much of the "flickering" and jaggies I found on the HD DVD seem absent here. The image looks more stable, with only slight moire patterns visible on a few shots. (To be fair, I judged the original HD DVD on my first-gen Toshiba HD DVD player, so it may have been a hardware issue.) Whatever the case, this is a sharp encode, with no major artifacts present.
'Doom' sounded pretty darn good in Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround on HD DVD, and sounds even better on Blu-ray in DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit). The film is almost wall-to-wall action, with plenty of aural activity to keep your ears engaged. It's a delight.
The DTS-MA track is highly immersive from frame one. The entire 360-degree soundfield is always alive and active, from bombastic explosions and gunfire to quite subtle atmospheric sounds. Even dialogue is placed in the rears, which really heightens the effect. Also neat is how the surrounds often cue us in on the location of the film's monsters, or supports shock moments with bursts of music or sound effects. It's obvious and gimmicky, but sounds pitch perfect in DTS-MA.
Dynamic range is even more impressive than the DD+ track, with powerful low bass that expands clearly and distinctly all the way to the highest frequencies. This is definitely one of those soundtracks that will test your subwoofer. Dialogue holds surprisingly firm throughout, with (unfortunately) none of the inane words lost in the din. This is an excellent audio presentation.
Another direct port of the standard DVD and HD DVD releases, the extras on 'Doom' consist primarily of four production and two game-related featurettes running nearly 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the production material is really just one featurette chopped up into dumb little pieces, and nothing transcends typical EPK fluff. The fact that the movie isn't all that good doesn't help matters much. (Video is in 480p/i/MPEG-2, with the same subtitle options as the main feature.)
I can't say I was particularly fond of 'Doom.' It's a videogame-inspired movie that is even more two-dimensional than the game that inspired it -- no small accomplishment. This Blu-ray is good enough, however, with strong video and even better audio. The extras are dull, but then so is the movie. This is a rental at best for fans of the game, but keep your expectations low.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.