Since movies about viruses (Resident Evil series) and films revolving around societies abandoned by humanity or facing Armageddon (Mad Max) have always been a big box office draw, it seems only natural that a story be done to combine the two. Headlined by Rhona Mirta, Malcolm McDowell and Bob Hoskins, Doomsday arrived in theaters to an almost equal split of love and hate from critics. Despite the film’s heavy promotion on TV, the film ultimately pulled in a poor box office intake: under twenty million worldwide. Not that box office performance is always a key to its quality, but with a debut in nearly 2000 screens, something clearly disconnected between the promotions and mixed critical reviews.
After a virus begins to kill off citizens after twenty-four hours of exposure, all of Scotland becomes quarantined. With no cure ever found, all of Scotland is bordered off by a massive wall. The wall keeps the virus and its survivors contained, but it isn’t until London begins to experience the same virus, dubbed the “Reaper”, is anything done about the survivors in the quarantine zone. In the effort to find a cure, an elite fighting unit is sent in to retrieve a survivor to bring back for testing, so a vaccine can be made. Heading up the squad is Major Eden Sinclair (Mirta), who herself was a little girl rescued from the Reaper plague during its original outbreak in Scotland.
Starting out I was really into the film. I hadn’t seen the Resident Evil films in their entirety, but no matter how stupid they got, I was always interested in the virus itself. Deciding to not bother with those films left me in the dark as to how they progressed, but with Doomsday I settled in for what looked like a good time, even if it was a cheesy movie. I think I was so mislead by the opening of the film that I was wholly unprepared for what followed and within a few minutes of being exposed to the “survivors” of Scotland, I began to see why so many critics slapped this film with negativity.
With the military focused intro, I was wrapped up in the film simply because of the cool guns and visuals. What tore me out of the film was the introduction of one of the surviving gangs in the film was their leader. I didn’t mind the Mohawk and whatever else he was sporting…I was fine with the visuals while he interrogated our hero. It wasn’t until he came out to talk to his gang did I wonder what I was watching. Not only was he dancing around like Steve Ballmer at a Microsoft panel (YouTube if you don’t know what I’m referring to), but the music switched from whatever strange death metal mix it had going to, quite literally, the “Can-Can.” I guess it was there I was supposed to forfeit my sanity while watching this, but I just couldn’t do it. I grasped for the feeling I had during the opening of the film but…nothing. It would never return.
Once that bizarre sequence finally ended, we meet the other gang of the land. This one is headed by Kane (McDowell), the head of the original Reaper virus research. His gang is holed up in an ancient castle and they’re all dressed as if it’s medieval times. Horses, men in shining armor and even Gladiator battles. I became even more weirded out by the film at this point but I then began wondering if I should just let go and try to enjoy it. Deciding that would be for the best, I finally resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get a serious virus outbreak movie and to just let the film be what it was made to be. After all, while the story may have been confusing, the cinematography and visuals of it all were quite impressive.
So I’m minding my own business and slowly warming up to the film again when our hero and her remaining crew find a Bentley stashed away in some old government facility. Apparently our gangs hadn’t pillaged the hell out of this place for its various cars, tech toys and gasoline…in fact it all looked untouched. Regardless, let’s not dwell on that fact when a civilization made up of people who had to have been sane before the whole Reaper virus completely decided to just let it all turn to crap and not even try to signal the outside world for help since they were, indeed, unaffected by the virus. No, nevermind this. Just ignore it.
So anyway, back to the Bentley. The rest of the film becomes some kind of car commercial and reminded me of something out of Transformers. Only in Transformers it kind of made sense because you could actually buy some of those cars, but chances are if you’re going to be watching something like Doomsday, you won’t have the IQ level required to purchase a Bentley, so I don’t know who they’re trying to sell this to. It’s all very well and good but the whole car chase is absurd and stupid and I just really couldn’t handle it anymore. The film officially lost me as a follower and I was ready to just call it crap and leave it at that.
So of course when Eden Sinclair finally delivers the “cure”, the government that receives it is all corrupt and crap (now it’s gone from Resident Evil and Mad Max to Equilibrium), so Eden is forced to record her conversation with the Prime Minister and give the recorded disc over to her police friend so he can out the Prime Minister for being a jerk and hoarding the cure to the virus so he could use it as a political move. Eden then returns to the home where she spent her early years as a child and then returns to the gang of “Can-Can” dancers to declare that she is their new leader, because she has the head of their old boss. Uhhhhh….ok, whatever. I’m done.
I don’t usually go detail-by-detail on film reviews like that, but this film had so much stupid pouring from it I couldn’t just let it sit at “don’t see this.” So now you know why you shouldn’t see it…but on the flipside it’s also why you should. If you know this film is going to be absolutely stupid, absurd and riddled with plot holes, you may be more forgiving of it. I, however, wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I was going in and was falsely lead on by the opening of the film.
If you genuinely enjoy watching absurd and mindless action movies, then Doomsday comes Recommended just for that. If you thought this might be a serious film then run far, far away and Skip It. There’s really no middle road for a film of this type; either you’ll love it or you’ll hate it as much as I did.
Doomsday appears to be Universal’s first day-and-date release for a simultaneous DVD and Blu-ray release. It’s not exactly the best film to start that tradition off with, but it’s a start I guess. The film itself arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with a reflective foil slipcover and insert. Inside the packaging is an insert detailing how to use the U-Control functions and, of course, the disc itself which mimics the cover art.
I received Doomsday alongside the three The Mummy films and I didn’t get a chance to check Doomsday out until after I’d already watched (and reviewed) them. I wish I’d paid a bit more attention to the user guide included with Doomsday, however, as I found out that what appeared to be a disc devoid of extras actually just had them sprinkled throughout the entire film. On the plus side you can get direct access to the U-Control bonuses via the U-Control menu, but it’s still a bit tedious as you can’t really get an idea of what you’re going to watch or what’s going to pop up on the screen and if it’ll really be pertinent to what you’re watching behind it or not. They’re still nice extras to have, as the only other extra on this Doomsday Blu-ray is a commentary with the director and cast members.
And while we’re on that subject…the commentary! It’s obvious that this group, including director Neil Marshall and cast members Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson, all realize this film isn’t exactly a completely serious effort, as they joke and laugh with one another over discussions of what happened on set as well as what’s happening on screen. It’s a laid back track and makes swallowing the film a bit easier…although I still have no desire to ever watch it again.
The video and audio for the film is, as one would expect from a modern film, fantastic. The level of detail brought forth via the 2.35:1 VC-1 encoded transfer is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t notice just how clear the picture was until later on in the film when Eden is fighting in the pit Gladiator style and the amount of grain was so sharply defined against the high contrast and saturation going on. By the time we reached the car chase I was more interested in the video and audio transfer than I was with the movie itself and was repeatedly stunned by its clarity.
As expected the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is impressive as well, slamming through the speakers at full force on more than one occasion with all of the rifle fire whizzing through the speakers and explosions shaking the room. Passersby may think you’re watching a better film than it actually is based solely on the wall and floor thumps alone.
Overall the Blu-ray release of Doomsday is similar to my movie verdict. I certainly didn’t like it but it’s easy to see where people who enjoy truly awful action films would find this to be a fun ride. Unfortunately for me I was roped into think it was strictly business from the start which ended up souring the rest of the experience for me. Recommended for those who love stupid action films, Skip It for those with better things to spend their time on.
Doomsday arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on July 29th.