Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is a Frankenstein-like creation stitched together with equal parts Escape from New York, Aliens, and Mad Max, and like Robert Rodriguez’s homage-ridden Planet Terror before it, its beyond-obvious cribbing brings to mind a kid playing with Happy Meal tie-in toys from his favorite shoot ’em up flicks—totally earnest but in complete awe of its predecessors.
The film announces its intentions early on: After a brief rundown on the effects of a deadly viral plague before flashing forward to futuristic London, a narratively extraneous shootout ensues, if only to cover all the bases necessary to secure an R rating (tits and ass, corpses riddled with bullets, and cute and fuzzy animals puréed by gunfire). The sequence is not unlike the bank robbery rightfully deleted from the beginning of Escape from New York, but its presence here is acceptable because, though Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) suggests the love child of Snake Plissken and Sarah Connor, the film never purports to humanize her more than is needed for the next action set piece. An unfolding narrative involving Sinclair being sent into a barricaded zone to seek out a valuable item within a limited amount of time hits all the derivative bases, but Marshall’s film thrives on the basis of chic, iconic imagery, juxtaposing eras new and old in a violent upheaval of social values; citizens quarantined long ago after the initial viral outbreak have developed their own insular culture, celebrating cannibalism (among other things) like something from a Roman gladiator contest and dressing not unlike the on-screen characters from a Guitar Hero video game.
Marshall’s last film, The Descent, was a triumph of atmosphere hindered by phony characterizations and shorthanded attempts at psychological significance. If the final chase from Doomsday (imagine the climactic battle from The Road Warrior played for laughs) is any indication of his talents, then the more shameless the excess, the better.
The sound is sick but the image is all over the place: no edge enhancement to speak of but shadow delineation is paltry and blacks are inky-a major issue when you consider that much of the film takes place at night. Skin tones are accurate but color saturation can be bad, exemplified by an early scene in which the main character's mother, already hugged by some pretty unattractive edges, gets the detail on her face wiped clean by a beaming red light.
The commentary track is overcrowded-joining director Neil Marshall are actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson-but never boring, with Marshall explaining how he had food poisoning the first day of shooting, looking like he was plagued with the Reaper virus, and the whole lot making tongue-in-cheek references to Mad Max and busting a gut over that bunny getting blown to bits. Bugs's demise obviously comes up on an f/x featurette that also highlights how Glasgow and London were transformed into post-apocalyptic wastelands. Rounding out the disc is a standard making-of featurette, a rather lengthy focus on the many tanks and weapons featured in the film, and a theatrical trailer and previews.
Doomsday’s vision of humanity rewound to a feudal state of being is pulpy and smart, though the film is more likely to be remembered as the longest car commercial ever made.