Videogames’ First Person Shooter (FPS) genre has always functioned as gun porn for its adolescent male audience, providing players with the vicarious thrill of wielding extravagantly destructive phallic weapons in order to vanquish hordes of enemies, and thus it’s no surprise that in Doom—based on iD Software’s seminal FPS series—director Andrzej Bartkowiak’s camera lasciviously circles the aptly named “Big Fucking Gun” like an object of erotic desire. That the firearm also discharges a giant gob of goo further confirms this intertwining of sex and violence, but there’s otherwise very little sensuality in this passable, lumbering video-game-to-big-screen port, which tags along with a group of grunts in 2145 as they travel to a Mars research facility (via a portal buried in the Nevada desert!) to investigate mysterious goings-on.
What these Semper Fi-spouting soldiers discover are the walking dead and mutant monsters, yet in the only notable departure from its source material, the creatures turn out to be not demonic denizens of hell but rather the unholy spawn of genetic experimentation. This one deviation aside, however, Bartkowiak’s film remains (unlike Resident Evil or Alone in the Dark) doggedly faithful to its interactive origins, recreating the barely lit corridors, the leaping-out-of-the-dark beasts, and the ammunition-fueled action of last year’s acclaimed Doom 3.
Fidelity to the games, however, also means that Doom’s flimsy plot is merely a derivative Aliens redux populated by one-dimensional ciphers, two shortcomings amplified by Bartkowiak’s inability to consistently generate the jolting scares that made the Xbox adventure so compellingly creepy. As squad leader Sarge, The Rock chews scenery by cursing up a storm and acting like a full-blown lunatic, thereby making himself the only amusing presence amid the stereotypical marines who—from the drug-abusing pervert (Richard Brake) to the ultra-religious ex-con (Ben Daniels), the wet-behind-the-ears rookie (Al Weaver), and the brooding hero (Karl Urban) who can’t get along with his scientist sister (Rosamund Pike)—comprise his laughably ludicrous crew of dysfunctional military men.
Still, the predictably heavy metal-scored film’s primary directive is to recreate the mindless mayhem of its joystick-controlled roots, a fact solidified by Sarge and company repeatedly uttering things like “Game time!” and by the third act’s coup de grace(lessness), a gimmicky five-minute sequence that assumes the shoot-’em-ups’ first-person perspective (chainsaw included). Though for a movie this staunchly committed to adaptation authenticity, there’s simply no explaining the misfiring, superpowered hand-to-hand combat finale, which resembles not the trigger finger-happy Doom so much as another classic video-game slaughterfest, Mortal Kombat.