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.