Posted on 11/30/12 03:46 PM
What's interesting about reviewing this film is that it speaks to the question of, "what makes a good movie?", a question that's inherently flawed, because taste is ultimately subjective. But I do think DOOMSDAY (Neil Marshall, 2008) is a good movie, and here's why: it's true to what it is, and has fun with it.
A very fine line, becuz you could make the argument that a lot of movies fall into this assessment. But I think DOOMSDAY takes it a step further, and that's why I would recommend this film. We'll get more into that in a second, but for now, plot summary: it's basically an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (John Carpenter, 1981) plot, the plot also of the video game "Bad Dudes", as well, I've learned, as the plot of the new movie THE COLLECTION (2012, Marcus Dunston), which I only know because one of my Professors produced it: important person (a human "MacGuffin", if you will) is trapped in a dangerous place, so you have to send some bad ass good guy to rescue them. In this case, our important person is the creator of the cure to a virus (Malcolm McDowell) which has caused a section of future Scotland to be quarantined off from the rest of the world. The virus spreads fast and kills gruesomely, so there is danger in keeping these people in society, hence the government of the UK has created a "forbidden zone" for the infected to ostensibly die off in. They don't, however, suggesting there is a cure that these people somehow have access to, probably, the government believes, because the scientist who was last working on the cure was trapped in the forbidden zone also. Hence, the need for a bad ass to go get him, and thus, the cure, which they now need, because the virus is reappearing where the normals live.
The bad ass, in this case, is Eden Sinclair, a security officer played by Rhona Mitra, the first of many reasons this movie is special. Typically, "Billy Bad Ass" gets played by an Arnold Schwarzenegger type - not so here. Rhona Mitra, a gorgeous woman in any other circumstance, is our hero, and she goes in with a PREDATOR / ALIENS-like band of misfits to find the one man who might have the cure. Will she make it out and save the world? That, as usual, is the film.
And once she goes into the forbidden zone, everything starts becoming kind of cool. Why? Because it's a zombie movie in there. And the inhabitants now seem like characters from THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981, George Miller), who attack from all sides, because they're cannibals now. And then later, the Knights of the Round Table show up. In short, this movie takes several other sci-fi action movies, puts them in a blender, and somehow, it all fits together! It reminded me of when I was a kid, and we had action figures from several different toy lines (this was the '80's), but not enough from any one to do a story for that particular line, so we combined them all and came up with something new and fun. This was when I really loved writing and telling stories, because there were no rules except the ones I created for that story, which is what happens in DOOMSDAY. DOOMSDAY has a lot of fun with all of these elements, and creates characters compelling enough to draw us through this weird and unpleasant world. Sure, the Black guys dies early. Sure, we kind of know where this is all going (although the ending is somewhat different). But nobody ever said using genre conventions in and of themselves was a bad thing, it's "phoning it in" that's bad, using the conventions without adding any creativity or imagination. That creates flat and lifeless movies, and DOOMSDAY is anything but. Neil Marshall is having a Helluva time keeping all of these plates spinning, and as a result, we are right there with him the whole way. It's great.
My big pet peeve about the modern action movie is that nobody involved seems to enjoy the genre, and thus, their movies really do feel like cookie cutter retreads of better films we've seen before. DOOMSDAY is not a retread. It's a cuisinart of all of the things I love about sci-fi action movies, as only, it seems, the British seem to be able to do these days. I had a lot of fun watching DOOMSDAY, which is what every action filmmaker worth his salt is ultimately making them for. DOOMSDAY is a lot of fun, and if you're into this genre, check it out. Imperfect score because yeah, it is really ugly, and the plot does get confusing at times, but it's unapologetic love for itself and the process of film-making more than make up for that. B+