‘Doom’: The doom of the Rock’s action career and video game adaptations in general

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Doom
Written by David Callaham and Wesley Strick
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom, USA, 2005

In 2013, The Rock was named the highest grossing actor of the year with his films pulling in a combined $1.3 billion. Things were not always this great for The Rock though. When he first started out his initial run of action movies in search of action stardom, he didn’t have much luck. The Rundown and Walking Tall, while perfectly fine action films on their own, both underperformed at the box office. Then came Doom, which was either going to be his third strike or his home run. It ended up being the former, causing two things to happen – The Rock’s action career disintegrated for 6 more years, and the belief that video game adaptations are unsuccessful was bolstered.

The film follows a group of marines led by Sarge (The Rock) who go to an archaeological site on Mars to quarantine the area against threats of genetically enhanced killer humans. Each member of the team has their designated action team stereotype. The Rock is the leader, Karl Urban as Reaper is the emotionally scarred one. Kid (Al Weaver) is the young buck of the group who will probably die because it’s his first mission. Goat (Ben Daniels) is the weirdly religious one, he carves a cross into his arm whenever he takes the lord’s name in vain. Destroyer (Deobia Oparei) lives up to his name as a giant guy with a big machine gun who doesn’t say much except “It’s a monkey.” Mac (Yao Chin) is just kind of there because I guess somebody needs to get their head lopped off. Duke (Raz Adoti) is the self-purported ladies man of the group. Portman (Dexter Fletcher) is the team’s prick, but he’s not even a fun prick, just an actual prick. The film keeps trying to pass off radically sexist stuff he says  – “Ladies, we’re under level 5 quarantine so I’m gonna have to strip-search you” – as humorous but it’s offensive and you wonder how The Rock and his team have put up with this guy for so long. The Rock makes up for it by having 70% of his interactions with him just telling Portman to “shut the f*ck up”. The Rock was buff back then, but he’s only accumulated further muscle mass with age so he looks puny compared to how he looks now. It’s a weird transformation to witness. The Rock is giving the role everything he has – he’s authoritative, he’s ripped and he’s got that winning smile. 2014 saw Rosamund Pike make her mark on film history with her incredible performance in Gone Girl. Back in 2005 she was in this. What I’m getting at is that she’s come a long way and we’re all very proud of her.

As far as clichéd but enjoyable action moments, the movie does have a few. The Rock finds a gun and says “Big….F*cking…Gun….*grabs it*…Aw shit…..” then uses it to kill stuff, so the film at least has that going for it. And Destroyer grabs a computer by its cords and uses it as a flail so that was pretty cool too. The Rock also says “Semper Fi….Motherf*cker!” so that’s awesome in terms of action one-liners. The movie keeps reminding you that it’s based on a video game, there’s even one sequence that’s filmed as a first person POV that would be impressive if it didn’t look painfully fake with the graphics quality of video game footage circa 2005. The visual effects are laughably dated. Granted, most films that relied on CGI effects in 2005 feel dated now, but I would venture that Doom’s felt dated even during its initial run.

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If you categorize films into video game adaptations on Box Office Mojo you find that Doom is the 19th highest grossing adaptation domestically with a measly $28 million return against a $60 million price tag – the 7th highest budget on the list. Up until that point, it was the 3rd most a studio had spent on a video game adaptation. The water was looking pretty good with the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Resident Evil films doing well overseas despite mediocre performance domestically, so why not take another dip? Since it was so early in the game for video game adaptations, the failure was going to have large repercussions. Hollywood is nothing if not overly reactionary. Only 6 video game adaptations have come from Hollywood since Doom that weren’t a Resident Evil film – Hitman, Silent Hill, Need for Speed, Silent Hill: Revelations, Max Payne and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li – and all of them have either failed or have had only mediocre domestic returns. It only takes one leak for Hollywood to declare the ship sunk, and that leak was Doom. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak has only directed one film since (thankfully), which was incidentally another failed video game adaptation with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

The Rock is thankfully a man of perseverance, so while he spent the next 6 years performing in largely unwatchable family films, he was really working towards his next shot at action stardom and box office credibility. Thankfully he found that niche as an ensemble man starting with Fast Five, and became 2013’s highest grossing actor. The Rock was always meant to be an action hero, and his action career was almost prematurely ended by Doom. Doom was the doom for a lot of things, but in the end it wasn’t the permanent doom of The Rock.




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