Thursday, October 27, 2005

Doom

The first caveat of reviewing a film adaptation of a video game seems to be: does it capture the essence of the game? Fans of video games, even more than fans of adapted novels at times, are ravenous when it comes to dissecting (or, rather, obliterating) the bastardizations of their beloved shooters, RPGs, brawlers, etc.

The fallacy, of course, is that it's quite literally impossible for any video game adaptation to live up to that level of expectation. Moreso than a novel or play (which, at the very least, have fixed narratives), a video game is ever-changing. Even the most pedestrian of video games (the "on-the-rails" shooter House of the Dead 3, for example) is different every single time it is played. Gamers DEFINE their gaming experiences. Developers merely provide them the necessary tools to do so.

An expansive shooter like the various Doom titles is impossible to replicate. Especially in terms of the most recent incarnation, Doom 3, the interactive cinematic possibilities are endless. Missions can be accomplished using different paths, weaponry, etc. How can a film, which, even at the pinnacle of inventiveness, is always the same, hope to live up to the hype of a salivating gaming world? The answer, of course, is: it can't.

Doom arrives with all of that baggage, and then some. The first Doom revolutionized gaming. In fact, despite the rather late appearance of the title (in the 1990s), many would argue it shaped the contemporary world of gaming as much of, or perhaps more than, any other title in the history of gaming. It invented a genre. It launched a wave of interactivity. It created a community. It created a zeitgeist. ID Software did it again this past year with the marvelously reinvigorated Doom 3. And here awaits fandom, claws at the ready. Most have already begun their gnashing of teeth. So have critics.

For my money, Doom is the best of the video game adaptations (quite possibly the weakest status label I've ever given a film). Despite its presence as, essentially, a big, dumb action movie, Doom manages to be a quite amusing, muscular picture which, at the very least, earns its R rating, something that cannot be said of the increasingly spineless, neutered "horror" films that continue to plague American cineplexes.

It is very much set in the Aliens mode. Team of badasses go to Mars, fight baddies, some die, hero escapes with loved one in tow. It's a formula that has been used time and time again (even to be recycled twice, at least in part, in the Alien franchise itself, with Alien: Resurrection and Alien vs. Predator). But it works, for the most part, with the fun (if not groundbreaking in the slightest) Doom.

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