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DVD Review: Doomsday

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What is it about the post-apocalyptic world that filmmakers like so much? Is it the fact that the side of law and order is allowed to inflict far more punishment on the villains without fear of crossing the line? Is it the sheer quantities of viscera that the post-apocalyptic world apparently just begs to be shed?

As is only natural, some post-apocalyptic movies are standouts; the world they create is deep and intriguing, everything about the films suck in the viewer. There are also, of course, post-apocalyptic movies that are not terribly good. Doomsday, written and directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent) and heading to DVD on July 29, sadly falls into this latter category.

Taking place in the near, but very different, future, Doomsday follows the attempt of a team of specialists, led by Maj. Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) to find a cure for a virus that is poised to sweep across London, a virus that kills everyone in its path. Luckily for the folks in London, several years earlier the virus swept across Scotland, killing everyone there (a young Eden Sinclair made the last helicopter ride out). It is to Scotland that Sinclair and her team are sent.

Just before they head off to the vast wasteland of post-apocalyptic Scotland, Sinclair is let in on a secret that only the highest echelons of the British government have been privy to – not everyone in Scotland is dead. People starting reappearing a few years earlier and the government has been keeping it hush-hush.

Armed with this new information and some weapons, Sinclair and her team set off to find the missing Dr. Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell), who was working on a cure before going radio silent many years previously. Kane is, we find out, still alive, as are gangs of marauders, many of whom have extensive tattoos all over their body (it seems as though in the post-apocalyptic world body art is really where it's at).

It's not really giving anything away to say that Sinclair loses much of her team along the way, saves the day at the last minute, but has her world view forever changed by what she witnesses in Scotland. From the moment the opening credits roll, the end is apparent. Nor is the ending's obviousness a real problem; many films' resolution is clear prior to the resolution actually occurring. No, what is really wrong with Doomsday is not the utter foolishness of it all. The problem is not that there is no electricity in post-apocalyptic Scotland, except when there is, or supplies, except when there are. Forget the fact that Sinclair, her boss, and her coworkers are positively shocked that people are still alive in Scotland (when has a virus in a movie killed absolutely everyone?), forget the foolish evil gang members, forget the bad voiceover provided by McDowell. The problem is that the action sequences are not special.

In eschewing using an original narrative, interesting plot devices, and deep characters with compelling story arcs, Doomsday only has a selling point in the action sequences. That may be fine, not everything has to be Shakespeare, but the one selling point of the movie is a huge disappointment. The action isn't particularly special, there are innumerable close-ups and quick cuts throughout the combat that only convince the viewer that the actors either aren't performing the stunts or don't know how to do them. Rather than the quick cuts increasing the tension and the viewers' adrenalines levels, they only serve to convince those watching that no action is actually taking place on the set. It's a gross disappointment in a movie that has nothing else to offer. Yes, things blow up pretty well, and there are brains and all manner of viscera that go flying, but it's nothing to write home about.

Rhona Mitra does an adequate job as a hard-as-nails type, and she does look fantastic, but that's not enough to carry the film. It feels as though the entire endeavor was built solely on the idea that things could be blown up and blood shed if the film were made. While that certainly happens, the way in which it happens does nothing to impress the viewer.

Doomsday's DVD release contains both an unrated and R-rated version and some behind the scenes featurettes, none of which will convince one of the need for making the film.

Sadly, Doomsday gives the post-apocalyptic world a bad name.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.