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HD-DVD Review: Doom

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It took $70 million to bring classic game Doom to the screen. Where, why, and how that money was spent is a mystery when you look at the screen. This looks like a cheap B-movie, hiding the creatures in the darkness even though the suits are spectacular. It also misses countless key details from the game, and as such, it has no reason to be called "Doom".

Switching gears from creatures that sprouted from the depths of hell to genetic experimentation gone wrong, Doom doesn't appeal to anyone. The action fans out there will find the long, pointless build-up unnecessary (especially since the space marines end up as food anyway) and video game fans only have a few moments to smirk at the references (Dr. Carmack, BFG). Another, a character named Pinky, kills a surprise late in the film.

Much of the film is comprised of shots of the actors walking through a hallway at the viewer. It wouldn't be stretch to say 30% of the movie is filmed this way. This extended cut adds 12 minutes, including a few shots of additional gore and some nudity. Other changes are not noticeable.

This is of course a direct contrast to the game, which had a first-person viewpoint that still holds up today. During a brief five or so minute run at the end, we get to see that from Karl Urban's view. The sequence is put together wonderfully. This is the sole showcase moment of the film, and about the only fan service it has to offer, though it adds nothing to plot or storyline.

Long before you make it to that sequence near the finale, you'll need to deal with tired marine dialogue and The Rock, who in no way is allowed to be "The Rock." When your lead character's name is Sarge (and he's accompanied by Goat, The Kid, Mac, and Duke), the movie never should be made. It's inherently cheesy in a movie that's trying to be a serious horror film.

At times, it does succeed on this level. Audio is effectively used to create eerie atmosphere. Every sound is perfectly timed. This is true for the first half hour, and after that, the tired "make a noise to create a scare" is predictable. Once the genetically mutated critters begin their assault, all of this is forgotten for the sake of occasionally tough to see action due to the gloom.

The large set-pieces at times feel overdone. Very little in this movie isn't. The guns are huge, creatures enormous, and the effects stuck in places where there shouldn't be any. Creatures remain subdued in their design, with a fleshy, burnt look that adds to the creepiness of the long corridors, but doesn't do much to the movie.

The long winding corridors of Doom almost make it feel like an Alien clone. Sadly, nothing else about it does. It's a dull action film, and it's hard to think of a more critical flaw in the genre than that. Video game fans have been betrayed again by Hollywood.

Doom is a movie that relies completely on its video and audio presentation to make it work. The standard DVD release was impressive, and this HD-DVD is a step up. The added resolution works to dramatically increase the gory details. Dirt on the walls gives the environments a desolate feel not found previously.

What this disc doesn't avoid is heavy film grain. The film is drenched in blue shades, and the compression is admirably held back. However, that could also be due to the grain overwhelming any other problems. Most of it is left to the backgrounds with solid colors, though certain shots are riddled with it. It hurts the movie and the experience at the same time. It's on the print itself, and likely on the DVD release too. In an unavoidable problem of added clarity thanks to HD-DVD, it stands out.

Audio packs an additional punch compared to the DVD release. The added effect of the surround channels is noticeable. Subtle movement is constant, particularly as the film moves into adventure mode while the marines search for survivors. It's to the film's benefit in those early moments when the characters are on edge, and every little noise is meant to terrify. Bass is wonderfully used during gunfire, and in a few other areas when called upon.

Extras are pulled from the DVD release. "Master Monster Makers" looks at Stan Winston's creature shop. It's a place where DVD fans have been to previously, though it's always nice to see some traditional effects in action. However, there is nothing on the first-person sequence here. Basic Training with the Rock takes us through a training camp the actors went through to prepare for their roles. For a movie about space marines landing on Mars to take on horribly disfigured mutants, accuracy training seems like a stretch. At the least, it explains where the budget went.

Rock Formation looks at what it took to dress the former pro wrestler in prosthetics for the final scenes. Doom Nation looks at the video game's legacy with many of G4TV's hosts. Many of the designers discuss the design and the effect it had on the industry as well. This is solid history piece for coming in under 15 minutes. On the other hand, Game On! runs through generic tips and tricks for the Doom 3 video game.

The final piece is aptly titled First Person Shooter Sequence. This looks at what will undoubtedly be the movie's trademark. As Keith Urban character begins an assault through his own eyes true to the game, it's a sequence that took 14 days to shoot and put together to create the final result that seamlessly looks like it was done in one take to the uninitiated. The only missing extra from the standard release is a demo for the Xbox version of Doom 3

If this HD-DVD proves anything, it's the power of the format to enhance the movie. With the added detail and especially with the audio, Doom is a better movie here that it was previously. Aside from the issues with film grain, this is a wonderful showcase disc for audiophiles and certainly the way to see the film if it's your first time.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • “As Keith Urban character begins an assault through his own eyes true to the game, it’s a sequence…”

    LOL, don’t you mean Karl Urban? 😉 Keith Urban is Nicole Kidman’s country singer husband drying out at rehab somewhere.