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Film Review: Doomsday

Posted on by sam

Doomsday

Director: Neil Marshall (2008)

Want to instantly lower my expectations? Want to make me more wary than a parent whose child has just returned from a Pete Doherty concert? Then describe your film as action packed. ‘Oh Sam, what are you, some sort of wimpy French Camembert, action packed films are the testosterone imbued extra mature cheddar on a man cracker’, to which I reply, no they are not. Action packed films are films that don’t give a shit about interesting things like story, characters, or entertaining their audience, and more about explosions and pantomime villains getting beat up and other stuff that compensates for the director having a tiny penis. These explosions may sound like fun, and they are, when condensed into a five minute youtube video, but not for a feature film with a 90+ minute run time. While we’re at it, there’s nothing wrong with Camembert, seconded only by Brie, and Applewood smoked, either way, go watch Le Haine, then tell me how wimpy the French are, except that one character that’s really wimpy, he’s a bit weak, but the others are as tough as anything Guy Ritchie ever aspired to be.

Action packed isn’t a good thing, and no, even good action films aren’t action packed, was Die Hard action packed? Certainly it contained more explosions than a period drama, or a good comedy usually does, and more people popped their clogs than usually do in a horror film, but no, it was not action packed. Go ahead, watch it, I’ll wait…………………….. see; the intro is a flight and limousine ride, one guy gets killed and the next twenty minutes feature John McClane ringing dumb police officers for help while terrorists terrorise their way towards a vault. A good action film, is a good all round film, with strong characterisation, engaging storytelling and interesting visualisation, a good action film is not an action packed one, action packed simply translates as ‘we’re not really good at crafting a film so here’s some stuff we think you might pay to watch’. That’s why you only tend to see the phrase on the back of bargain basement guff starring a Steven Segal wannabe or in hack film reviews like the ones in any good News International newspaper, or the Daily Mail, which for the record, are nearly always shit.

In its description, Doomsday felt it wise to describe itself as action packed, this I feel, was a mistake, partly because it makes the film sound tacky, and partly because Doomsday isn’t packed with action, it’s filled with dead acting and rip offs……………………..sorry I mean homages.

Before you read any further, I’ve a lot to say about Doomsday, so this is going to be a bit longer than the usual review, to save you time, I’ll give a summary now and report on why I’ve come to such a conclusion afterwards. I’m giving you the choice, dear reader; just don’t blame me for your ignorance if you make the idiotic choice to stop, right, summary coming up now.

Picture courtesy of my inner turmoil/Vincent Van Gogh

Doomsday is awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  … … … … … … … … … … awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful.

Written By Sam ‘3 inches of Solid Sheffield Steel’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

Why not be kind and drop a like on facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Happy-Fingers-Productions/141799229251023

 

 

Still here? Right then;

hom·age  (hmj, m-) n.

1. Ceremonial acknowledgment by a vassal of allegiance to his lord under feudal law.

2. Special honor or respect shown or expressed publicly. See Synonyms at honor.

First of all, I want you to know, as Tom is my witness, I typed every awful individually, so much did I dislike Doomsday. Secondly, observe the above definition, paying particular attention to meaning 2.

In film, which, when politicians named Goebbels aren’t involved, use homage in the second sense, a good homage is subtle; it’s the equivalent of a friend giving you a wink just before he claims horrific things happened to his loved ones as justification for being late for work. The wink tells you your friend is just a lazy arse who fancied a lie in; to everyone else, it’s the reason your manager isn’t yelling at him, at no point does the fact your friend was late change. That’s a terrible example, but my previous one involved a paedophilic clown and a young boy, so count yourself lucky. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that a homage, should just be a small part of a scene, a la The Bride wearing Bruce Lee’s clothes in Kill Bill Volume 1. A nod to Bruce Lee’s influence, yes, but the costume made no difference to the story, situation or character motivation. What a homage is not, is a shot for shot, or general copy of a scene from a, usually better, film. That’s a rip off. Doomsday is full of scenes where everything has been lifted and planted on screen from other films; in his director’s commentary, Neil Marshall call’s these scenes homages to films that influence him. They aren’t, they’re rip offs.

In order to go further, I need to quickly interject with a plot summary. We begin with a virus similar to 28 Days Later; that has spread in Scotland, the army gets sent in to battle disfigured Scotsman just like they were zombies in Resident Evil, culminating in Scotland being walled off from the rest of the U.K. Fast forward X number of years and we have a showdown on a big tanker like the one seen in The Usual Suspects. A ‘team’ of soldiers that act like the marines from Aliens get sent to Scotland to find a cure for the virus, which has begun to lead to Day of The Dead scenes in London. Scotland is inhabited by punks whose fashion sense comes from Waterworld/Mad Max, and their leader acts almost exactly like bold Dennis Hopper. A convoluted chase just like in The Warriors follows, before the remaining members of the team (the punks have eaten some), encounter a whimsically medieval world just like Excalibur. The team leader is forced into one on one combat a la Gladiator, then a Mad Max car chase culminates in a superfluous ending, that has no idea what it wants to be, because everything up to this point has been too busy telling other films stories, and anything even resembling a coherent plot was forgotten before it even began.

This is what I find so terrible about Doomsday, it’s so busy ripping off ‘popular’ action films; it completely forgets to be a film itself. There’s no real story, no logical plotting and incredibly poor characterisation. Rhona Mitra plays the lead, and I actually pity her. At first I thought she couldn’t act, but a friend with a liking for Stargate Universe sent me some clips that prove otherwise, so instead it comes down to the script. Because Doomsday is so busy ripping off all these other films, there’s absolutely no chance for Mitra to develop any character. She displays no consistency or depth, coming off as shallow as lemonade on concrete. The protagonist in any film should be interesting, not, as in this case, insanely annoying while delivering some of the most inane one liners in history. (A particular low point being being ‘you don’t see that everyday’ as a mounted knight appears in some woods)

Pretty much every character suffers from this same shallowness, and it’s no coincidence that the two most interesting, actually that should probably just be bearable, characters are the two that only occupy one particular rip off. From the resident evil side of things we have David O’Hara as a senior government official whose apparent mission in life is to talk out of one side of his mouth and be a dick to Bob Hoskins.  Then there’s Malcolm McDowell, a former doctor who now sits, literally, on a thrown, during the Excalibur stuff. They’re bearable, because localising the characters in one rip off means they actually get to have motivation, and a point and stuff. Of course any bearability, yes that is a word, these two have, is destroyed by my second gripe, the editing!

Long review; getting bored yet? Right, I am to editing what spectacles are to snakebites; not particularly useful unless some very extenuating circumstances are occurring. Tom, on the other hand, is world class and my go to guy whenever a film contains some weird movements or cuts that I need explaining. Doomsday isn’t necessarily edited badly, some of the action scenes, ripped off or not, are edited quite well, but there’s this weird thing it does, where every conversation has to be edited like the characters have accidently stumbled into an action scene. A simple conversation between two characters contains fifty thousand cuts from forty thousand angles. Incredibly distracting, and the last thing you want when you’re film is already populated by bland, shallow characters, is to distract me during moments when I actually might be able to care about them. I asked Tom about this, and he said it was pacing and trying to keep up with the action scenes, I asked why you’d want to do this, his reply; because you’re stupid.

Then there’s just all this stupid stuff, a bunch of deaths that make no sense, overlong chases where dirt bikes suddenly rage across the screen from nowhere, punk costumes that made sense in Mad Max but are the height of impracticality in the colds of Scotland, and inane nonsensical moments like a single punk letting out an Alien type scream for no reason, or an ‘infected person’ who looks for all the world like a zombie, but apparently isn’t, in a Terminator costume storming into the HQ of England’s leadership, because … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  … … … . . well, guess it doesn’t matter if you’re not trying to make sense. So many actors are wasted, or do so little of note, notice how little for instance I’ve mentioned Bob Hoskins, then, when they are used, they do something stupid, then get shot, or stabbed, or hit with an arrow, or eaten.

So, to summarise; non-existent story, shallow/piss poor characterisation, nonsensical moments and distracting editing. Anything else? Well yes actually, but it’s a bit more of a rounded, macro issue that Doomsday only demonstrates. Why do so many British films have to be American clones? Aside from 28 Days later, pretty much every film Doomsday rips off is American, yes Mad Max is Australian if you want to be pedantic, but consider instead shutting up. Doomsday had a massive budget for a British film, but it was always going to be a dwarf compared to the cash thrown around by the American system, so why try and be a re-hash of that system? I know so many film makers that could do amazing things with a tenth of the budget this abortion of creativity had, or at least create something that isn’t so devoid of personality. Check out Damian Mortimer, a man I’ve only encountered briefly and what he’s doing with Zombies, or a director like Josh Fowler, even if he is fat.

Instead, this is another self-indulgent film by someone who wishes they were born in America. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when you waste 108 minutes showing your audience other films, better films, they could have been watching instead, you don’t deserve one penny of investment. I’m not trying to attack Neil Marshall personally, though I have, Dog Soldiers was a perfectly decent film, while The Descent, if a bit uneven, genuinely got me laid, but why make this? What’s the point? What does Doomsday contribute to anything? It was never going to be a critical success, and why would you pay to see this film, when you can pay to watch any one of the film it rips off and actually enjoy yourself, except maybe Excalibur.

That’s why this review is so long, not just because of the rip offs, bad acting, poor storytelling or distracting editing. Should I list positive things, like the introduction is actually quite good, or it’s impressive just how many locations they managed to incorporate, or that punks are cool, probably. In terms of action films, there are worse out there, but they all had much a smaller budget and at least tried, Doomsday, on the other hand, is a film without merit. A lazy exercise in pointless self-indulgence that pisses me off more than I can truly describe.

To make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I watched Doomsday twice, and then a third time with the directors commentary, which for the record, is ridiculously self-indulgent and naïve, I also asked Tom to watch Doomsday and share his thoughts, the following, is verbatim the text he sent me in reply. It contains a spoiler though, so if you want to watch Doomsday, none existent god help you, but also stop reading now.

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Spoiler alert

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The editing at the beginning was a failed attempt to keep the pace going which is good cos if they’d kept it going the punks attacking wouldn’t have had any impact. On that note I’d like to make medieval, pirate, bandit, car chase, futuristic, special agent, zombie apocalypse and I appreciate zombie films although sick of them. But I have no plan on putting them all in the same or even mixing like 2 of them(except the HFP action film) not to say it’s not an entertaining movie but when I go from watching resident evil grab a drink and find it’s actually Mad Max have a piss and come back to a Knights Tale then transition to fast and furious cba to work out the order of the rest. And why the fuck did she stay with the punks after all that?

Written By Sam ‘deserves better’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

Why not be kind and drop a like on facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Happy-Fingers-Productions/141799229251023