Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
Thirty years after the wall went up, a crack military team enters burned out, plagued-destroyed Scotland on a suicide mission to find a cure for the virus that once again threatens London.
Is it good movie?
A deadly plague known as the Reaper virus ran like water through the UK, forcing officials to declare Scotland a quarantine zone, and all the infected parties, and even those merely suspected of being infected, were shunted off to the land of bagpipes and cordoned off with a 30-foot, double steel-plated, armed robot sentry-patrolled wall. When the virus reappears 30-years later, this time in London, a team is assembled to infiltrate the wall and search for survivors, and hopefully a cure. Leading the team is Major Eden Sinclair, played with aplomb by Rhona Mitra, who lost both an eye and a mother to the quarantine when she was just a girl. Now she must not only face her past head-on, but also the fate of the entire human race.
Doomsday is Neil Marshall’s third film, and I was hoping upon hope to like it. I thought Dog Soldiers was brilliant, but The Descent left me out in the cold. Unfortunately, I can’t give an unequivocal thumbs up to his latest project. It starts out quite promising, from the initial plague-rioting to the subsequent dystopian future segment. The technology on hand is advanced enough so that you know it is the future, but not so advanced as to alienate the audience in a Star Trek-y kind of way. From Sinclair’s ingenious “Eye-Pod” to the foam grenades, I was quite impressed with the creativity on hand.
The second act is where I started to lose the thread. The film shifts gears for the first of many times as the team, largely consisting of cannon-fodder soon to be reduced by a an order of magnitude, arrives in the quarantine zone and encounters the Marauders, a splinter sect of the survivors. They look and act like the homage to both Mad Max and The Warriors that they are, but accomplish little else (be on the lookout for the blink and you miss him Baseball Fury). Once extricated from that situation, they move on to an anachronistic version of medieval Scotland, presided over by post-plague father figure Dr. Marcus Kane (whose intense expositive dialogue could only be handled by master scenery-chewer Malcolm McDowell). Yet still another shift occurs upon their escape, whence they find themselves dropped squarely into an over-the-top, Michael Bay-esque nonsensical free-for-all car chase segment.
The end result is just too many movies being crammed into one framework. The cast is wonderful, from Mitra and McDowell to the always wonderful Bob Hoskins and David O’Hara as the villainous Canaris, not to mention Marshall mainstays Sean Pertwee, Darrin Morfitt, and Les Simpson. All of the other elements are in place as well, from direction to cinematography to production design. The main failing I find is an overambitious script and too many plot holes and logic problems. The constant shifting of tone made me feel like I was watching a disjointed anthology film. I will be keeping my eyes on, and hopes high for, Marshall in the future, but this one is best categorized as a well-intentioned misfire.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 2.35:1. The film looks excellent, all of the red and squishy bits are delivered with gusto to your gore-hungry eyeballs. Both the theatrical cut and the unrated cut are available on the disc, though there is only a difference of four minutes between the two.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 in both English and Spanish, with optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Anatomy of Catastrophe: Civilization on the Brink: This 17-minute production overview contains interviews with all the principals, and dabbles a bit into the areas covered more in depth in the other featurettes. There is also some nice footage of Mitra rehearsing her big fight scene with the black knight Telamon.
The Visual Effects and Wizardry of Doomsday: This is an interesting 9-minute piece mainly dealing with the various composite shots, green-screens, and miniatures used to make both the futuristic London and the post-plague Scotland. A few side-by-side comparisons show just how amazing the work done was.
Devices of Death: Guns, Gadgets, and Vehicles of Destruction: This incredibly thorough 20-minute segment details the creation of everything from the APCs used to mobilize the team past the wall (the vehicles were built from the ground-up, and were quite real and functional) to head Marauder Sol’s human bones- and flesh-covered Jaguar. Much more time was also spent on the creation of the various damage-inflicting weapons throughout the film than one might guess, including Sinclair’s signature pistol, designed by Marshall himself.
Audio Commentary: This commentary features director Marshall and stars Sean Pertwee, Darrin Morfitt, Rick Warden, and Les Simpson. The track is slow to get going, but once the boys get warmed up it is quite informative and entertaining. Like how Craig Conway, who played Sol, broke a stuntman’s nose or how Marshall was deathly ill from food poisoning on the very first day of the shoot.
Doomsday is full of good ideas that are basically well executed, and certainly contains more than enough wonderfully in your face gore to keep horror fans happy, but the disparate parts just don’t fit together into a cohesive whole. Marshall was finally given a proper budget, and seems to have gone hog-wild and tried to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink and all the dirty dishes contained therein. It is a great popcorn movie, if that’s what you’re into, but I just wanted a little more. I’m keeping my eye on Marshall, though. Maybe next time…