Doomed’ to the bowels of a genre: New video-game adaptation lacks in substance but not The Rock

“Doom”

Universal Pictures

Directed by Andrzej Bartowiak

Written by Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick

Starring: The Rock, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, DeObia Oparei and Ben Daniels

Rated R/118 minutes

Opened Friday, Oct. 21, 2005

Two out of four stars

A little more than a decade ago, computer gamers got a big kick when id Software’s “Doom” hit the scene. In what has since been named the “First-Person Shooter” genre, gamers peered out through the eyes of a futuristic space marine, tromping through the pits of hell, blasting demons with double-barreled shotguns and collecting power-ups that bobbed in mid air.

It was a visceral, kinetic, terrifying experience, begging teens and teens-at-heart to turn off the lights, pump up the volume and chase after Hell Knights with roaring chainsaws. Every game from “Half-Life” to “Halo” owes its very existence to the genius of “Doom” creators John Carmack and John Romero.

It was inevitable, then, that a “Doom” movie would come along eventually, and-surprise, surprise-it kind of blows.

After all, who could forget the genius of “Street Fighter,” another video-game adaptation, with Zen Buddhist master Jean-Claude Van Damme in his finest role since “Universal Soldier?” Or how about “Resident Evil” with its zombie dogs and slice-and-dice laser beams cribbed straight out of “Cube?”

“Doom” isn’t a total travesty-it’s simply lazy. The script, by Dave Callaham and Wesley Strick, is a low-rent “Aliens” clone cross-bred with “Night of the Living Dead,” although somewhere in the genetic process, all forms of wit and visual ingenuity were lost. The movie lacks hellfire and damnation, something the game had in spades. What a missed opportunity.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Sarge, commanding officer of an elite marine squad. They’re sent to mop up the mess at a remote research facility on Mars where something went Terribly Wrong.

Doesn’t it always?

Karl Urban (the bad dude Matt Damon smashed with a taxi in “The Bourne Supremacy”) plays Reaper, second-in-command and pinch-hitting hero when, to quote the poster, “All Hell Breaks Loose.”

Cue nonsensical rock-metal music.

There’s not much of a story here, which, to be fair, is about as faithful to the game as you could be. Sarge, Reaper and a posse of forgettable personalities stalk down the dimly lit passageways of the Mars station, hunting hell spawn and spitting out crude, expository dialogue. Every so often, one of the marines is dragged, screaming, into the shadows, usually by order of billing or race.

The entire film is shot in dark, cramped, drippy corridors in medium to extreme close-ups, which either creates a sense of impending doom or the sense of a very cheap budget. You pick.

Perhaps all the money was spent on “Doom’s” one admittedly neat sequence: Just like the game, for seven or eight minutes we look through Reaper’s eyes as he guns down a swarm of monsters. Those in the know (i.e., geeks) will squeal with joy. Everyone else will wonder why the filmmakers suddenly decided to get creative with only 20 minutes to go.

In that one scene, “Doom” almost captures the kind of balls-to-the-wall, ghoul-screeching good time fans of the game have come to the theater to experience. Alas, all you’re going to get are lots and lots of shots of The Rock doing what he does best: fiercely staring at things.

Riveting.

Note: Fans of the game will recognize the character name Dr. Carmack-he’s affectionately named after “Doom” creator John Carmack. He gets an especially gruesome death.

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