It’s difficult to know what to expect from Doomsday, coming from director Neil Marshall who also worked on the very popular film The Descent from 2005. It looks like a zombie film but it’s technically not about zombies; it feels like a comic book but it’s not that either. But though Doomsday looks a lot like The Descent‘s gritty, dirty world, it’s lacking in the scares and the intensity that drove it.
The film takes place in the future, 2035 to be exact, which is 27 years after the outbreak of a mysterious virus in Scotland. In 2008, authorities quarantined a major section of Scotland off, leaving any and all people stuck within to die with the virus. However, the virus has reappeared in London, and the government needs Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), a mercenery who just barely made it out of the original quarantine, to go into Scotland and find a cure for the virus; the government has reason to believe that a scientist named Kane (Malcolm McDowell) had been developing an antidote for it. So Eden ventures into no-man’s-land territory in the quarantine with a team of two-dimensional people and a gigantic car a la the Dawn of the Dead remake and are immediately attacked by punks with mohawks and nose-to-ear piercings. Most don’t make it out alive, and Eden and her teammates are captured and taken to the punks’ home base. Here they learn that the punks, led by Sol (Craig Conway) are in a war with Sol’s father, Kane, and his people. Finally, after some cannibalism and torture, Eden gets out of the punks’ territory alive, only to be captured by Kane’s people in medieval-wear. Turns out that there is no cure for the virus, and that the people that are still alive were immune. A gladiator battle, numerous car explosions, and another battle with Sol ensue, but Eden is able to bring back Kane’s daughter Cally (MyAnna Buring) as a test subject to unearth any cure from her blood.
If Doomsday sounds a lot like 28 Days Later or basically any other zombie film, you’re not the only one. After watching the film, I can safely say that it uses a lot of 28DL‘s ideas but changes them up by adding punks and knights instead of zombies. The story itself is very weak and predictable, and it’s not even substantial in the long run. It feels as though we haven’t actually seen the plot transition much from its original idea, and in this regard, Doomsday is always trying to compensate for this by violent bloodbaths and giant explosions.
By then, though, it’s hard to get away from the lack of an arresting plot and all of the violence and action just tends to become mindless entertainment for the sake of forgetting about what the movie could have done but won’t do. That’s not to say that the action isn’t cool or well-done – it’s pretty damn awesome, and ass-kicking at it’s finest with tons of splattered blood and over-the-top car chases, kind of like the jungle chase scene from Indiana Jones IV. These parts of the film are done really well, except for the annoying camerawork during fight sequences that make me think someone with Parkinsons’ took the shots. But even if the action is really awesome, it only highlights the fact that the rest of the film is lacking in everything that makes those shots worthwhile.
There’s a lot of things that seem really unimportant to the film in general that are a hindrance to everything it’s trying to do. Eden’s loss of an eye in the opening sequence could have been a cool concept for the film, focusing on her intent to find a cure as a sort of revenge; instead, it plays no major part in the movie except to serve as a means of videotaping a conversation. It was disappointing to say the least, as it seems we are set up to expect something from this rather than its lackluster conclusion.
I’m not sure what to think about the two rival factions, the punks and the knights. They make for interesting fare to watch, but I’m confused as to why the virus’ effects made everyone change into either a Misfits-fanboy or King Arthur knight, replete with gladiator fight. It’s as if the writers wanted some interesting critique on young and old cultures and the battle between them, but if this was the case there was nothing to warrant this conclusion. Plus, we must remember that any of the punks in the quarantine must have been born after the quarantine occurred in 2008 and therefore would not know about the punk movement because it would have been around 60 years ago. This is the same with the knights – although older, this group would still know that knights had gone out of “style” a long, long time ago and it seems very strange they would have reverted to this antique style of fighting if we’re in a truly futuristic world with recording eyeballs. Plus, Cally seems to have never seen a car before, except as we see towards the beginning of the film, there are tons of cars abandoned on the roads.
There’s also an error in distance here, as at first it seems like a far trek from Sol’s lair to Kane’s castle, but when Eden and friends are escaping from the castle they immediately come upon Sol and his gang, who happened to know they were there so they could cause more bloodshed. I don’t know, maybe I’m being a bit too nitpicky on the problems of the film, but then again, they just don’t add up into a coherent, plausible plot and it took me out of the narrative and into mindless entertainment territory.
And that’s the thing I have a problem with – it would be fine if Doomsday attempted to be a fun action movie with no qualms about sacrificing scares or emotion in general other than “FUCK YES!” but it doesn’t work that way. It feels like the movie is trying hard to be emotionally affecting in its portrayal of the public at large being paved over by the government in an attempt to cut their losses, or in showing the hundreds of people left stranded in their houses because of the quarantine, but since the rest of the film is so comical and graphic in its showing of death, it doesn’t work at all.
But you know, if you like numbing entertainment made primarily for gorehounds with little regard to storyline, this is probably the perfect movie for you. It doesn’t make any ground within the apocalypse genre (in fact, it may lose some because of its disregard in maintaining a serious tone when it really wants to create gut reaction) but it still has a ton of explosions and more than enough splattered brains. And even if the punks vs. knights idea doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, at least there’s a gladiator fight, right? That’s redeemable, right? Well, I guess you should decide for yourselves, but for my own answer, I shout, “Nay, to its dooooooom!”