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Based loosely on the id Software series of games, Doom: Extended Edition is released in the UK on 3rd April 2006. Do the partial changes from the premise of the games harm the proceedings, and has the disc been sent up from the bowels of Hell to torture us? You’ll have to read on to find out.

Doom: Extended Edition
Doom. The words ‘classic’ and ‘seminal’ often get bandied around when discussing the original PC game (not always in that order), and there is no doubting that—building on the success of Wolfenstein 3D—id Software were helping to redefine gaming. The hordes of Hell were thrown at you from every dark corner of the Martian base, and in Hell itself, and you could spend hours glued to your PC screen, alone and twitching at the slightest noise. And if you got bored of that you could frag your mates instead.

That was back in 1993, and eleven years on Doom 3 hit the shelves. A darker, moodier, much more atmospheric game—and graphically superior in every way—this wasn’t the balls-to-the-wall frag-fest that the original was, but you were in no less trouble. Scientists on Mars had still unearthed a portal into another dimension, and all that stood between Earth and the Hellspawn spewed forth was still you, a flashlight, and a big freakin’ gun.

But this isn’t a gaming site and, unfortunately in my eyes, this isn’t the film of either of those games—at least not entirely.

Doom: Extended Edition

Feature


”I guess you gotta face your demons sometime.”

Union Aerospace Corporation Research Facility, Olduvai, Mars, 2046. Scientists and archaeologists have been working away for twenty years to try to discover more about the ancient civilisation that had lived on Mars. The technology was so far in advance of anything we could imagine, and they had constructed a portal—the Ark—between Earth and the red planet, yet nothing was left alive. Cowering, fossilised corpses provided the only clues as to what the population was like, and they were strikingly similar in form to the Human race. But why did this superior race die out?

Some things are better left unknown, but then we are a race of inquisitive beings and you can only learn by doing. Sadly, in cases like this, learning can more often than not lead to running away from horrific foes down badly lit corridors until you get your head ripped off.

Contact lost. Time to send in the Marines—or in this instance the RRTS—the Rapid Response Tactical Squad...

Doom: Extended Edition
Step up to the plate, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson. The call goes out to Sarge and his merry band of gun-toting miscreants (perhaps a little harsh, but what the heck) and within no time they are on Mars ready to kick ass and take names. That is, assuming whatever it is they come up against has a name—or even an ass for that matter.

The base is under quarantine, but help is at hand in the shape of Marcus Pinzerowsky (Dexter Fletcher) and Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike). Marcus—or Pinky to those who know him—is wheelchair-bound after an Ark accident separated his top half from bottom half (ouch), but ably assists by keeping an eye on the heroes as they go deeper into the facility. Dr. Grimm has a bit of history with both Olduvai and one of Sarge’s team, and she has been tasked by the Corporation with recovering information on top secret research from the labs (the words Weyland and Yutani spring to mind—and not in a good way).

Oh yes, I haven’t introduced the team. Well, you’ve got the stereotypical lot here—the deviant Portman (Richard Brake), the highly-confident skirt-chaser Duke (Razaaq Adoti), the noob ‘the Kid’ (Al Weaver), the hardened veteran Goat (Ben Daniels), the one with the short nickname because his real name is unpronounceable, Mac, (Yao Chin) and the one built like a brick outhouse, Destroyer, (Deobia Oparei). The connection with the good lady doctor comes in the form of John Grimm, Reaper (Karl Urban)—her brother. Their history with the dead planet stems back to the death of their parents during the first exploration of Mars after the discovery of the Ark, and relations have been strained over the years. That bit is, of course, the unnecessary emotional part that you apparently have to throw into a film like this to give the pretence of character building.

Doom: Extended Edition
So, you’ve got death, quarantine, a bunch of soldiers entering the unknown and, errm, more death. So why isn’t this Doom as we know it then? Well, since you asked nicely, I’ll tell you. It’s Hell, or more accurately the lack of it. There are mentions of (inner) demons, and the figurative Hell that they are all going through, but this isn’t the seeping in of evil from another dimension. There aren’t any flying heads, demon harpies, spider-babies, teleporting imps or twenty-foot tall behemoths trying to squash you underfoot. Instead we get a moralistic tale about the dangers of messing with the genetics of your race and finding that something which benefits some can bring out the worst in those with an opposite moral slant.

That’s not to say that the other Doom elements aren’t here. The imps make numerous appearances, the Hell Knight storms in (although, as we’re steering away from the underworld elements he’s nicknamed the Baron here), and we have chain-guns, shotguns, chainsaws and the Bio-Force Gun. And then you have the infamous FPS sequence, which is possibly the best bit of the film. Five minutes of Reaper taking on the masses with shotguns, a chainsaw and mines on the way to finding the lovely Sam, with some nice little set-pieces including exploding barrels and head-shots. It manages to give you that head-spinning feeling you’ll get sat in front of your monitor, but it can be a little bit disorientating when it’s not you guiding the action with your mouse.

The badly-lit, tight corridors make for the right atmosphere—as does the rapidly dwindling team—and all-in-all it’s a good ’n’ gory popcorn flick. Disappointingly, though, there isn’t really a ‘big bad’ to defeat at the end with our hero going up against the hordes of Beelzebub in an effort to kill the beast—just the usual by-the-numbers, super-powered, one-on-one, Kung Fu gubbins that is becoming traditional fare these days.

Doom: Extended Edition
The performances are pretty much what you would expect from a film of this nature, although in a future world I hope we don’t all have to put on bad American accents so everyone can get along (apparently the secret is to pronounce things like pordal and twenee). A heck of a lot of the cast is English, Mr. Urban hails from New Zealand, and none of them sound quite right. The creature effects are better done and more convincing than if they had gone all CG, and generally it isn’t a bad film, I just think it could have been so much more.

id may not have wanted to stay too close to Doom 3 in content—although there is a nod to the original creators in the opening minutes (Dr. Todd Carmack being a hybrid of Todd Hollenshead and John Carmack)—but the storyline in that was more compelling. They might have had to spend double of the estimated $70m spent here, but I reckon it would have been worth it if they’d treated this property like comic books have the good fortune to be treated these days.

Video


Awful, just plain awful. Oh wait, that’s just the ‘Property of Universal Pictures International’ watermark that is burnt into everything on the disc all the damned time. It sits there like a shining white beacon in even the darkest of scenes distracting you from the action. This is, of course, something that Joe Public will not have to worry about, although I wouldn’t put it past the studios given the rampant paranoia in the industry. Before I get flamed, piracy is a bad thing, but watermarking review copies won’t stop the criminal element digging into sales once the thing is on the shelves—and you actually know where the review copies are going.

Doom: Extended Edition
Anyhoo, given that this is so obviously not the video that you will experience I should give it a flat out zero out of ten—but I’m above that sort of behaviour. The interlaced 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer given the film is very dark in places—so dark in fact that quite a lot of it is difficult to make out unless you are sitting in a pitch black room with no other light sources around. Even then, detail can be quite low, although dust and smoke in shafts of light present no problems. A relatively low average bit-rate of around 5.2Mb/s probably doesn’t help.

Conversely the lighter scenes show an accurate colour palette and fine detail is easy to make out. There is no sign of artefacts, and the ugly haloing that I expected to spoil the darker scenes after the application of edge enhancement did not rear its head—which was a nice surprise.

There are two subtitle tracks available here—one the full English Hard of Hearing track, the other used for the location captions if you don’t need the former—and each is easily read (the bonus being you can turn these off!). The layer change sits mid-conversation at 1h10m20s in chapter thirteen, which is a shame given the plethora of dark bits in which it could have secreted itself.

Doom: Extended Edition

Audio


There’s surprisingly little difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital Surround tracks offered, even with the DTS track having twice the bit-rate to play with (768Kb/s to 384Kb/s). The Dolby Digital track is recorded at a higher level, which is not unusual, but other than that the cheesy rock track, screams and vocals sound fine whichever way you choose to go. Perhaps this is down to the fact that DTS works well with the subtle little things, and there just isn’t that much that is subtle here, but even after switching tracks on the fly and listening with my eyes closed I couldn’t really separate them.

The surrounds are used to good effect and there are some heavy, hearty rumbles thrown out of the subwoofer—which also serves to add some meat to the many, many gunshots. I can usually find something to recommend a DTS track over a Dolby Digital track but, like I said, maybe it is down to the lack of subtlety in the soundtrack.

Extras


There are a handful of bonus materials to get your teeth into, the first couple of which are inflicted on you when you insert the disc. Ignoring the ‘Piracy: It’s a Crime’ public service announcement that everyone seems to be sticking on discs at the moment, you get the international trailers for Jarhead (2m29s, letterboxed 2.35:1) and Serenity (1m57s, letterboxed 1.85:1). Both of these can also be selected from the Bonus menu.

Doom: Extended Edition
Speaking of which, the first real extra of the day comes in the form of ‘Basic Training’ (10m34s) where we get to see the members of the good, old double-R.T.S. getting put through their paces by a proper soldier. They learn to gel as a team and to fire big guns without looking like blinking wusses.

Next up is ‘Rock Formation’ (5m38s), which shows the steps taken for the Rock’s make-up. To say anything else would be a bit of a spoiler.

‘Master Monster Makers’ (10m56s) takes us through the work done by Stan Winston’s workshop on the Baron, the imps and the autopsies, and expands on the reasons why—going against the current grain—the film goes with predominantly ‘man in suit’-based creature effects.

‘First Person Shooter Sequence’ (5m57s) is, quite obviously, a breakdown of Reaper’s FPS journey through the facility. The sequence’s director, John Farhat (who is also VFX Supervisor on the film), takes us through the concepts and realisation of the scene during its fourteen day shoot.

Doom: Extended Edition
Lastly, there are a couple of game related features. ‘Doom Nation’ (14m41s) gives us a little history lesson through the Doom legacy, with input from John Carmack, Todd Hollenshead, and a bunch of TV presenters I’ve never heard of. ‘Game On!’ (6m48s, 4:3) has some bloke named Jason giving us tips on how to survive Doom 3 (the Xbox version is used for illustration). Even the greenest of newbies would be able to file this under ‘stating the bleeding obvious’.

Everything here has an English Dolby Digital Stereo track, English subtitles, and is presented in letterboxed 1.78:1 (except where stated otherwise). Zero anamorphic enhancement for features that are presented in widescreen should be outlawed in this day and age, but the content isn’t too bad. Well, except for the Doom 3 ‘guide’. However, there is not really anything that goes into why they went the way they did with the story, and that is something I would have liked to have seen (or even heard—commentary, anyone?).

Doom: Extended Edition

Overall


Doom: Extended Edition is a piece of entertaining, by-the-numbers cinema that could have been so much better. It is still quite good fun, but in choosing to steer us gently away from the idea of Hell being released we have been left with something that takes the Doom name but doesn’t do much to separate itself from any of the other sci-fi/horror/action flicks out there. The extras are similarly average and the disc itself doesn’t excel in any way.

Still, if you’re up for a two hour diversion where you get the chance to see some of your favourite video game foes brought to life, then this is in no way the worst you could do.


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