In "Doom," a square-jawed, bull-necked leader named Sarge (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) heads a rapid response team of Marines dispatched to investigate a calamity at a remote scientific facility on Mars. The killer mutants they find there will be familiar to the many fans of Doom, the video game that has been keeping people from getting out of the house since 1993. Doom was a pioneer of the "first person" game, in which the player enjoys the roving perspective of a weapon-toting central character.
The Rock is an enjoyable presence, not just for his statuesque build but for his occasionally comic moments. Another character called Portman (Richard Brake), a funny futuristic griper, is good for a few chuckles. Karl Urban makes an empathetic Reaper, the ultimate hero of the story, whose transformative finale the audience sees from that much vaunted first-person perspective. But for the most part, "Doom" is a loud, standard-issue sci-fi action film that has a confusing mission. Is director Andrzej Bartkowiak ("Cradle 2 the Grave") only trying to reach the game's older fans with the R-rated violence and profanity? What about those under-17 Doomers? (And what wider audience does he hope to attract with such a cliched storyline and clunky dialogue?)
The two 13-year-olds I brought along were only too pleased to see an R-rated version, and they saw a different movie. Vets of Doom, they pronounced it very satisfying, although one qualified it as a good movie version of a video game as opposed to, say, an actual movie.
-- Desson Thomson