If you ever want to see what sheer stupidity looks like on celluloid, look no further than Neil Marshall’s latest outing Doomsday. After a promising start with his impressive debut Dog Soldiers and the claustrophobic spelunking nightmare The Descent I had high hopes for his venture into apocalyptic action territory. Unfortunately Doomsday is an jumbled mess of a film that is as schizophrenic as they come. It has no clue what it wants to be and just comes across as ill conceived and poorly executed, in fact just thinking about it gives me a headache. No joke, this makes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome look like a masterpiece.
Doomsday has no shortage of ideas and a few of them are even good ones. But a plethora of ideas does not a good film make. Starting out in present day, a deadly virus (deemed the “Reaper virus”) rages through Scotland decimating the population. The government is forced to quarantine the country and contain the virus before it spreads, abandoning the people who are left behind for the sake of the greater good. Years later the virus shows up in London and after finding evidence of survivors in Scotland a team is assembled to cross into the quarantine zone to see if these survivors have discovered a cure. Heading the team is the unbelievably badass Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) and when I say that I don’t mean that as a compliment, I mean that there’s no way she’s as awesome as we’re supposed to believe. I don’t care how hot she is. The team’s mission is to find Dr. Kane (Malcolm MacDowell), who was rumored to be working on a cure before the quarantine was put into effect. Right about now is a good time to turn of the ol’ brain, because trust me, trying to make sense out of the idiocy that follows is not going to do you any good.
Rather than continuing with the intriguing premise that it begins with, the film switches into Mad Max mode as Sinclair and her team run into a tribal gang of cannibals led by Sol (Craig Conway). They’re actually fairly intimidating…that is until they speak. As they barbecue and feast on the team’s doctor, Sinclair escapes and heads into the mountains with Dr. Kane’s daughter. You see, Kane and his followers have successfully recreated a medieval society with castles, knights on horseback, the works. Sinclair is captured and ends up facing off against her executioner in an arena battle la Gladiator. If I haven’t lost you yet, they go on to discover a Bentley that still runs (magic!) and return to Mad Max land to have a car chase with Sol full of explosions and various other things that fail to regain my interest.
I suppose there are a couple of admirable qualities present, one of them being Rhona Mitra. I may not find her that believable in the tough-girl role, I’m a die-hard Ellen Ripley fan so my standards are high, but she maintains a certain sincerity while everything else goes from silly to laughable. There’s also some interesting socio-political commentary present, but it’s not groundbreaking or anything you haven’t seen before and it’s obviously not too terribly important to the filmmakers.
The best way I can describe Doomsday is that it’s the deformed love child of a drunken orgy between 28 Days Later, Escape From New York, The Road Warrior, and Braveheart. It’s like Hollywood gave a 15-year old boy a ton of money and free reign to do whatever he wanted, coherency being the first thing to get thrown out the window. Had the film stuck with any one of the 17 ideas it had I would have, at the very least, been able to take it seriously. But as it stands the film suffers from ADD and loses all credibility as a result. I firmly believe that all filmmaking is self-indulgent and form of self-gratification, but when that overrides the tenacity of the film you have a problem. It’s a shame because the film has some solid gore, outstanding visuals, and it all looks great in hi-definition.