Doomsday (2008) dir. Neil Marshall
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig
Forget “Speed Racer”, “Doomsday” takes the cake as the disappointment of the year. Genre-junkies hotly anticipated the ‘next film’ from Neil Marshall, who first caught their attention with his instant classic “The Descent.” “Doomsday” is one huge step back for Marshall. It insults the cult fans of the films he wants to emulate by delivering a scene-for-scene b-grade carbon copy of the great action/exploitation flicks which inspired this film and is devoid of any semblance of originality, substance, cinematic-quality, humour or fun.
I won’t even bother with a detailed story summary – you probably know it already. “Doomsday” was likely pitched as ‘Escape From New York’ and ‘The Road Warrior’ in Scotland. The scale is huge for an independent British film and considerably larger than “the Descent”– mondo action, shot outdoors, at night with massive production design and digital effects to create 2035 Great Britain. After the success and acclaim of “The Descent”, Marshall appears to have been given carte blanche to make his ‘dream project’. The fact he also wrote the film make this failure all the more baffling.
There is absolutely no inspiration in the vision or direction. Every scene has been done better by the films he is copying. For example, the opening narration is overly complicated, running on and on as Malcolm McDowell describes the virus, the fall out and current state of Britain. It all could have been said in 30sec of voiceover – like “Escape From New York”.
Also copped from “Escape From New York” is the anarchic community of survivors within the walled country. Like EFNY they are led by a maniacal despot, dressed with a recycled “Road Warrior” wardrobe. There’s even a vaudevillian dance scene like the one witnessed by Snake Pliskin in EFNY. Carpenter’s scene lasts all of 30 seconds, Marshall’s scene runs on and on and on.
Marshall doesn’t even direct the action well. His shot selection is rudimentary and he relies on editing to get mask his uncreatively staged sequences. For example, there’s a sword fight sequence between two badass chicks – cool, right? But Marshall gets lazy and substitutes excessive cutting for creative choreography resulting in nothing better than a sequence from “Xena: Warrior Princess”.
These are just a few examples of how Marshall, who seemingly loves these films, is completely ignorant to the qualities of why they were successful. Sure Hauk was the bad guy who would do what it takes to get Pliskin into Manhattan, but the late Lee van Cleef made him honourable, smart and even likeable. Same goes with the hockey-mask-wearing leader of the punks in “The Road Warrior” – he was even more badass than the head-punk in “Doomsday”, and even though we never see his face there was something sympathetic and vulnerable underneath the mask.
Everyone in the film is boring. Our hero Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) is so filled with angst she’s too dour to be sexy, David O’Hara (“The Departed”, “Braveheart”) plays the Lee van Cleef role, but desecrates the legacy by giving us a robotic one-note stone cold stare for the entire film. Alexander Siddig (“Syriana), a wonderful actor, is cast but is given nothing to work with.
What Neil Marshall has brought to the screen is certainly one of the most inexplicable career moves I’ve seen in a while. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe Marshall was trying to market himself to Hollywood as an action-director? Unfortunately the “Doomsday” that’s on screen only serves as a calling card to be a late franchise sequel director. Rob Cohen, Brett Ratner, you now have some competition.
“Doomsday” is available on DVD this August 5 in Canada from Alliance Films