Review Date: July 15, 2008
Released by: Universal
Release date: 7/29/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
ďCall me flattered,Ē Kurt Russell would no doubt say of Doomsday
, the latest Neil Marshall film, which bares more than a few similarities to Russellís iconic Escape From New York
. Critics werenít exactly flattered though, and audiences even less as Doomsday
lived up to its title in box office receipts. Still, after Dog Soldiers
and The Descent
, the man has a following, and those that didnít see it in theaters will no doubt check it out now on video. With four minutes of added gore and violence, theyíll probably be thanking themselves for it, too. Enough dallying Ė I just got a call from the president Ė itís time to go in.
A virus breaks out in Glasgow and an opening montage later and the whole of Scotland is infected with the Reaper plague. Faces boil and puss up like they were in Planet Terror
, and the only way to stop it from spreading is to build a wall to circle the perimeter of the northern UK. Itís chaos, with soldiers gunning down civilians left and right. Little Eden Sinclair (Emma Cleasby
) takes one in the eye moments before being separated from her mother and brought to safety. She grows up and so too does the security prerogative of the nation, but the memories remain.
Itís now 2035 and London has fought off infection for nearly twenty years since the outbreak. Sinclair is now one of the top military personnel for the state, working along with dispatch Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins
) for Prime Minister Hatcher (Alexander Siddig
). When a room of rotting infectees is discovered in a London ghetto, paranoia rises in the state and the PM must make some quick decisions. Apparently living people have been spotted in the forever abandoned major cities of Scotland, leading the government to think that thereís still a chance for a cure. Nobody dares go in the wasteland though Ė except for Eden. Armed with a few futuristic devices that never made the cut in Escape From New York
, the eye-patched renegade sets off to cure humanity.
Once she jumps the fence, she finds out thereís a whole lot more than a few passive survivors. Itís a war zone of barbaria, with savages exiled from The Hills Have Eyes
snarling and screaming their way to liberty. They worship Sol (Craig Conway
), a mohawked rebel leader with a taste for human flesh. He also happens to be the son of a doctor, Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell
), who could potentially have the cure for salvation. Eden and her troop have been captured by Sol though, and timeís a ticking in the British state. If she doesnít fight her way out soon, thereíll be no humanity left for saving.
In this day and age of incessant remakes and reimagings, itís almost refreshing to see a pastiche that doesnít just recycle the same titles and names. Doomsday
is derivative for sure, probably better titled I Am Plisken, 28 Years Later: Beyond Thunderdome
, but it doesnít blankly steal ideas Ė there are footnotes all over the place. Everything from the titular font to the amusingly retro futuristic maps of the quarantined landscape is tipping the hat to Carpenter (as if a character named Carpenter and a one-eyed, leather clad and short on words heroin isnít enough). While the recent spate of remakes all steal the groundwork without little acknowledgement, at least Doomsday
has a sense of history.
By that same token though, Neil Marshall may as well be an archeologist for his non-stop mining of artifacts from apocalypse films of yore. Thereís not a terrible amount of new here, and not even buckets (and truckloads is more like it here) of gore can really mask that fact. The blues and greens that fill in the city are right from Dean Cundey, and the shutter speed is right out of 28 Days Later
. Mix in the evolutionary cure to save humanity from I am Legend
, and, well, thatís that.
Initially the film promises some ripe social commentary with the way the epidemic is handled, but Marshall quickly abandons all thought once the premise has been established, preferring instead to load up the action and spray on the gore. No death is robbed its time in the graphic spotlight Ė even a rabbit gets the shit blown out of him. The gore is fun for awhile, but when it becomes clear that itís the meat and potatoes it makes you wish for a heap of subtlety from Escape From New York
. Marshall took everything else from that, so how could he miss it?
moves at a good clip, and while itís lean on originality and anemic on substance, its nostalgia for Escape From New York
and the whole apocalyptic template means it will likely be a lot better than the Snake Plisken reimaging due out in 2009. Itís a decent way to blast through a couple hours, but it will be Escape From New York
that youíll be remembering afterwards.
Doom and gloom here with this unsatisfying 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are interlacing artifacts abound, looking as if it were taken from a PAL source. The transfer has a soft look and never quite dazzles the way the stylish cinematography should. The print is pristine and the colors are good, but again, in this day and age for modern film, thereís really no excuse for any flaws. For modern horror films, this is the weakest transfer Iíve seen in a long while.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track packs a lot more punch than the visuals. Discrete effects are pretty minimal, but thereís a very rich soundscape with deep bass and a variety of levels. The sound pyrotechnics never get in the way of the dialogue though, with everything clear and audible.
First off, two versions of the film are included here Ė the 109 minute theatrical cut and the messier 113 minute unrated cut. If youíre a gore fan, youíll definitely get your moneyís worth with either cut, but the unrated couldnít really get more slimy. Thereís a commentary with Neil Marshall and a bunch of the cast, although the packaging curiously makes no mention of it. It isnít really a lost treasure though, with Marshall doing the bulk of the talking and the actors just sort of watching. Thereís a lot of lulls and not a lot of information that isnít already covered in the better featurettes.
The making-of runs just shy of 20-minutes, and gives a pretty good overview of the entire production. None of the interviews are particularly insightful or interesting, but the bevy of behind the scenes and on-set footage is definitely a big plus. Thereís a good mix of talking heads, set footage, storyboards and comparisons to make this an interesting window into the film for fans.
The visual effects documentary, by contrast, is filled with really interesting discussion of the craft, and a ton of great comparisons. Virtually every big effect is broken into its different composite components, and each one is shown in stages up to the final product. It just goes to show that thereís a lot more than just shooting a green screen and adding everything else via computer. This documentary proves that in todayís day and age, the computer is more just a tool to blend and enhance a multitude of practical effects. Itís a fascinating nine minutes.
The final featurette details the construction of the machinery in the film, from the cars to the gadgets. They do a good job crafting the footage with drawings and the actual shots from the film, but the material just isnít as interesting as the visual effects. Still, a lot of work went into it, and itís all up there in this featurette. It runs a long 20-minutes.
A nostalgic mash-up of great apocalyptic films past, Neil Marshallís Doomsday
knows how to pay tribute, but doesnít really know anything else. Gory and exciting, even if it doesnít titillate the mind itíll at least pass the time. Universal made a big boo boo with the soft and glitchy interlaced transfer, although itís definitely still watchable. The sound is solid, and the special features, offer a variety of looks into the production. The visual effects piece is the best of its kind, even if everything else is passable. After the insular psychology of The Descent
, Marshall shows here heís more interested in surface thrills, for some thatís doom, and for others thatíll make their day.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - C
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 49 minutes (Theatrical), 1 hour 53 minutes (Unrated)
- Rated R and Unrated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical only)
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Unrated and Theatrical version of the film
- Commentary with director and cast
- Special effects featurette
- Making-of featurette
- Car and weapon construction featurette