MARCH 15, 2008
The first time I ever got a letter printed in Fangoria was a big deal to me, and the fact that it was about my idol, John Carpenter, made it all the more special. In particular, the letter concerned Escape From LA, which was just released at the time. In the letter, I bemoaned how the film was identical to the first film in just about every way possible, yet it was STILL a fun movie (and remains Carpenter's last worthwhile film). Well, now it's 12 years later, and I could be writing the exact same letter for Neil Marshall's Doomsday.
Like LA, Doomsday is, for all intents and purposes, a remake of Escape From New York. A tough as nails anti-hero (who has a missing eye) is sent into a walled off city in order to locate someone, and is met with heavy resistance from the assorted survivors living inside. The character also has to fight in a gladiator deathmatch, repeatedly ask for cigarettes, and use a recording in order to bring down a high ranking official who is using less than admirable tactics to promote his career. Hell, Marshall even restages the "this is how the wall works" computer image sequence from Carpenter's film, followed by a shot of a guy walking up to and then looking over said wall. And even the fucking FONT is the same!!!
Luckily, Marshall isn't limited to "homaging" just Carpenter. Along the way, we are treated to chunks of Road Warrior, Aliens, Apocalypto (...wow), 28 Days Later, and I swear to Christ, a bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If there is a single scene in this movie that wasn't done in another film, I didn't catch it.
And yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's fun as hell. If Carpenter can remake NY as a sequel, why can't Marshall remake it as an homage, along with a few of his other favorite movies? If NY is a bag of Doritos, Road Warrior is a bag of Cheet-Os, and Aliens is a bag of pretzels, then Doomsday is a bag of Munchies, offering equally delicious samples of all the items while not really being its own thing. And, I might add, that is the worst metaphor available on the internet.
Some might not consider it horror, but I think it qualifies (certainly moreso than the other Post-Apoc movies I've watched recently). The first few good guys that are killed are done so in a very horror-ish manner (axe to the head, throat slit, arrow to the throat...). This is a very gory movie, with guys getting run over, beheaded, etc. in every action scene (and there are a lot of those).
Another plus - as great as Kurt Russell is, there's just something more visually appealing in Rhona Mitra. She's ripping off Beckinsale from Underworld as much as she can, but it fits the rest of the film. The rest of the acting is fine, with Sean Pertwee in a small role and Bob Hoskins as Mitra's father figure as two highlights. Malcolm McDowell, in his second Carpenter remake in a row, narrates the backstory/exposition in the first 10 minutes of the film (if it was in text form it would be longer than the one in Alone In The Dark - I am not joking), but his actual character doesn't show up until the 3rd act, and he's sort of useless. Perhaps it was edited, but his character isn't even given a closure, which is kind of odd when the first hour of the film is all about finding him.
I would also like to point out Tyler Bates' top notch score. It's like a Carpenter score crossed with Bruckheimer-ish bombast, and I loved every minute of it. I hope it's released on CD. I also highly recommend seeing the film in a well designed theater with quality digital sound - the sound mix as a whole is the best I've heard all year. Let's hope Universal figures out how to make Blu-Ray DVDs by the time this hits home video (which sadly won't be too long, judging from the film's dismal performance this weekend).
However, fun is just that: fun. It's still a bit of a disappointment from Marshall, since his previous two films are among the best in their respective sub-genres. Hopefully this was just him having a bit of fun as well, and his next film lives up to his potential. Anyone can copy/paste great scenes/plot elements and make a fun movie out of it, but Marshall has shown he can do a LOT more.
What say you?