Sunday, June 22, 2008

Doomsday (2008)

There's comes a point in DOOMSDAY, Neil Marshall's follow-up to his excellent THE DESCENT, when you have to make a choice. You can either accept what you see on the screen as a film that liberally "borrows" from such 70-80's entertainment like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and THE WARRIORS and ride with it, going with the flow or you can chalk up all the preceding to a hack job and walk out. You can revel in the over-the top action and violence, dialog that sounds like it was directly lifted from some of the above-mentioned films, and an obligatory dance/rave about as embarrassing as you can imagine and call it "loving homage." Or you can pull out the double barrels of movie death (uninspired and unoriginal) and write Marshall off as yet another bright star that all too quickly dimmed.

I'm not about to change your mind in either case. And there's no way I can convince anyone that this is a great movie - it isn't. It doesn't flout convention, make you think, or even really show you anything that you haven't seen before. Besides, anything I could say in defense of DOOMSDAY has already been said in this excellent review by Ron Gonsalves over at Go and read that - it basically goes over all the points I was going to cover after seeing the film last week. Especially the GRINDHOUSE bit at the end...damn you, Gonsalves (damn you to Hell) - that was the one thing I thought I would have to offer up that would have been unique. Because that's precisely what DOOMSDAY offers us - a loving, sincere tribute to the SF/action films that were so popular back when skinny ties and Chess King were the rage at your local mall.

In brief, something called the Reaper virus is infecting the British Isles, killing off thousands of people, forcing England to attempt containment by erecting an enormous wall around Scotland (something I've been advocating for years). 30 years later the virus turns up in London and satellite images show that somehow there are people in Scotland who managed to survive the virus. A crackerjack team led by the delicious Kate Beckinsale clone Rhona Mitra is sent over the wall to find a cure within 48 hours before the Thames is flooded.

Or something like that - the plot gets a little hazy as to why they only have 48 hours. Anyway, over the wall they go to find that not only are there people living in Scotland, but there are two warring factions - one led by Malcolm McDowell, who in the mirror image of his real life lives in a castle and forces everyone to wear armor and/or peasant clothing and basically act medieval. His son commands a band of youths straight out of the ROAD WARRIOR, complete with football gear, mohawks and a penchant for human flesh. Sadly, this familial dichotomy isn't explored in depth - instead it allows Mitra the chance to kick ass in essentially two different films, which is cool in and of itself.

DOOMSDAY gives you everything. There are machine guns, bows and arrows, knights and gladiator fights. Our hero drives a Bentley and has a robot eye that she can take out and record things. Large, obese men dance the can-can. Human beings are eaten, cows are run over, and one innocent bunny is obliterated. Neil Marshall casts a loving eye over a largely forgotten genre and serves up what will be a fun midnight movie 5 years from now.


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