Senior HTF Member
- May 9, 2003
Original Release: 2008
Length: 1 hour 53 mins (Unrated) 1 hour 49 mins (R-Rated)
Genre: Science Fiction Action Thriller
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (both versions)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (R-Rated version)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Commentary
Rating: R, Unrated (Let’s see – Vicious Gratuitous Violence, Cannibalism, Nudity, Language)
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Rating: 1 :star:
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Adrian Lester with David O’Hara and Malcolm McDowell
Written and Directed by: Neil Marshall
Doomsday will likely appeal to many readers of this forum more than it did to me, but I must be honest in my appraisal of this film. Aside from the usually solid performances from Bob Hoskins and a grizzled Malcolm McDowell, there isn’t much to recommend here. It appears that Neil Marshall fashioned his film from his favourite movies of the 1980’s, including Escape From New York, Aliens, and The Road Warrior, with nods to Excalibur, The Warriors, and even the 1970’s epic Damnation Alley. In the year 2035 (as we’re told in titles that match the font and style of Carpenter’s film, complete with Carpenter-esque synth music), our heroine, a one-eyed soldier (c.f. Snake Plissken) is given a one-way mission into quarantined and barricaded Scotland to find a cure for a killer virus. She’s teamed up with a group of soldiers in a pair of low-riding APCs (c.f. our friends from the Sulaco, and the quest for Albany) who almost immediately come to grief from the cannibalistic local gangs (c.f. New York’s crazies, as well as George Miller’s outback gangs). I’ll refrain from discussing any more of the story, but suffice it to say, it all appears to have been lifted from earlier and more effective pictures. I really didn’t see much here that was new or innovative, other than the brutal and shocking violence that pops up every few minutes to punctuate almost every sequence. Fans of Neil Marshall (The Descent) will certainly enjoy the film, as will action fans, but more discerning viewers will easily see the seams and stitches.
Doomsday has been released on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD. The DVD release of the past week includes two versions of the feature film – one being the R-Rated theatrical cut, and an unrated version running 4 minutes longer. I screened the unrated version, which I believe simply contains additional graphic violence past what was already on display in the theatrical cut. The disc also has a scene-specific commentary track with the writer/director, and three featurettes discussing the making of the film. If you’re already a fan of the film, these extras will certainly enhance the package for you. If you’re not a fan, they won’t covert you. As I understand it, the Blu-ray version only contains the unrated cut, so fans looking for the R-Rated version will only find it on the standard-definition DVD.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5 :star: :star: :star: :star:
Doomsday certainly has a terrific transfer going for it. The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture is absolutely solid, including good detailing, even in dark sequences, and solid blacks. Flesh tones look good, although everyone is appropriately dirty and grimy for much of the film.
AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5 :star: :star: :star: :star:
Doomsday is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English for the unrated edition, and 5.1 mixes in English and Spanish for the R-Rated theatrical cut. This is quite an active mix, with atmospheric effects echoing throughout the surround channels, including the requisite gunfire and explosions, but also many directional effects to boot. This is definitely not a sound mix to play late at night at full blast, unless you’re in an isolated house – but it’s great fun to play this in the afternoon. (Either way you’ll get to meet your neighbors, but in the afternoon they’ll already be awake...)
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 ½/5 :star: :star: ½
Doomsday comes with a group commentary and three featurettes discussing the process of making the film.
Feature Commentary by Writer/Director Neil Marshall, with cast members Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson – This scene-specific commentary goes in fits and starts. It’s basically Marshall hanging out with some of the cast members and enjoying the film with them. (He mentions that one of them is seeing the movie for the first time.) When the guys are active, they discuss some details of the production, including various bits of trivia. (Marshall was ill with food poisoning when the production started and had to be wheeled into the set, the cigarette pack seen earlier on has the label “Collapsed Lung”, etc.) There are frequent periods, though, where the guys are just quietly watching the movie before piping back up.
Anatomy of Catastrophe: Civilization on the Brink (17:22, Anamorphic) – This is a standard making-of featurette, including interviews with the key cast members and crew, along with writer/director Neil Marshall, intercut with on-set b-roll footage and clips from the film. There are one or two acknowledgements of the earlier films on which this is based, but the majority of the material here presents this film as a new project. On-set footage includes the act of running over a defenceless dummy with an APC and the rigged jump through a bus by the hero’s car.
The Visual Effects and Wizardry of DOOMSDAY – (8:31, Anamorphic) - This quick featurette examines the CGI and bloody practical effects done to enhance the visuals of the film. We see the usual mix of film clips with the greenscreen set footage and composite elements for some of the bigger explosions and “wow” shots used in the film. There’s also a bit of detail about how to cave in a dummy’s head with a real mace. And there’s footage of how the bus jump was enhanced by fire elements and CGI to generate the climactic explosion.
Devices of Death: Guns, Gadgets and Vehicles of Destruction (20:08, Anamorphic) – This featurette mostly covers the vehicles designed and decorated for use in the film, along with a brief description of the weapons seen onscreen and a few of the hi-tech devices. There’s a lengthy section on the design and construction of the APCs that somehow manages to miss that their design is nearly identical to those seen in Aliens. There’s another lengthy section on the vehicles seen in the climactic road chase, including a skin-covered Jaguar with skulls in the headlamp sockets.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. An unlisted commentary subtitle track in English can be found by using the subtitle function on your remote. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including In Bruges, SNL: The Complete Third Season, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
IN THE END...
Doomsday is not the movie for everyone, or even for this reviewer. But I’m sure it does have fans, who will appreciate the fine audio/video quality and the brace of extras that come with it. For myself, I can’t recommend it. But I recognize there are others who will disagree with me on that score. I’ll leave it to the viewers and readers to make their own determination.
August 3, 2008.