From Game to Film: Doom
When it comes to first-person shooter games, there’s none more iconic than Doom. First released for MS-DOS in 1993, the title has become one of the most influential in the history of shooters. Since then, it has become a bit of a joke online; if a device can turn on, it must be seen if Doom can run on it.
It was only fitting that Hollywood take this iconic gore-fest and turn it into a big budget film. Given it was the early 2000s, it made the most sense to put The Rock in a co-lead role.
With a Tomato rating of 19%, it’s clear audiences didn’t give the film version of Doom the same love the game has received for the last several decades, but the question remains: how closely did the filmmakers stick to the source material?
The Doom franchise has always been known for its emphasis on gameplay versus story. The developers of the game kept the story simple. In Doom, you play as a Marine sent to a UAC base to fight a hoard of demons from Hell. Your journey takes you to the shores of Hell and back again. Text screens that occur at the end of each episode present the story, rather than cutscenes.
From the moment Doom was released, the series featured a focus on action and horror, pitting the series unnamed protagonist, known by fans as “Doomguy”, against Imps, Demons, Zombies, Barons of Hell, and more. The games were bloody and, for the time, brutal.
The first several installments of the franchise used sprite-based graphics in “3D” environments, not unlike the game Wolfenstein 3D to create the foundation for shooters as we know them today. The franchise held this style up until the release of Doom 3 in 2004.
With the release of Doom 3, the series switched over to fully 3D models and environments with more of an emphasis on the horror aspect of the game. The enemies of the previous games were all there, but their looks had altered drastically, in some cases looking nothing like what a gamer from the nineties would remember.
With Doom being a Hollywood film, it was important that a proper story be presented. The approach is contrary to that of the games, which takes a more barebones route. David Callaham and Wesley Strick wrote the screenplay. From what I can tell, they’re both capable screenwriters with some impressive credits to their name, yet I question how much research they actually put into the franchise prior to crafting the script.
It’s at the point of the actual story that the film takes amazing strides to show that it is a very loose adaptation of the video game. While the story of the games involve actual monsters from Hell overrunning a military base on Mars, the film pulls that element completely, with the monsters now being the product of genetic engineering.
While the Doom franchise offers more in the way of enemies than actual fleshed out characters, it’s very obvious that the films primary inspiration is Doom 3. The earliest titles had the monsters in the game look crazy and out of this world. This film takes a more down to Earth approach as seen in the 2004 installment.
As far as the breadth of the enemies is concerned, there’s only a handful that made the transition to film. Imps, Hell Knights, Zombies, and even a Pinky demon are present, but that’s where the guest list ends. Classic enemies like the Baron of Hell, Cacodemon, and Lost Souls are all missing here.
It’s also very hard to have a film without a proper protagonist. To solve this issue, the filmmakers took Doomguy and gave him a name and identity. Doomguy’s name is now John Grimm (Karl Urban) and his complementary commanding officer is Sarge (The Rock). While The Rock’s performance isn’t bad, I didn’t really care much for the character. Actually, I didn’t care for any of the other marines either. I’d much rather have seen John Grimm go on a solo adventure for this one.
The Doom games aren’t about group exploration and that’s something that should have been taken into account from the beginning of production. The aspect of isolation that the early games leveraged to give the game a horror feel is completely missing here. In a way, it feels like a disservice to the franchise’s fans.
One thing that the filmmakers did bring over, which is essential to any piece of Doom media, is the BFG. The film refers to it as a Bio Force Gun. In a moment of fan service, The Rock drops the gun’s true name. The BFG is as important as any character the film could offer and its absence would be dire to fans.
So the question is, how closely did the filmmakers stick to the source material? The answer: Not very. The film contains a handful of references to the games that suggesting a passing knowledge of the series’ universe. Doom has very little tying it to the brainchild of John Carmack and John Romero. Truth be told, the deeper I dived into the film, the more I thought it felt like the perfect template for a Resident Evil movie.
Looking at the film from the perspective of a fan of the Doom games, do I understand why the film is unloved? Absolutely.
With that in mind, I don’t think the movie is terrible if viewed from a different angle. Despite being called Doom, the film can be more enjoyable than critics gave it credit for, if only by mentally disconnecting it from the source material. As a video game movie, it’s a bit of a disaster. If you view the film as a science fiction popcorn movie, its actually a lot of fun.
What did you think of the movie Doom? Let us know down in the comments below. While you’re at it, click here to see just how well Mortal Kombat sticks to its video game roots!