Doomsday

DoomsdaySynopsis: Mankind Has An Expiration Date

 From the director of The Descent comes an action-packed thrill ride through the beating heart of hell! To save humanity from an epidemic, an elite fighting unit must battle to find a cure in a post-apocalyptic zone controlled by a society of murderous renegades. Loaded with ferocious fights and high-octane chases, Doomsday grabs you right from the start and doesn’t let go till its explosive end!

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Doomsday 7.5

eyelights: the concept. the unusual mix of modern and medieval worlds.
eyesores: the expressionless leading actress. the lead’s gimmicky eye.

Hmmmm… there’s not much that I can say about this one other than it’s a decent post-apocalyptic action piece.

It takes place in the United Kingdom, in 2035, and in the aftermath of a massive plague in Scotland, one that has now suddenly started to spread. Aware that survivors have been popping up in Scotland, the British government decides to send a team into the hot zone to bring one back, in the hope of being able to create an anti-virus.

Their key player is Eden Sinclair, a rare survivor of the plague. Now a grown adult, she lost her mother during the escape from Scotland – and also lost the use of her right eye. She has since become a key government operative, a tough-as-nuts agent as fierce as she is lethal. Her personal incentive for going on this extremely risky mission: she may be able to go home, so to speak, if only for a little while.

The problem is that, in the 30 years since the plague, whatever civilization that was left in Scotland has gone medieval: there is no or little power to speak of, life has become very rudimentary, and gangs of savage cannibals tear at each other ceaselessly. Finding the one man, a holed-up Scott scientist, who was trying to find a cure, will no doubt prove difficult in that mess.

I didn’t make the connection with John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’, but it appears that writer-director Neil Marshall had this in mind, as well as George Romero’s oeuvre, when he put together ‘Doomsday’. I can see it now, between the completely isolated, cordoned off Scotland and the nasty infected people, the influences are almost self-evident.

He apparently designed Eden with Snake Plissken (from ‘Escape’) as a blueprint, going even so far as to give her an eyepatch. Personally, I never found Snake Plissken that intriguing, but I found Eden even less so. She was totally emotionless and displayed absolutely no interesting characteristics beyond her tenacity and ability to fight – she certainly didn’t feel remotely human and I couldn’t empathize with her.

Furthermore, her action sequences defied all reason – not because Marshall created implausible scenarios per se, but because Eden is a puny, unmuscular woman who displayed toughness in only her face. Every time that she was matched up with a huge, violent opponent, I didn’t believe that she could stand her ground – their blows alone would send her flying. But, for example, despite taking hits from a ball and chain in the face, she never seemed to sustain injuries.

Anyway, all this to say that, as a central character she was uninteresting and unbelievable. At least Plissken had his moments, if only by cracking wise from time to time. It didn’t prevent him from being dull, but at least he was saved from one-note Hell. Eden was apparently originally written to utter one-liners, but Marshall decided to toughen her up. A shame, really – she needed more than one dimension.

The rest of the cast is quite decent, given the medium – this type of film would normally attract bottom of the barrel or largely unknowns to a casting call. Marshall was able to attract Bob Hoskins and Malcolm MacDowell, who both served up some very good performances indeed – Hoskins as Eden’s boss, and MacDowell as the scientist she is trying to track down.

(Marshall had wanted to get Sean Connery for the MacDowell’s part, Kane, but couldn’t convince him to come out of retirement. Too bad – that would have been quite a coup!)

‘Doomsday’ is a no-holds-barred actioner. Right from the onset, Marshall lets us know that anything can happen by letting everything that can go wrong, get progressively worse. Personally, I was impressed by this, and the way in which he did it, because it made our characters seem vulnerable for the rest of the picture – until I saw Eden take blows that would have felled Schwarzenegger in his prime, that is. Then I was less concerned for her safety.

Nonetheless Marshall gives us a lot of well-conceived action pieces and mixes it with somewhat realistic situations, which makes it all the more enjoyable. It doesn’t get too outrageous, and the many pitfalls on our team’s journey make complete sense in a context such as a society gone primitive. Marshall based his ideas on ‘Children of Men’, ‘Excalibur’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Mad Max’, ‘The Omega Man’, ‘The Warriors‘, ‘Waterworld’, amongst others, and he could have done a lot worse.

All told, it makes of ‘Doomsday’ a satisfying action film. It may seem slightly déjà vu, culling its ideas from a variety of sources, but it cobbles them together expertly and offers a modern take on a genre that hit its peak in the early ’80s. It’s not momentous and it’s not unforgettable, but it’s a solid piece – and it’s superior to most of the films it emulates/pays homage to. ‘Doomsday’ is not nearly as entrancing as ‘Dog Soldiers’ or ‘The Descent‘ were, and I wouldn’t say that Neil Marshall can do no wrong, but let’s just say that I’m an avowed fan.

Date of viewing: January 8, 2013

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