Thursday, June 12, 2008


“It’s human nature to seek even the smallest comfort in reason or logic for events as catastrophic as these. But a virus doesn’t choose a time or place. It doesn’t hate, or even care.
“It just happens.”

That bit of voice-over, courtesy of the one and only Malcolm McDowell, helps kick off Neil Marshall’s third feature, Doomsday.
With streaks of Escape From New York, Aliens, and Mad Max storming through it, Doomsday could admittedly have been a spot of fun, if only, A) like Marshall’s debut, Dog Soldiers, it didn’t feel so damned derivative, and B) I didn’t know it was also from the man who gave me the crackling, claustrophobic intensity of The Descent.

On April 3, 2008, the Reaper Virus spreads across Glasgow, its devastating effects leading up to Scotland’s quarantine, and an impregnable wall being put into place some two and a half months later, isolating the hot zone, and leaving the unfortunate—infected or otherwise—to their own miserable devices.
It’s in this opening sequence where we see the traumatic childhood events that get little Eden Sinclair (Christine Tomlinson) out of Scotland, and turn her into the bad-a$$, eye patch-wearing Major (Skinwalkers’ Rhona Mitra) we see 27 years later.
It isn’t long though before a potentially catastrophic turn of events sends Eden back over the wall, the fate of what’s left of England, in her rough and ready hands.

Now, despite some bits that may recall more recent fare as 28 Days Later (only in so far as seeing the disastrous effects of a virulent outbreak hit England, hard; sorry, no speedy, pseudo-zombies here), Doomsday is very much a nod to the cinematic brand of ‘80’s post-apocalyptic action, where the taciturn hero—whether he be named Gibson, Russell, or Van Damme—travels through a blasted land where technology and civilization have gone the way of the dodo, and the law of the land would make Darwin both proud and suitably horrified.
There are the blatant Road Warrior bits, of course; there are the explosive moments of bloody gore; there are even a number of ‘80’s tunes you may recall from your wayward youth (that is, if you, like me, lived through that fashion-challenged age of hairspray and shoulder pads).
All of this is fun, yes, and there’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but somehow, Eden doesn’t make a very magnetic protagonist. Sure, she’s got the eye patch, and she’s certainly easier on the eyes than Kurt Russell, but she’s definitely no Snake Plissken. There simply isn’t enough mystery or intrigue surrounding the character to make her interesting enough to keep the audience focused and invested in the on-screen goings-on.

And whether this is fair or not, on the heels of The Descent, Doomsday is a disappointment, at least to me. As I recall, I believe I had a better time watching Dog Soldiers.
For all its shortcomings, Dog Soldiers was a much smaller and modest production than Doomsday, and given that it was Marshall’s first feature out of the gate, it showed tremendous promise, promise that was fulfilled with apparently impudent ease in The Descent.
To return with a film that revisits decades-old material without actually working to revise or reimagine it seems such a missed opportunity, it both disappoints and hurts. Not even the presence of Bob Hoskins (as Eden’s superior, Bill Nelson), and the aforementioned McDowell (as Kane), does much to liven up the achingly familiar party.
Tragically, Doomsday doesn’t even achieve the level of derivative fun which can be found in Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy or David Twohy’s Pitch Black. Instead, it just seems to cycle through a whole load of bits and (set)pieces we’ve all seen—and enjoyed much more immensely—before.

I am so terribly sorry, Mr. Marshall.
I wanted to love this, but ultimately, the best I can say is, It had its moments, and it was much better than Mitra’s other recent genre effort, Skinwalkers (review in Archive), but it just didn’t rev my engine.
I do look forward to Sacrilege, though. I mean, in your own words, “… Unforgiven by way of H.P. Lovecraft”; I am so there. Hopefully that will knock me back on my a$$, where The Descent left me.
(And yes, I realize Drive will probably come barreling my way first, but I’m not entirely sold on that one at the moment… Again, sorry about that.)

Parting shot: I will be there for The Descent 2 though, Mr. Marshall, despite your absence at the helm.
I can’t say I’m even actually thrilled with the idea of a follow-up to The Descent’s brilliance, much less the impending reality, but I am curious to see Jon Harris move from the editing bay to the director’s chair.
(Harris has edited Snatch., Stardust, as well as The Descent, to name a few, so seeing what he can bring to the table as a director, that should be something to see…)

(Doomsday UK quad courtesy of; images courtesy of

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