Friday, March 28, 2008

Doomsday (2008)

Whee, cinematic junk food! There's a Twinkie cook book out there where you can make Twinkie Sushi or Twinkie Pigs in a Blanket (just add wieners) and Neil Marshall's Doomsday is like that: a creatively-made, undeniably unoriginal junk food achievement, without substance or nutrition. But as Pauline Kael said, or perhaps it was Julia Child, 'movies are so rarely great art, we must be able to appreciate great trash', and Doomsday is pretty great trash.

Twenty-odd years in the future, British authorities have quarantined a disease-ridden Scotland behind a wall (what took them so long, ba-dum-bump); when the same virulence breaks out in London, hardened cop/hottie Rhona Mitra is sent, Snake Plissken-esque, into the forbidden zone to bring out any hint of a cure that can be found. Director Neil Marshall cherry-picks elements from a bunch of different movies - the basic structure of Escape from New York, the car chase from The Road Warrior, a scene or two from Gladiator, a character archetype from Underworld, London tormented by a disease out of one of the 28 Weeks movies - and gives us a fever dream of post-apocalyptic action. Hell, I knew the movie was going to be fun when I saw the titles were in the John Carpenter font.

This is yet another of the many modern movies cobbled together from parts of other movies, like Hot Fuzz or Superhero Movie or anything made by Quentin Tarantino; what makes Doomsday work is its total lack of pretension, its simple desire to give us decapitations and people roasted alive and then cut into like a Thanksgiving turkey and Malcolm McDowell as a neo-Luddite medieval lord, complete with castle, utilizing maximum technical ability, can be enjoyed as simple pleasure (literally, simple). Marshall sticks with John Carpenter's '70s-era cynicism about government and authority, tempered by a fanboy's adoration of the thrill of geek cinema. Doomsday isn't for all tastes - I always prefer horror-type movies - your mileage may vary, especially because of its high empty-calorie quotient. But for anyone looking for a movie quickie, this is the movie for you (or it was, since it seems to be almost gone from theaters already).



Craig Kennedy said...

I guess the "imple desire to give us decapitations and people roasted alive and then cut into like a Thanksgiving turkey" doesn't appeal to me.

I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from this, but it was more than I got. For me, it was all downhill after the Carpenter font.

It just made me want to watch the real things.

I'm not trying to start an argument here. I chalk it up to people liking different kinds of junk food. For me, Doomsday was like pork rinds: inedible.

Justin Snow said...

I'm glad there's someone else out there who felt the same way I did about Doomsday. Some of the reviews that I read treated it too much like "great art." There's some movies that can't be critiqued that way and this is certainly one of them.

Jeff McMahon said...

Don't worry, Craig, I would never claim that this is a must-see for every cineaste, but as someone who enjoys this type of film, it was a lot of fun. And I also want to make it clear that I'm not someone who gives every geeky action film a pass, as I hated 300 and Aeon Flux. And this movie is also inferior to last year's 28 Weeks Later, which is almost exactly the same movie but with a great deal more thought and artfulness.

Craig Kennedy said...

I know you're not just a fanboy Jeff, it's why I take your reviews of these kinds of things seriously.

We've 'known' each other long enought I think to realize our tastes take different paths, but I always enjoy your take on stuff, even if we disagree.