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Doomsday (2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/29/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/26/2008

Is it me, or is it becoming quite difficult to tell where one movie ends and another begins? With all of the remakes and "re-imaginings" that we see these days, it often feels as if one movie is simply copying another. Sure, it's rare to see a truly original film, but the sense of "Haven't I seen all of this before?" can be truly overwhelming at times. I'm sure that filmmaker Neil Marshall would claim that his movie Doomsday is simply a homage to the great action films of the 80s. However, homage and unintentional remake are two different things.

Doomsday opens in 2008, where we learn that a plague, known as "The Reaper Virus", spread through Glasgow, Scotland, decimating the population. In order to contain the virus, the British government erected an 80-mile long steel wall along the Scottish border and completely sealed off that part of the country. No one is allowed in or out, the seas are mined, and no planes can fly over the area. The story then leaps ahead to the year 2035. London is a dirty and crowded place, and due to the virus, much of the world has severed ties with England. Police administrator Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins) is informed that satellites have detected a human presence north of the wall. Therefore, the assumption is that a cure has been found for the virus. At this same time, the virus suddenly resurfaces in London. Nelson is ordered to assemble a team to travel to the ruins of Glasgow and search for a vaccine. Nelson puts Major Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), a tough woman with an electric glass eye, in charge of the mission. They have just 72 hours in which to complete it. Little do they know that Scotland has become a dangerous and savage place.

When I first learned of Doomsday, I was intrigued. Writer/director Neil Marshall’s first film Dog Soldiers had been campy, but entertaining, but his second film, The Descent, is one of the most frightening movies of the last decade. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it right now.) So, I was interested to see what Marshall would do next. But, when I saw the trailer, the film looked somewhat like The Road Warrior. Well, as it turns out, I was half right. Some of the film looks like The Road Warrior, but the remainder looks exactly like Escape from New York.

And when I say exactly, I mean, “Hmm...I’d heard that a remake of Escape from New York was being considered, but it looks like Marshall beat them to it.” exactly. The two films share too many commonalities to be ignored; Both open with narration explanation the situation; both then cut to computer animation showing where a wall has been built around an island; both have seas that are mined; both have main characters with an eye patch; Sinclair has a countdown watch, just like Snakes; both have punk-looking savages; both have men dressed as women dancing on-stage (although, to be fair, in Doomsday, the men are wearing kilts); in both the main character is captured and forced to fight a champion; in Escape from New York, Snake was looking for “Brain”, here, Sinclair is looking for Kane. Even the font in the opening credits is the same! Escape from New York is one of my favorite films and I sat there watching this movie thinking, “Does John Carpenter know about this?” (There’s a character in the film named Carpenter, so there’s another nod.) Again, a homage is one thing, but a note-for-note copy is something else entirely. And, as noted above, once the movie stops being Escape from New York, it becomes The Road Warrior.

All of this could be seen to imply that Marshall is lazy, but that clearly isn’t the case. Doomsday is his biggest film thus far and in the audio commentary, he talks about he worried about working with scenes involving huge crowds. The movie features huge sets, special effects shots, tons of stunts, and a long car chase. All of this is well-staged and executed. The action scenes are very well-done and the crew has done a great job of making the scenery look old or, in places, medieval. So, Doomsday is no cheapy (it cost an reported $30 million) and it’s clear that Marshall and co. put a lot of work into making the film.

And yet, it’s impossible for me to look at the movie and not see a rip-off. (I didn’t even mention the fact that Mitra’s outfit makes her resemble Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld films.) This is one of those films which one might enjoy if they've never seen another action film set in a nihilistic future. Because, again, the movie is well-made. But, any sci-fi/action fan worth their salt is going to compile a comparison list like the one I've made above, and once the action has passed, never give this film another thought...or pop in Escape from New York.

Doomsday goes over the wall on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear here, as the picture shows very little grain and there are no defects from the source material. (And most of that grain comes in shots which look very processed or like stock footage.) The picture has a very nice amount of detail and the depth on the landscape shots (in the finale) are amazing. The skintones look good and the colors are realistic. Much of the film takes place at night, but the image is never overly dark. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is yet another spectacular audio offering from Universal. Nearly every sound comes forth in great detail here. The stereo effects are great and certainly accent the scenes in which the team is first exploring Glasgow -- we hear every off-screen noise. The surround sound is excellent as well and every action scene produces an extraordinary amount of rear-speaker action. We feel engulfed in every scene. Subwoofer effects are abundant as well, and the explosions rock the room. As I've said before, these Universal Blu-ray Discs are making me wag my finger in shame at other companies.

The Doomsday Blu-ray Disc contains only two official extras. We have an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director Neil Marshall and cast members Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden, and Les Simpson. This is certainly a casual talk, as all three actors have worked with Marshall before, and it's clear that they are buddies. Marshall certainly has enthusiasm for the project and he delivers a good amount of scene specific comments. However, comments such as "...(this is) an obvious wink to Snake Plissken" had me rolling my eyes. The other extra is the U-Control feature, which has three options. "Reaper Files" gives us detailed information about the characters and the situations in the film. "Tech Specs" gives information on the military weapons and special gadgets in the film. "Picture in Picture" provides behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of certain scenes, and some comments from the cast and crew. These options can be chosen while watching the film, or you can go directly to them from the U-Control menu. Each of these options is pretty cool and gives some detailed info, but you wouldn't want to use them while watching the film for the first time.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long