Doom: Annihilation (2019)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/14/20
Cast: Amy Manson, Dominic Mafham, Luke Allen-Gale, James Weber Brown, Nina Bergman, Jemma Moore, Louis Mandylor

Who would have guessed that "Doom" (2005) would get rebooted as a "girls with guns" movie? It maintains the same "Aliens for dummies" mentality as the original and seems perfectly content with being unambitious and mediocre. Strange matching portals have been discovered in Nevada and Phobos, and Dr. Betruger's (Dominic Mafham) obsession is to unlock their secrets. His initial attempt to transport a live human fails disastrously, so he decides to make the journey himself rather than face his disapproving superiors. But this time, something else comes through the portal and takes the Phobos research facility offline. A small group of UAC space marines are assigned to secure the location and bring it back online, and it's immediately obvious that they're all going to die. The portal is a gate to Hell, and increasingly powerful demons are coming through it in order to reclaim Earth and cleanse it of its human infestation. There's also some drama surrounding why Lt. Joan Dark (Amy Manson) was assigned to the mission, and why the rest of her team dislikes her so much, but it's all tangential and irrelevant. While the action plays out in a mechanically predictable fashion, the surprisingly downbeat ending upends the formula.

Production wise, it's a decent looking film, but the middle tier CGI isn't seamless and betrays the budget. The sets are small and appropriately cramped, but overly sterile and visually uninteresting. I suppose that's to be expected for a top secret research lab. Apart from the whole "demons from Hell invading the world" thread, the central story revolves around Lt. Dark being punished for an earlier crime and her attempts to both redeem herself and regain the trust and respect of her teammates. There's even an awkward and unnecessary love interest thrown in as the scientist assigned to the mission is conveniently her ex-boyfriend. The action is frantic and fast-paced, but the constant gunfire quickly desensitizes you to the repetitive and non-stop killing. The close quarters combat is visually uninteresting and hard to follow due to poor editing. However, Lt. Dark does liven things up at one point by using knives and a chainsaw. Unfortunately, the BFG 9000 plasma rifle looks absolutely ridiculous and can't be taken seriously. As far as a video game adaptation goes, I'm not familiar enough with the material to comment, but even I was able to pick up on several obvious references.

The acting is average at best, but dragged down by bad writing and terrible dialog. Amy Manson does an adequate job, but her character is neither interesting or relatable. Even the manufactured drama around her "dark secret" fails to generate any spark of sympathy or intrigue. She's definitely no Ellen Ripley. That said, even though they fall into the standard "Aliens" archetypes, most of the crew aren't particularly likable, so it's difficult to care about them when they inevitably get taken out. The exceptions are Captain Savage (whose foreshadowed demise is laughably cliché), and the two women: Pvt. Li Chen (Jemma Moore) and Pvt. Carley Corbin (Nina Bergman). Jemma Moore is extremely pretty and has a delightfully fierce and defiant energy. She's arguably the highlight of the film, and unfortunately one of the first to die. Nina Bergman is also quite pretty, although her character is a bit more rough and psychotic. She reminded me of Avril Lavigne with blue hair and a machine gun. While the execution is a bit lacking, I was still immensely pleased to see all three of the female leads in such prominent kick-ass roles, and treated the same as their male counterparts. It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it moderately enjoyable and easy to watch. It aims low and delivers on its modest goals.