Apr 6, 2012

[Movies] Doomsday (2008)

Long bus rides across the provinces here in the Philippines inevitably mean a movie playing on the tiny screen inside the bus. And in our recent trips to Puerto Galera, we seem to catch some fairly interesting movies on the ride home, and in my case movies that I had not yet seen for one reason or another.

This one I honestly had to run a few web searches on in order to figure out what the heck we were watching. The movie had started a few minutes before we had boarded the bus and all I could see was that it was some sort of a post-apocalytic science fiction setting and seemingly at random Bob Hoskins was in the movie too. I mean come on, we all remember his as the guy in the Roger Rabbit movie, but he does show up in some rather interesting movies here and there - and pretty serious ones to boot.

So despite being tired from a one day getaway to the beach, I found myself staying awake just to watch the entire movie as best as I could. It was pretty trippy and I don't exactly expect this to go down as a movie I want to remember for the rest of my life. But ironically enough, it is just one of those sorts of movies that are just so darn hard to forget.

Doomsday is a 2008 science fiction movie set in another dark dystopian future. The movie was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who was the same man behind the disturbing horror movie The Descent.

The British government opts to wall off all of Scotland in order to prevent the spread of something known as the Reaper Virus - a deadly disease that appears to have no known cure and yet is highly infectious. Just before the massive wall is closed off, a desperate mother managers to convince a group of soldiers to take her daughter with them to give her a chance at a better life beyond the wall. We fast forward many years and find out the girl, Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), is a now a Major in the Department of Domestic Security. Her right eye has been replaced with some sort of a camera unit, which she can remove from its socket to use as an early warning device or a recorder.

English actress, model and singer Rhona Mitra ...
While most had assumed the quarantine had been successful and the Reaper virus allowed to die out, a new outbreak of the virus erupts in London, thus putting the government in a delicate situation. Prime Minister John Hatcher (John Siddig) and his primary adviser of sorts Michael Canaris (David O'Hara) then approach Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), the head of the Department of Domestic Security with a critical mission - to send a strike team into Scotland to find a possible cure to the Reaper virus given satellite images reveal there are still survivors inside. As these stories go, Major Sinclair gets selected to lead this team but they're surprised to find that not only are there survivors, but they've formed a completely different society - one that isn't overly friendly.

The movie clearly wanted to pay homage to the B-movie market by tapping into so many different genre concepts. We had an overly violent (and cannibalistic) punk society controlling the city. We had medieval-style knights ruling the countryside (together with Malcolm McDowell no less). And we have big car chases in souped up cars and of course Sinclair being your stereotypical bad ass one-woman army.

The story as a whole was a rather quirky and yet rather involving. Or maybe I was just too bored on that bus trip that the movie seemed far more interesting than it should have been - really hard to say. The notion of excessive government control is always a trope that British science fiction seems to enjoy returning to (we all blame the novel 1984 for this) and I have to admit the notion of walling off the entirety of Scotland (complete with automatic guns and ships patrolling all of its coasts) was pretty out there and fittingly shocking. But then a lot of the rest of the movie just didn't flow all that well.

Maybe the burden lay on the shoulders of Rhona Mitra as the protagonist since her depiction of being cool, calm and collected sometimes bordered on acting like a dead fish or something. And while she had quite a number of cool scenes (and don't get me started on her car for the final car chase), but they just didn't quite carry that sense of power or attitude that you'd expect. And there were some pretty interesting fight scenes and car chases to be sure, but without that hard-to-define X factor beneath the surface of things, well, it just didn't quite come together.

Maybe the movie just wasn't sure where it wanted to be on that spectrum of being a serious undertaking versus being a campy grindhouse piece. We certainly had all the elements to push the story into ridiculous new heights, especially with the likes of Craig Conway really pushing his role as leader of the punk marauders. But then again it kept staying away from that, and even adding in that weird plot line about Sinclair actually wondering about her mother left behind the wall. It could have been poignant but in the end it just didn't quite make sense as to why she'd obsess about going to find her original home even when realizing the chances of her mother's survival were slim to none. And it's not like she truly needed some sense of emotional closure given how strong and confident she otherwise presents herself to be.

In the end, the movie ends on a somewhat confused note with the cheesefest having a suitably violent big violent finish. A big part of me just wants to embrace how campy and often ridiculous a lot of this movie really is and how that's still a guilty pleasure to enjoy. However as a full movie and given the budget behind it, perhaps this wasn't exactly the right way to go about this particular project.

Doomsday is definitely the type of fare best left to bus television units instead of true prime time spotlights. The movie rates a decent enough 2.5 WTF moments of the marauders trying to be as psychotic as possible out of a possible 5.

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