With “Dog Soldiers”, Neil Marshall put a humorous and bloody spin on the well-trodden werewolf genre. With “The Descent”, the director delivered an absolutely claustrophobic and terrifying take on the world of cannibalistic backwoods freaks. Now, with his third feature, “Doomsday”, Marshall has his sights set squarely on balls-to-the-wall action and cheeky, blood-soaked fun. This homage to everything from “The Crazies” to “Escape from New York” and “The Road Warrior” plays as the amalgamation of Marshall’s wildest fanboy dreams, and, while Doomsday is a bit on the self-indulgent side, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
The extremely fit Rhona Mitra stars as Lt. Eden Sinclair; a slinky Snake Plissken (she’s even got an eye patch) in a skintight cat suit. Eden must lead a crack team of soldiers and scientists into the wasteland that was Scotland, where the Reaper Virus of thirty years prior was thought to have wiped out the country’s population (but not before the British erected a massive wall to keep the disease on the Scottish side of the border). Now, however, it has come to light that there are survivors – a revelation made all the more important due to the fact that the virus has now manifested itself in the heart of an overcrowded London. Eden’s assignment is to find a cure for the Reaper Virus, and it is believed that Dr. Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell) – the Scottish scientist left to die alongside his countrymen - has developed just such a thing. Of course, the journey to Kane is rife with all manner of detours and distractions, including a cannibalistic crew of post-apocalyptic punkers, Kane’s own medieval army of technophobic brutes, and the very government goons for which she works (save for her direct superior/father figure, Bill Nelson, played by Bob Hoskins’) .
Shamelessly (and blissfully) borrowing from the aforementioned films, Marshall concocts a gleefully violent and sadistically humorous joyride through the genres. There’s never a dull moment as the film doesn’t stop to catch its breath, and, whether she’s blasting away at mohawked cannibal gangbangers or pummeling a knight with a mace, Mitra is the sexiest action star to come along since Kate Beckinsale slipped into the leather body suit for “Underworld” (and, perhaps, it should come as no surprise that Mitra will be succeeding Beckinsale in that series of film’s in-production prequel).
Universal finally throws their cap into the Blu-ray ring and does so with a bang, as Doomsday looks and sounds as gorgeous and fearsome as its kickass heroine, with a crisp and vivid transfer that jumps off of the screen. It’s important to note that the look of Doomsday is as schizophrenic as its storyline, and has a specific look/style for each of its varied locales. The scenes set in future London scream Blade Runner, while the post-virus streets of Glasgow are dark and gritty, with the sparse “moonlight” and streetlamp look of Carpenter’s Escape from New York. The scenes in the wastelands between Glasgow and the wall are pure George Miller, with powder blue skies and dusty brown terrain dissected by black serpentine highways, while Kane’s castle keep is bathed in ominous fog and surrounded in lush forests. I really wasn’t kidding when I said this was an amalgamation of Marshall’s favorites, as this is really like four films in one, and the transfer handles it all wonderfully.
The DTS HD 5.1 audio track is a thunderous beast, with brutal bass and an exceptional surround mix. My only complaint is that it was difficult to hear some dialogue when viewing at what some would consider an “acceptable volume” (ie; my wife), but, on my second viewing with the house to myself, I gave my home theater a vicious workout, and have just come to accept that a film as EXTREME! as this one needs to be watched at extreme volume, naysayers be damned!
Supplemental goodies seem a bit thin on the surface when compared to the standard DVD release, but once you dig into Universal’s U-Control enhanced viewing modes, you’ll see that all of the goodies from that release are here (and then some), presented in a very nifty PiP style interface that sports interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and much more. We also get a rousing commentary by Marshall (and cast members) that is probably funnier than it is deeply informative, but the U-Control viewing modes already offer enough by way of “serious” making-of features and in-depth character/world information to make Marshall and company’s loose and hysterical commentary a more than welcome addition.
While I can’t say this is a movie for everyone, I can say that if you liked any of the films mentioned in this review, you’ll find something to like in Doomsday. While it’s the product of several influences, on the whole it’s actually quite inventive and original in its own right, and deserves to stand proudly amongst Marshall’s already classic other offerings. Universal deserves kudos for giving this little seen gem such a polished and intriguing (I can’t wait to see where they go with the U-Control features!) package. If you like hot babes, fast cars, and bloody action, consider Doomsday one worth adding to your collection!