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Doomsday (unrated widescreen edition)
A US region 1 DVD review by Craig Snell
 

Director Neil Marshall won critical raves and good box office for his previous two films (Dog Soldiers and The Descent) and has been handed a big budget for his latest film, Doomsday (not to be confused with The Asylum film of the same name!!). Marshall proved with his first two directorial efforts that a small budget wouldn't stop his imagination running wild nor would it stop him getting good performances out of newcomers or seasoned veterans. Now Universal, through their genre arm Rogue, have given him a $30 million dollar budget and a plane ticket to South Africa to make his most ambitious project to date. Marshall has assembled a good solid cast and an experienced crew to make what I would like to call 'a film of three thirds'. This I will explain later.

Glasgow in the near future. A virus has began to wipe out its inhabitants, so the only choice the British government has is to quarantine the whole of Scotland and build a containment wall stretching coast to coast to stop anyone getting in and, more importantly, anyone getting out. Cut to some 30 odd years later and during a routine raid London police find decomposed bodies and carriers of the virus. The government are duly concerned and seek the help of police chief Bob Hoskins, who recommends Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) to help a crack military team head back into Scotland and try and find a cure.

The government has continued by satellite to monitor Scotland and it has materialised that during the last few years or so people have been seen on the streets. This proves there are survivors of the virus and possibly a cure. Sinclair, along with her team, go through the wall and head to Glasgow where hopefully they can find scientist Kane (Malcolm McDowell doing his best scary man with beard performance) who was locked behind the wall whilst battling for a cure in the original outbreak. Unfortunately the people they find are not that particularly friendly towards outsiders especially ones from 'over the wall'.

Eden and her team encounter the psychotic Sol and his equally crazy followers. Mind you, being trapped behind a wall and being ravaged by disease and cannibalism would possibly turn you a little mad as well. With some of her team killed and captured by Sol and his cronies Eden must escape to find Kane and his possible cure.

As I mentioned above, Doomsday is a film of three thirds, rather like football is a game of two halves.
The first third of the movie is basically Escape from New York/LA with Mitra portraying a female version of Snake Plissken complete with eye patch. The beginning of the movie with its story of the virus and shutdown is pure Carpenter, complete with computer graphics showing the containment wall. All it needs is Jamie Lee Curtis narrating the story, but we get in this movie Malcolm McDowell instead. The homage goes further with the credits font exactly the same as many of Carpenter's films including Escape from New York. I wonder how many people apart from me noticed that? The second third of the movie, after the nasty cannibalism scene, is almost a medieval epic with the heroes going to Kane's retreat, a Scottish castle in the Highlands. There we have cheering peasant crowds, fights with medieval weapons and Malcolm McDowell looking like Patrick McGoohan in Braveheart. The final third is a Road Warrior/Death Race 2000 homage with a thrilling chase along the roads of Scotland (actually South Africa). This is when Marshall lets rip with spectacular explosions, road carnage and some great gory deaths.

Utilising his usual director of photography Sam McCurdy, Marshall uses the full width of the widescreen image well. We have some terrific crowd scenes, in particular in Sol's lair, and also during the chase scenes. The make-up effects rely mainly on prosthetics and only use CGI to enhance them, such as a beheading, of which there are quite a few. The cannibal scene as I said is quite nasty and quite a surprise in a studio picture, brave move Universal. Brian Tyler's music is suitably woven into the film and enhances all the necessary scenes to maximum effect. Tyler is getting to be a reliable hand at film scores and I feel can only get better. Hey, if David Arnold leaves 007 behind, get this chap on board. Marshall also proves his love of 80's music with some great classics from that era – Adam and the Ants anyone?

Making the film in South Africa (and some location work in Scotland) has obviously pushed the budget further. There is some excellent matte work for the ruins of Glasgow and inspired production design for Sol's lair, complete with henchmen's looks borrowed from all kinds of sources ranging from the Mad Max movies, punk rockers from the seventies and face make-up looking a little like Umaga the wrestler from the WWE.

Acting wise, we have a mixed bag of thespians. Bob Hoskins plays the Police chief as a cockney Bob Hoskins. No change there but he has such a great presence you can only love the guy. Rhona Mitra proves she is a real good kicker of ass and this movie should hopefully propel her on to greater things. As mentioned, Malcolm McDowell plays his patented scary guy role and overacts with glee. Rounding out the cast is Adrian Lester playing Mitra's second in command and Craig Conway playing chief villain Sol, with one eye winking at the audience and the other eye looking who is next worth killing.

At this point you would think, hey this guy loves this movie and you would be right. There is plenty in Doomsday to enjoy but also a fair bit to have a little whinge at. Mainly due to the silly plot developments such as the obvious 'daughter of main bad guy plot' and the fact that a Bentley can be in storage for thirty years in a mine and start up first time. Aside from these little niggles it is very entertaining if a little gory and violent, so stay away if blood and guts isn't your thing.

sound and vision

A beautiful widescreen image with deep blacks and good skin tones. The ruins of Glasgow look fantastic on a nice big LCD TV but I would imagine lose its impact on anything smaller than 32 inches. Saying that the DVD presentation is superb, one would assume the Blu-ray disc is even better.

The 5.1 mix is suitably aggressive during the action scenes, atmospheric during crowd scenes and nice little surround touches in the 'quieter' scenes. Overall, a very nice sound presentation. My speakers loved it.

extra features

Anatomy of Catastrophe (17:23)
The Visual Effects and Wizardry of Doomsday
(8:32)
Devices of Death
(20:09)
Three excellent featurettes featuring all processes of the film making process. The first documentary is your standard 'making of' but features interesting interviews with various crew members and good behind the scenes footage.

The visual effects are admirably covered with good old fashioned make up effects and CGI being given equal attention.

Finally, Devices of Death covers the kinds of weapons used in the movie.

Commentary
Neil Marshall is joined by various members of the cast and the commentary is a nice discussion amongst people who obviously get along. As with his other commentaries Marshall has certainly embraced the medium.

Theatrical Version
What's the point when you have the unrated version which is around 4 minutes longer?

summary

A Big budget B movie that doesn't care it's silly and violent. Brilliantly entertaining, my only regret is that I never saw it on the big screen.

It would appear that the UK region 2 disc is the same as this US region 1 release, complete with the two alternative versions (with a slight running time alteration due to PAL speed-up).

Doomsday

UK/South Africa
2008
113 mins
director
Neil Marshall
starring
Rhona Mitra
Bob Hoskins
Adrian Lester
Sean Pertwee
Malcolm McDowell

DVD details
region 0
video
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby 5.1 surround
languages
English
Spanish (R rated version)
subtitles
English
Spanish
French
extras
3 featurettes
Commentary
Theatrical version
distributor
Rogue Pictures / Universal
release date
29 July 2008
review posted
27 August 2008


Related Review
Doomsday cinema review by Lord Summersile