Release Date: March 14th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Neil Marshall Actors: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Alexander Siddig, David O’Hara, Cokey Falkow, Nathalie Boltt, Nora-Jane Noone, Sean Pertwee, Lee-Anne Liebenberg, Craig Conway, MyAnna Buring, Malcolm McDowell
n Scotland in 2008, an epidemic begins, started by a single microscopic organism. The virus wipes out thousands within the first week, quickly spreading and causing mass hysteria. Martial law is initiated to quell the outbreak, while citizens are advised to sit it out and wait for help – which never arrives. After airports, seaports, and borders are closed, an enormous wall is constructed on the England/Scotland border, cutting Britain in half to leave a quarantine zone engulfed in turmoil and chaos. The barricade is a 30 foot high, armored-plated, impenetrable structure manned by snipers, which effectively seals the fates of those on the other side, left to lawlessness, death, and decay.
Years pass, leaving London to politically and socially deteriorate as humanity tries to forget the travesty of the quarantine zone; meanwhile, the city becomes overcrowded and poverty-ridden (and a general dystopia, save for the wealthier officials in charge). By 2035, the government still contends with resurgences of the virus, overwhelming panic and dissension, and the constant implementation of contingency plans. When a satellite picks up the activities of survivors outside the wall – suggesting the existence of a cure, an antidote, or some manner of immunity – Department of Domestic Security attaché Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins) recommends elite soldier Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) for the necessary reconnaissance mission. She’s given 46 hours to investigate, acquire whatever information she can, and return with a cure – or the remnants of London will be doomed.
The special effects – in particular, the gore – are outstanding, especially considering the extensive use of makeup and blood for the more gruesome sequences. Unfortunately, director Neil Marshall (“The Descent,” “Dog Soldiers”), realizing the impressiveness of the visuals, tends to focus more on gratuitous violence and horror movie nastiness (a rabbit is annihilated, a cow run over, human heads explode, throats are slashed, bodies are crushed, and edged weapons are frightfully used at every turn) than character development and plot. The look of the picture is atmospheric and perfectly terrifying, but the eventual clashes and tragedies involve generic soldiers barely worthy of individual names.
Starting their search at the lab where Dr. Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell) was previously experimenting on a cure, the team of explorers in “Doomsday” behaves comparably to the marines in “Aliens” – most noticeably with their overconfidence and unpreparedness. The environments also exhibit similarities to the aforementioned sci-fi epic, followed by familiarly designed vehicles, combat scenes, and static-filled observation cameras. After the initial setup, which follows the premise of “Escape from New York,” the film proceeds to mimic “28 Days Later” and every other zombie flick from the last decade.
Expectedly, story-wise, everything goes wrong, leading to further derivations from countless other movies. Predominantly, the characters and costuming of “The Road Warrior” and the gladiatorial distractions of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (or Snake Plissken’s adventures) are swiped, while elements of swords-and-sorcery, barbarian, and cannibal movies, and hints of Robin Hood, “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Warriors,” “Underworld,” “Waterworld,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” and a seemingly unending list of other titles are tapped for concepts. The problem is that too many disparate ideas are mixed together, causing the tone and visuals to dart wildly across the spectrum of cohesiveness. The music is also ludicrously mismatched. When a knight in black armor rides atop a horse onto the stage (like something straight out of “Army of Darkness”), it’s evident that some time-traveling has occurred, which the audience wasn’t privy to. At least, it’s incredibly fast-paced and full of action (and violence, some of which is so excessive it’s hilarious), even if none of it is unique or united.
– Mike Massie