Video-game adaptations are consistently among the lowest form of filmed entertainment—neck-and-neck with talking-baby comedies, Ashton Kutcher vehicles, and movies touting the latest x-treme sport craze—but Doom suggests that the real problem may be a lack of fidelity to the source. Introduced in 1993, Doom revolutionized 3D graphics and became the seminal first-person-shooter game, a genre that basically stations players behind a gun in the middle of the screen and lets them blast away at whatever's in sight. A movie with that first-person perspective sounds nauseating, but during its one five-minute gun-cam sequence, Andrzej Bartkowiak's film improbably comes to life, recreating the visceral charge of an old-fashioned demon-blasting session. The rest of the time, it's just another dreary Aliens rip-off.
Not that shooting the entire movie from behind a series of weapons upgrades would have been a good idea, but what other possibilities could a Doom adaptation possibly have to offer? Though it has the obligatory story elements to carry the action from one level to the next, the game is really about skulking around dark corridors, shooting anything that moves. For those purposes, the film casts The Rock as the leader of an elite unit of space marines on a mission to Mars, where scientists from the Union Aerospace Corporation have gotten themselves into a heap of trouble. It seems that while conducting genetic experiments, they've accidentally unleashed a horde of creatures that are running amok through a maze of dimly lit hallways and sewers. The Rock and his team of combatants—roughly sketched as Bible Thumper, Porn Hound, Greenhorn, and other stereotypes—join forces to contain the beasts before they can teleport to other destinations.
A few minor elements from the game make the transition, including an artillery upgrade that hovers in midair and network-style headphone communications that nearly duplicate the experience of having 13-year-old boys shouting obscenities in your ear. Otherwise, Doom plays like a third-generation knock-off, copying Resident Evil copying Aliens, but with nothing remotely equivalent to Milla Jovavich in a high-cut red dress and shitkicker boots. It's of interest mainly to those interested in following The Rock, who follows up his unexpected comic turn as a gay bodyguard in Be Cool with a charismatic performance that simultaneously reinforces and questions his tough-guy image. If he can keep those wandering eyebrows in check, his future as an action hero appears unlimited—that is, provided he can resist taking roles in movies like this one.