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The quarantine/virus action-pic Doomsday unfolds with no serious political message or intent. The anti-government stance of this oppressed civilization is now so familiar from myriad genre movies---Land of the Dead (2005), 28 Weeks Later (2007)--- that writer and director Neil Marshall---The Descent (2005)---would rather just get down to business. For him, this means pillaging his influences.

At first, Doomsday draws on a mix of John Carpenter’s ’80s-aesthetic and James Cameron’s military fetishism and female empowerment. Then it widens, referencing Walter Hill, Sam Raimi and George Romero. He’s so excited to showcase movies he loves that he loses sight of his own film.

Doomsday, though, surpasses mere copying because of the direction. Action scenes have a charge that will thrill its readymade audience more successfully than, say, last year’s The Mist. With too-obvious influences obscuring the story, the characters appear even more wooden. One-eyed (just like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York) specialist cop Eden (Rhona Mitra) is sent into disease-ravaged Glasgow to find a cure. But there’s nothing to her beyond pretty looks and tough scowls. The Mad Max-punk-styled villains irritate rather than threaten. 

As Marshall’s aesthetic memory for other movies is sharper than his ear for dialogue, the film wears down every time it steps out of violent overdrive. When we meet a brilliant doctor (Malcolm McDowell) who lives in his own fully functioning medieval kingdom, Marshall imagines him in such cliched terms that it’s possible to guess every other line. He actually finds it necessary to qualify “natural selection” with “survival of the fittest,” for example.

These conventions are what the hyper-reprocessed Doomsday is all about. They also signal its annoyance: It’s been deliberately crafted to reach for cult-hit status.


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