Review: Doomsday (2008)

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Doomsday (2008). Director: Neil Marshall. Cast: Rhona Mitra, Malcolm McDowell.

I like a good apocalypse as much as the next person, and I didn’t expect Shakespeare when I sat down to watch Doomsday, but I didn’t quite expect the ball of crapola I got, especially when I thought the concept was pretty decent: a modern-day Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian’s Wall has fascinated me since I learned about it, via some Roman history books. It was, like the name implies, a hunk of wall in the north of England which was set up to serve as a defense line against bands of raiders.

In Doomsday, a new, high-tech wall has been erected after the outbreak of a deadly virus in Glasgow, to try and stop the threat of infection. It seems to do the trick until, a few decades later, the virus resurfaces in London. Enter Eden Sinclair, our heroine, tasked with going across the wall and finding a cure for the virus, which might be in the hands of Dr. Kane, a researcher who got left behind the wall. You see, the folks in London thought Glasgow was deserted, but they have recently taken photos via satellite which show people walking about, and they figure if there are people, Kane must have found a cure. Or something like that. I’m probably making too much logical sense in this explanation, based on what the movie gives us.

Until the point when Eden goes across the wall, what we have is a regular sci-fi flick. It’s not great and it’s not awful. It’s bland, but at least it seems to have an OK budget and effects. Kane is your stereotypical, 21st-century action girl, virtually cloned from the bodies of the Underworld chick and Mia Jovovich. There’s nothing new here, but again, that could be forgiven if the final product were all right.

However, after Eden crosses the wall, anything that was ho-hum about this flick turns into an outright stinker. First of all, Eden discovers that the survivors in Glasgow have turned into cannibalistic extras from Mad Max. It doesn’t make much sense that everyone suddenly developed a pseudo-punk aesthetic, as opposed to, say, wearing burlap sacs, but I’m willing to overlook that because it makes even less sense that these folks are cannibals. Why? Because just after Eden crosses the wall, her armoured vehicle finds itself in the middle of a huge field filled with cows. So, there are hundreds of cows (and other wildlife, including rabbits) running around, but in Glasgow, people have turned into cannibals instead of having a cow. Or developing agriculture. This is exactly what pisses me off about apocalypse films that don’t develop their universes and are super-lazy: it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

So, it’s a Mad Max clone with a stupid villain. Mad Max had the decency to give us Tina Turner, but this flick gives us some bald dude who is supposed to be super-bad, but who was mega-boring. As boring as the gory action sequences.
But don’t worry! If you don’t like references to 80s science fiction films, Doomsday has you covered, because next thing you know, Eden stumbles onto another band of survivors, but these guys live in a castle and dress and act as though they were at Ye Olde Reinassance Fair. Aside from that, they are as stupid and barbaric as the punks, but they are led by Malcom McDowell AKA Dr. Kane, so I guess that’s a bit of an improvement. Once again, this does not make a lick of sense, but at least a post-apocalyptic society modeled after the Middle Ages is slightly more logical, because these guys bake bread instead of engaging in random cannibalism.

The director of Doomsday said he was trying to make an homage to 70s and 80s science fiction cinema, and creating a movie for a generation that might have never seen those films. I’ve got news for you folks: stick to the oldies. Mad Max and Escape from New York may look their age, but they had originality and energy, something which cannot be said for this flick.

Doomsday is available from Amazon.com