March 14th, 2008

DOOMSDAY (2008) ****

In the 80’s the Italians made so many rip-offs to Escape from New York and Mad Max that flooded the United States’ video shelves that it caused Congress to pass an official twenty year moratorium on post apocalyptic rip-offs.  (Okay, I know in the 90’s Kevin Costner made Waterworld, which was basically Mad Max on the water AND The Postman, which was basically Mad Max on a horse, but you have to remember at that time Costner was so hot at the box office that he had the authority to pull rank on Capitol Hill and make any damn movie he wanted.)  Now that the government imposed ban has expired, the British are the first ones to get in on the action with Doomsday, a movie that not only rips off Mad Max and Escape from New York, but several other films as well. 


Here’s the plot crunch:  A deadly plague runs rampant in the Scotland of the future.  Since no cure can be found, the British government orders that a wall be erected around the entire country so nobody can get in or out.  Twenty years later, the virus returns, this time in England.  Satellite photos indicate there are still survivors on the other side of the wall which means that they are immune and could possibly represent a cure.  So the Prime Minister sends a sexy gun toting, one-eyed chick named Eden (Rhona Mitra) behind the wall to bring a survivor back alive.  She finds that there are plenty of survivors behind the wall.  The problem is that they are either blood spewing flesh eating crazies who wear their hair in Mohawks and dress in S & M gear who get their kicks by providing spectacles of death OR rejects from a Renaissance festival who wall themselves inside a Medieval Times theme park and like to sling arrows into the peasants.  Luckily, Eden finds a subterranean Hollywood prop department that contains lots of guns and a fast car so she can participate in the thrilling car chase finale set in a barren wasteland where she turns a bunch of bad guys’ vehicles into scrap metal. 


Okay, let’s do a quick rundown on the movies Doomsday rips off from: 


1. Escape from New York:  First off, let’s talk about the font for the opening credits:  EXACTLY THE SAME AS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!  Secondly, when the film’s “futuristic” setting is revealed the word, “NOW” is featured just below it.  EXACTLY THE SAME AS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!  Third, there’s the one-eye hero running around fighting crazies who wear their hair in Mohawks and dress in S & M gear who get their kicks by providing spectacles of death inside a decaying futuristic walled in city.  EXACTLY THE SAME AS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!  Fourth, in the opening credits the audience is provided with a handy map of said walled in city.  EXACTLY THE SAME AS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!  Finally, our hero completes his/her mission but ends up screwing the bureaucratic assholes who hired him/her.  EXACTLY THE SAME AS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!  Whew!


2. Mad Max:  A rouge cop fights post apocalyptic crazies who wear their hair in Mohawks and dress in S & M gear who get their kicks by providing spectacles of death and pass it off as “entertainment”.  JUST LIKE IN MAD MAX!  We also get the thrilling car chases across a barren wasteland where the hero turns a bunch of bad guys’ vehicles into scrap metal.  JUST LIKE IN MAD MAX!   


3. 28 Days Later:  A virus turns people into blood spewing flesh eating crazies.  CHECK.  The government walls up the city to contain them.  GOTCHA. 


4. Resident Evil:  A sexy gun toting heroine fights blood spewing flesh eating crazies in a walled in city.  AWFULLY SIMILAR. 


5. Underworld:  A sexy gun toting British heroine in skintight black leather shoots a lot of people.  COINCIDENCE? 


6. Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves:  A bunch of medieval dudes on horsebacks shooting arrows into peasants.  GEE… WONDER WHERE I SAW THAT BEFORE.


7. Knightriders:  A bitter, withdrawn patriarch tries to start society anew by creating a Medieval setting where guys in suits of armor ride motorcycles.  OKAY THIS IS JUST GETTING A LITTLE RIDICULOUS.


Okay, so that makes SEVEN movies being blatantly ripped off here, and if we go ahead and count the sequels of said films for reasons of posterity, that makes FOURTEEN movies that this flick is ripping off, which I believe maybe a 21st century record.


That in a nutshell is Doomsday, or as I like to call it, Escape from the Underworld of Scotland 28 Days Later While Battling the Resident Knightriders and Prince of Thieves Beyond Thunderdome. 


Yeah Doomsday is one big rip-off, but I’ll tell you, in this day and age with Hollywood being filled with nothing but remakes, a flat out honest to God rip-off actually seems sort of refreshing.  No apologies are made.  Director Neil (The Descent) Marshall knows he’s making a rip-off (he even names two of his characters “Carpenter” and “Miller” just to let the audience in on the joke) plain and simple, and you either embrace it or you don’t.  To me, I’d rather see a blatant Escape from New York rip-off than a Hollywood-ized remake any day.  In fact Marshall not only recycles many of the elements John Carpenter used in Escape, but he actually expands on them.  For instance, Rhona Mitra has one eye, just like Snake Plissken, but she can pop out her glass eye, which is equipped with a camera, and roll it down the hall so she can see if there are any bad guys around the corner. 


The gore is more than adequate, besides plenty of juicy bullet wounds and lots of head squishing by blunt objects, heads are severed, parts of heads are severed, hands get cut off, fingers are emancipated from their owners, ears are bit off, and eyes get popped out of their sockets.  Not to mention all the people who get caught under the wheels of a speeding car and get turned into human Jackson Pollack paintings.  Or the people who get filleted on industrial sized makeshift Weber grills.  This flick also features the most gratuitous gimp scene since Pulp Fiction, so that is worth at least something. 


Doomsday is stupid.  It knows it’s stupid.  It’s a blatant rip-off, yet it knows it’s a blatant rip-off.  That kind of brutal honesty is sorely lacking in Hollywood today.  Hopefully when some idiotic studio exec thinks remaking Escape from New York is a good idea because it’s the only Carpenter movie that HASN’T been remade in the past 3 years, somebody can casually remind him, “Oh we did that already sir, it was called Doomsday.”  And when the same studio exec says, “Well, okay let’s remake those Mad Max flicks”, the same guy can helpfully suggest, “Yeah, sir we did that one too, it’s called… uh, Doomsday!”   


If you want my advice, check this movie out at all costs.  It’s many things but boring isn’t one of them.  If anything you can always amuse yourself by pointing out all the movies that it rips-off from.  I sure did.