Doomsday: Neil Marshall’s Derivative Popcorn Actioner, Starring Bob Hoskins

“Doomsday,” Neil Marshall’s popcorn actioner, a pastiche of scenes from numerous apocalyptic sagas, ends in such a way as to suggest there might be a sequel, particularly if this dreadful picture scores at the box-office over the weekend.

As was evident in Marshall’s previous horror flicks (“Dog Soldiers,” “The Descent”), he is a craftsman-manager, representing a new breed of Hollywood directors who have technical facility for orchestrating visceral action and spectacular (over the top and silly) stunts, but who lack any sense of characters, plot, dramatic logic, and so on.

No wonder Rogue Pictures, a subdivision of Focus Features (which now releases through Universal), has decided to distribute the movie without advance press screenings. “Doomsday” is the kind of film that gets released in the dead of winter and is expected to make quick cash on opening weekend on its rapid way to DVD land.

One way to pass the time while watching the picture is to guess the source material (I dare not use the word “inspiration”) for what’s on screen. My colleague and I counted at least ten movies, each better than “Doomsday,” from which Marshall “borrowed” (or “lifted”) thematic or visual elements. In no particular order, they are: “Escape From New York,” “The Road Warrior,” “28 Days Later,” “Resident Evil,”

The story begins in the present time in Scotland. A narrated, 6-minute ominous prologue describes the spread of the highly infectious “Reaper” virus in the country, which is under quarantine after a deadly virus spread from Glasgow.

Main plot is set in London, circa 2035. Playing lip service to feminism and tough women-heroines, Marshall has cast Rhona Mitra as Eden Sinclair, a military police with one replacement eye, who’s still haunted by the image of her mother she was forced to leave behind. Undoubtedly, Eden’s character is modeled on Milla Jovovich’s in the “Resident Evil” movies.

Eden is therefore more than willing to accept the idea of her boss Nelson (Bob Hoskins) to place her in charge of a possible suicide mission. She has to go back into the war zone, the devastated Glasgow, which had been sealed off for nearly 30 years, looking for cure and finding a man named Kane assuming he’s still alive.

Accompanied by a team of drivers, gunmen, and researchers, Eden stops at a hospital, in which some military personnel has survived through cannibalism. What they discover upon arrival is a society gone amok inhabited by zombies, crazies and savages governed by a wild Mohawked man, Sol (Craig Conway). Aggressively assaulted, Eden’s unit begins to lose its members–one man is literally fried for supper

In the film’s second half, the yarn moves to the outdoors and we get a refreshing breather. Captured by Kane’s soldiers, the members are taken to his secluded castle. It quickly becomes clear that the bitter and vengeful Kane (Malcolm McDowell in a crazy, excessive mood) is not interested in helping nations due to their betrayal of him and his countrymen.
The anticipated, prolonged climax pays homage (if this is the right word) to Mel Gibson’s far superior, “The Road Warrior.”

The real star of the film is not the acting ensemble but the stunt coordinator, Cordell McQueen, and his gifted crew.

The effort to make his apocalyptic yarn timely and relevant is also futile because the ideas and characters are presented in a perfunctory, obvious way. Hence, not surprisingly, the politician in charge, premier John Hatcher (Siddig) is inefficient and ineffectual, and it doesn’t help that his deputy Canaris (O’Hara) is corrupt and scheming.

The little humor Marshall employsEden’s removable eyeball is a portable DVR–doesn’t prevent his saga from seeming ridiculous and utterly derivative, which also applies to the use of a tune like the pop hit “Fine Young Cannibals.

For the record: Marshall’s 2006 sci-fi thriller “The Descent” grossed $57 million worldwide, with $31 million of that amount coming from overseas. The budget of the new picture is rumored to be around $30, which means it will recoup its expense and perhaps even make profit.

Cast

Eden Sinclair – Rhona Mitra
Bill Nelson – Bob Hoskins
Norton – Adrian Lester
John Hatcher – Alexander Siddig
Canaris – David O’Hara
Kane – Malcolm McDowell
Sol – Craig Conway
Cally – MyAnna Buring

Credits

A Rogue Pictures release presented with Intrepid Pictures of a Crystal Sky Pictures production, in association with Scion Films.
Produced by Steven Paul, Benedict Carver. Executive producers, Peter McAleese, Trevor Macy, Marc D. Evans, Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman.
Directed, written by Neil Marshall.
Camera: Sam McCurdy.
Editor: Andrew MacRitchie.
Music: Tyler Bates.
Production designer: Simon Bowles.
Supervising art director: Steve Carter; art directors, Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson, John Trafford, David Doran.
Set decorator: Mark Auret.
Costume designer: John Norster.
Sound: Derek Mansvelt; sound designer, Matthew Collinge.
Visual effects supervisor, Hal Couzens.
Visual effects, Double Negative, the Senate Visual Effects.
Special makeup effects designer: Paul Hyett. Stunt coordinator, Cordell McQueen.

MPAA Rating: R.
Running time: 108 Minutes.