Monday, April 20, 2009

Neil Marshall Law

The commercial failure of films like Doomsday and Starship Troopers makes me die a little inside. How is there a massive audience for Fast & Furious when a gleefully over-the-top post-apocalyptic actionfest barely coughs up enough money to pay for a three pack of Vin Diesel’s wife beaters?

The world is a sad sad place.

Not quite as sad--or massively cool--as Neil Marshall’s bonanzaland of the near future. Heavily flawed but tons of fun, Doomdsday gives you a lot of...well...everything. it’s not always good, but it’s far from dull.

Quick Plot: A highly contagious flesh-eating virus spreads across Great Britain, leaving the government no choice but to quarantine Scotland to let the dying sort their own deaths out. One sobbing mother is able to send her young, now one-eyed daughter over the wall to eventually grow up into an ass-kicking Rhona Mitri. Twenty five years later, the disease seems to be reappearing, leaving the prime minister and his sinister right-hand man to send a team into the danger zone in search of a cure. Failing that, a few of the ghetto-dwellers susceptible to the resurgent plague will be sacrificed as a new quarantine zone is formed.

WIth a generous supply of ammunition and only 48 hours to use it, Mitri and a few Marshall alumni head to town with mini-Dead Reckonings probably purchased from a skillful used car salesman. It’s not long before they come across one band of survivors--Mad Maxish mohawked cannibals with awesome style and great technique using hand weapons. As if futuristic raves weren’t enough, the action soon moves to a less urban setting as Malcolm McDowell swings by to lead a band of survivors currently living under a Medieval lifestyle. But with gladiator shows. At this point, there’s still another 45 minutes left.

Doomsday is a ride, pure and simple. If you were expecting anything near the slow build of The Descent or the tight quarters of Dog Soldiers, you won’t find it in this sprawling epic of a movie. This is one ambitious film, but there are some semblances of Marshall’s skillful personal touch. For such a large cast, most of the leads and supporting roles are memorable enough for their deaths or heroics to resonate. Some of the action is breathtaking and the setting--which ranges from a lawless city to ancient castles--looks fantastic. If there’s a major flaw, it’s Marshall’s looseness with telling a strong story, which simply takes a backseat to car chases and stage dives.

High Points
Malcolm McDowell is always a welcome presence, particularly when he’s playing the a Shakespearean eccentric with excess power

While the opening is a bit of a slow go, the initial attack by the punk survivors--filled with a surprisingly high body count--is intense and rollicking

From the Snake Plissken-esque character design to the Waterworldiness of a cheerfully scavenger society, spotting Marshall’s nods and allusions to other post-apocalyptic fare makes for fun viewing

Low Points
I love the mixture of punk cannibal gangs and medieval village societies rising simultaneously, but because of their spread, we never really get enough of either. Maybe I’m being greedy, but I was hungry for a full-blown war between the two.

It’s hard to believe that a mere 20 years would turn half of a country into Robin Hood extras without any solid backstory to explain where they got all that period garb

The 48 hour countdown feels like a random touch to organize the timing; with two warring gangs, car/foot/horse chases, sword and gladiator combat, and a cannibal rally, the added ‘intensity’ of crunching time is just annoying

Lessons Learned
In the near future, neon hair dye will be in abundance and losing an eyeball will be awesome

Horseback riding at full speed is incredibly instinctive for Englishmen who have probably never seen a live horse in their sheltered lives

Futuristic cannibals are extremely talented when it comes to making a little meat--say from one average sized male--feed an entire population. The boys of We’re Going To Eat You should take note.

This has a good deal of re-watchability and a fully loaded DVD, so anybody with a soft spot for wild action or post-apocalyptic adventure won’t do wrong investing in a purchase. You won’t get an entirely cohesive story, but you will be spared dull exposition or, well, more than five minutes without some form of creative killing. It’s not for everybody, but if the recycling of decapitated heads makes you happy, then this is the film for you.


  1. I liked Doomsday when I (was one of the few that) saw it in theaters...didn't love it but I had fun watching it.

    I did love the very random second half quite a bit more than the first half of the film, which was just okay. I also really liked the the lead Caryn Peterson, but that's probably because shes pretty hot.

    One thing that irritated me to death was that girl with the tattoo's all over her face, she kept flickin' her stank tongue every opportunity she got. I guess doing so lets us know she doesn't follow the rules...or she enjoys the taste of air.

    I will have to give Doomsday another watch sometime soon, I did like it and might like it even more now that I have no expectations for it.

  2. The first 30 minutes or so are a little dry, but once the crazy starts, it just doesn't stop.

    The tattoo girl: the first time you see her, it's a pretty neat sight, but you're totally right about the tongue flicker. It's effective the first time as she teases the soon-to-be-crispy doc, but...then she does it again...and again...and...

    Plus, her face was splashes all over most of the film's promotional art, so it's not like she's a surprise.

    By the lead, do you mean Rhona Mitra, she of Underworld 3 fame?

    I don't think Marshall was intending to make a brilliant film. He just wanted to have fun. Sigh. If only it didn't cost so much money. I worry that it's hurt his reputation.

  3. Whoops! You are correct about b.

    I don't think it hurt his rep though...or at least I hope it didn't. Dog Soldiers was pretty awesome and it could very easily find a spot in my top Werewolf films, and The Descent was pretty fantastic too. So I look forward to whatever Marshall does next.

    His new film Centurion sounds pretty cool and he has that Drive movie with Hugh "so hot" Jackman in it...Jackman=HUghGE box office!

  4. Ooooh a Hughy Marshall collaboration sounds brilliant. You can take Rhona; Mr. Song-and-Dance Wolverine is all mine (dude can do FANTASTIC fan kicks).

    I'm glad to hear Mashall's plate is still full. I just get so worried when the types of films I like can't do any box office because then we get stuck with the same old formulas. I wasn't a huge fan of Grindhouse, but I do wonder what films could have been greenlit had it succeeded. That's part of why Friday the 13th bummed me out so much. It made buckets of money by doing the same thing all over again, meaning next week we'll get another midlevel slasher that doesn't take any chances.