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Game to Screen: Doom

Updated on July 21, 2015


While a lot of the Doom movie seems to take inspiration from the Doom 3 game and engine, I will speak largely on the series as a hole.

Film Poster


The Film

Released in 2005, the cinematic adaptation of the game did not perform well, as game to movie adaptations tend to do. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, this film was juggled a little bit on the script and the rights to this film was shifted between Warner Brothers and Universal Studios. It also blends together CGI and puppetry. The quality of such is heavily criticized, as well as the performances rendered by the actors.

The plot is quite simple. A military response team is called up to Mars to find out what's wrong in their research department. There, they encounter genetically enhanced killing machines. Fin.

It stars Karl Urban, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Rosamund Pike (far better known as Amazing Amy in Gone Girl), and a collection of other less famous actors.

The Game Franchise

Known as the grand-daddy of all first-person shooters (insomuch that other first-person shooters would be called Doom clones for an extended period of time), Doom is a classic piece of gaming work. Created by Id Software, it follows an unnamed Marine sent to Mars as punishment for killing a superior with his fists. Supernatural things begin to happen and soon the Marine is the last man standing able to do anything as he has to fight through various demons and close a portal to Hell.

The franchise has sold over 10 million copies of games. At least 14 games have been created since 1993 (when the original game was released), some being improved versions of their originals with more guns, enemies, and levels.

Doom Cover Art


The Adaptation

Where the 'Demons' Come From
For Doom fans, this is surely the first thing that comes to mind as a direct deviation of its source material. In the games, it's always very specific that the monsters involved in the games are demons from Hell. There are plenty of Satanic images and otherworldly powers. Even more so, the game manuals reference an invasion of the forces to Hell and there are often literal levels taking place in Hell.

If you're unfamiliar with the game, the demons invade through the ways of portals. Mankind has begun using portal technology for easier access for interplanetary travel. A leak is developed where instead of another planet or moon, portals are opened up into Hell, allowing the supernatural forces access to Mars and its moons.

In the film, it's a completely different story. Instead of demons either possessing soldiers or physical manifestations passing through inter-dimensional leaks in portals, there's an experimental chromosome (science mumbo jumbo) that reacts in two ways. You can be 'infected' by the chromosome either by natural injection, or penetrated by an Imp's tongue, which is straight out of left field.

It's interesting why they made such a huge deviation from the games, especially when considering how offensive this change would be to the fans. It's possible that the use of 'Hell' would have given the film more controversy, but with nudity, language, and violence, it's hard to imagine that the use of demons were cut from the drawing boards.

If you're morally a good person, you gain super strength, but if you make bad decisions through your life, you get turned into a monster. There is still one major portal involved (although its more ancient civilization technology) and one could argue that the morality factor ties into Hell, but in popular opinion it's easily seen as a great deviation from its original plot.

It's also worth noting that in the novelization of the games, the 'demons' are revealed to be a caste system of aliens, not demons or genetically enhanced humans.

Changes in the 'Demons'
The Doom games are possibly best known for weapons (like the BFG) and their enemies. The zombies in either entry are largely your stereotypical zombies, although the games do feature a handful of variants that are capable of using firearms and behaving in a tactical manner. There seems to be a state of evolution within the infected as a zombie will eventually mature into an Imp by default.

The Imps themselves bear little similarity to their original source material. They have a variety of eyes and brown-gray skin. Both versions seem quite capable of crawling through tight places like vents. However, the cinematic Imps seem far too large and clumsy to do this. Also far more noticeably, the cinematic imps do not seem capable of tossing fireballs. This is slightly ironic as game refers to the imps having combustible material covering their arms that they fling, giving the appearance of fireballs. It's a small thing that would have went a long way in the cinematic presentation.

There's also the Hell Knight and the Pinky. Each are a little more faithful in appearance but the Hell Knight provides no flames from its fists. The Pinky's lower half, while cybernetic in the tradition of Doom 3, are wheels which makes it a bit unique.

The 'Doom-Guy'
In all Doom games, the character players as the titular Doom Guy, a marine without a proper title who becomes a one-man army after his entire squad is killed. Reaper more or less become this figure, highlighted by the fact he was the last man standing from his squad and the first-person segment of the film.

The only real background the Doom Guy has in the games is a long reaching descendant Blaskovich from the Wolfenstein game, another franchise the creators of Doom, ID Software, created. In the film, they give him additional material, such as calling him Reaper (because his last name is Grim), his parents were geneticists on Mars and while his sister takes up their work, he does not, and so forth. Sarge does carry and use the most weapons by far though.


There are a number of shared elements between mediums however.

For instance, there's the BFG gun which is technically short for Bio-Force Gun, although it's known far better by its more expletive name. There's also a grand number of similar guns from the franchise as a bit of a love letter.

This version of the Pinky demons possesses a cybernetic lower half and there is a Sergeant (played by Dwayne Johnson) who wields the BFG only to turn later on during the story.

Closing Thoughts

Personally, I'm a fan of Doom. I enjoy the lore, the pioneering of the genre, and the various weapons and enemies which still retain their flavor. I remember watching my dad play it a lot during my childhood and I would touch upon it later in my life, despite not being a fan of horror games.

That's why this film was a bit of a bummer. Most offensive of all was the specific change of Hell giving in for chromosome numbers. The science for the film was shoddy and didn't even begin to make sense. Using Hell and actual demons could have provided some fascinating visuals or atmosphere than zombies in space did. There were some nice nods to the original source but the film was simply far too different and bland compared to the game. I'm not saying I wanted to see a super-soldier mow through tons of zombies and imps, but what we received with the film was lackluster.

Overall, the film isn't so bad it's unwatchable as say, Super Mario Brothers, but it's hard to say it's good. Maybe it's a guilty pleasure at best.

Game vs Movie

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Further Reading

Enjoy what you've read here? I've got a list of Game to Screen adaptations I'm currently working on. This film stands more on the bad but not awful middle ground that video game movies have created.


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