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New Release Review - DOOMSDAY (DVD)

A warrior travels back to modern day Britain to avert a future war between humans and robots.


Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Neil Johnson

Starring: Alain Terzoli, Amy Pemberton, Darren Jacobs 




"It’s not that Doomsday makes you just wish you were instead watching Terminator, the process is so laborious that I’d have rather been sitting through Terminator Genisys again."




2410, a dystopian future where manifest progress in medicine and technology has enabled humans to live long and prosper for much lengthier periods than mere nature would allow; implants, bio-chemistry, the cybernetic merging of flesh and tech has upgraded mankind with the ability to cheat time itself. Problem is though, this infernal progress has given rise to a race of super-robo-beings, a homo superior who are hell bent on wiping out the beta model: fleshly mortals. Science, eh?
In Doomsday, a war between the two conflicting intelligences - humans and robots, basically - gives rise to a soldier from each side being sent back to our time (Achilles, played by Alain Terzoli and Erebus-7 by Richard Lawrence), in which they continue to wage their conflict within the arena of modern day Britain. Various mortals are inevitably caught in the crossfire of this battle, one of whom may carry huge relevance to the human resistance of the future…
Sound familiar (‘I’ll need your clothes, your boots, and your central premise…’)? It’s clear that writer/director/dp Neil Johnson is a card carrying science fiction aficionado, and not just from the wall to wall Dr. Who DVDs that adorn bookshelves in certain scenes. There’s some ersatz Back to the Future style almanacky business afoot when the couple who pick up Achilles need a fast buck, and the threat of a future-virus is thrown into the mix too. Regretfully, however, simply being a fan does not a filmmaker make, and these marked references simply end up reminding the viewer of better films. Worse than that, it’s not that Doomsday makes you just wish you were instead watching Terminator, the process is so laborious that I’d have rather been sitting through Terminator Genisys again.
While well shot, with an eye for sweeping vistas and clear compositions, the issue with Doomsday is that, unlike the single minded killing machine it portrays - dutifully plodding from the Yorkshire Dales to London (blowing it up!) and back up to Whitby again with single minded, ruthless purpose, destroying anything in its path with brutal tenacity - the narrative, and the approach to the material, is too loose. Plot lines appear to simply fade into the ether, characters behave with bizarre inconsistency, and the actual purpose of Erebus-7 is in itself unclear. Achilles, the nominal hero, is a complete arsehole too, trying to force himself on female characters throughout the film; while one of the ‘victims’ Erebus-7 murderalises is a guy who pulls a gun on him and demands his wallet. Perhaps, though, this is an accurate presentation of existence; formless, without rhyme or reason, a shapeless chaos populated by mere mortals who are far from perfect, and are, instead, prey to weakness and insecurity. Watching Doomsday, I began to wonder if the final act wouldn’t reveal the film to be a pessimistic paean to cyber fascism, with old Erebus-7 a heroic harbinger, forging a techo-order out of the whimsical chaos of human nature. Alas, it was not to be. While such a twist would certainly have been cynical about the potential of humanity, it would have nonetheless provided Doomsday with the elements of idiosyncrasy and purpose that it otherwise lacks.
Extras:
A fair smattering here, including a discussion of the band who created the soundtrack (My Silent Wake), and a couple of deleted scenes (one of which has inter-titles in lieu of cost prohibitive special effects, and is, as such, merely footage of some people running about). There is an interview with Neil Johnson who explicates the freewheeling nature of the production (Whitby was chosen because it brought a ‘real world flavour’, and the inhabitants of Morley were ok because they didn’t mind the crew running about the town), and also talks about the cruel and untimely passing of his friend, which, after the curiously cold experience of watching Doomsday, was a sincere and moving moment that actually made me cry. Actor Darren Jacobs pops up too, and tells us a couple of anecdotes about cars, the first involving his mum shouting out of the window of one at him while he was filming, and the other concerning a pot hole in the road.




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