I only heard about this about a month before it was released. I thought The Rock might make a fun badass in a movie like this. But I wasn't really expecting much from the story. I was hoping to like the story because the writer is a friend of a friend. It could have been really fun or really stupid. It came down pretty much in the middle.
They diverged from the backstory of the game pretty significantly. For starters, they don't call in the Marines. Well, they mention "semper fi" a coupla times. But the soldiers are a "Rapid Response Tactical Squad." Or something like that. And instead of being shipped into Mars via a ship they have a magic transport device. I think the reason they did all that was so that they could introduce a bunch of soldiers into the story who don't know the base any better than the audience.
Another reason they did it was to gratuitously have an Aliens-like transport. The squad leaves their base and gets on a helicopter. They fly about three minutes and get right off. It was completely meaningless. The chopper they used was kinda similar in shape and size to a Comanche. But it was bristling with weaponry. Which means the chopper was way too small to carry all those weapons and still have room for a squad of soldiers.
I suppose the chopper was to serve as backstory. The normal mission for these guys is to hop onto the chopper and get deposited into a firefight. But the base was set in Nevada. How much rapid response is necessary in the middle of the desert?
Lots of things were just overdone. That helicopter was one. The elevator down into the Earth base was another. A huge trapdoor opens, a metal column rises out of the ground, articulates to make up the top of the elevator track. Lotsa bright lights around an ostensibly-secret base. Just silly and overly complicated. Why not just a small building in the middle of the field with the elevator door right there?
One thing that bugged me about the soldiers was the lack of helmets. I suppose the director did that to make it easier to tell them apart from behind. But I don't remember that being a problem in Aliens. Just a minor verisimilitude lapse.
Another minor issue was, this magic transport system makes everybody sick. So why don't they issue barf bags to carry along? Just strap them to their faces before they go through. Instead, they have to clean up the floor every time someone arrives.
And on and on and on.
So they get to the base. (The girl was very cute.) There are only eight-five people stationed there. But this piece of the base is a large hall with huge doors requiring massive motors to operate them. Basically, it looks like a long-established concourse and not the receiving station for a small remote outpost. Though, the rest of the base looks appropriately cramped and well-used. Albeit, the armory was awfully heavily stocked for a small outpost with no real enemies.
Like Alien Resurrection, they showed a map of the base at the beginning to orient the audience. And once again, the corridors were dark enough and the same enough that there wasn't any way to tell precisely where they were. Fortunately, the base was small enough that I didn't feel completely lost. The characters usually told us where they were running to, and everything was very close to each other.
Similar again to Aliens, they had a character in the rear who could watch the cameras carried by the soldiers. But this guy was watching in little windows on a big monitor instead of a bank of monitors like in the APC in Aliens. The windows were small enough that they were incomprehensible for the few short glances we got. Whereas in Aliens, the early video shots were easily recognizable and the action shots were appropriately jumpy and wild. Once again, Cameron shows his mastery of the craft.
So, they get into the base and start running around. The lights are out in a lot of the base. But unlike the game, these guys have small flashlights attached to their guns. Boy, I wish I could do that in the game. Rosy said the darkness bothered him. But I found that it wasn't *quite* as dark as the game, so it worked okay for me. It's probably going to be mostly pitch black when they transfer it to DVD, though.
Like virtually every Hollyweird movie, they completely blew the genetics. In several places. First, they "extracted DNA" from fossilized bone. Then, the monsters bit the humans on the neck and started them "mutating" into monsters themselves. And finally, they inject an "extra chromosome" into people, giving them twenty-four chromosome pairs and turning them super-human.
Wow. That's a lot of screw ups.
They threw in more bits that didn't really add anything to the story. Like, a minor drug reference. One character gets a hit of something. Another character figures it out a few minutes later. And then... nothing. That's it. No further mention of it. No repercussions. It was just stuck in and then dropped. It didn't even rise to the level of a plot device. I might think that they cut a sub-story out of the script. But if they did that then they could have cut all of it out. There's no reason I can think of to keep this in.
There were some odd constraints. Like, The Rock asked for "the standard six-hour quarantine." Uh, why six hours? That's a bizarrely short amount of time. It should be days or weeks. And how standard could that sort of quarantine be? Again, this was a pretty unique situation. And then, at one point they wanted to extend the quarantine but they had to wait until the original had timed out. Huh?
I wasn't really able to figure out The Rock's motives. At first they were entirely straightforward. But later on he's irrational. First, he exhibits outrage at what's happening at the base that got several of his men killed. Then later he's strictly by the book and insists in carrying back to Earth the info that could unleash the same monsters on Earth. Then, he insists on enforcing the quarantine even where it's clearly not applicable. I just couldn't figure out where it was that he went off the deep end. He certainly wasn't like that all along.
One piece that worked okay was the five minutes of FPS view. It wasn't perfect, but it was kind of neat to see them do that. I am glad that they only did it for a few mins, though.
And finally, I don't think it'll be a spoiler to say that they never do get to see Hell. That's too bad because not only would it have been fun. But that was a semi-major piece of the game's backstory.
I wonder how much the id crew got to weigh in on the script. It feels like it got taken out of their hands pretty much completely. I could be wrong, though. I suppose I should look it up. Not only was the faux-science just silly. But there were personal relationships tacked on that got in the way of the central theme of the game: Humans kicking demonic ass.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Pay Per View. The game is all about killing monsters. The movie is about... three or four fuzzy themes.
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