Doom has survived, and indeed thrived, by always returning to its fullbore embrace of excess. This a series that goes big on everything: action, gore, and the signature demonic production design. As with both the 1993 original and the 2016 reboot, when we want more of something, we usually get it. James aptly wrote in his review: “Hell is my home now.” He didn’t sound unhappy about it.
Doom draws on a variety of themes that work to draw players into being comfortable in its devilish grip. The game’s use of the space marine trope is basically perfect for what that character, and the player, is asked to accomplish—kill or be killed. Then there’s Mars itself. The Red Planet has always worked so well as a stage for horror because, of its relative similarity to Earth. The dusty landscape feels both somehow familiar, but alien enough to stage the awful things that happen.
In this edition of ‘If you like,’ we take a look at military science fiction, interstellar horror, and a modern sci-fi classic. It’s also clear we are still waiting for a good Doom film. What would that film look like? Feel free to pitch us in the comments.
Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman
I can’t think of a recent film that captures the gameplay loop of a shooter like Doom more perfectly than . Based on the Japanese novel , Tom Cruise plays a military officer who’s more comfortable in front of a camera than on the front lines during an alien invasion. And when Cruise’s character finds himself having the worst kind of Groundhog Day you could imagine, he has to find a way to learn how to fight, no matter how long it takes.
With spectacular effects and a killer performance from Emily Blunt as a hard-bitten fellow soldier, Edge of Tomorrow borrows a lot from the space marine aesthetic familar from games like Doom and movies like James Cameron’s . When horrific aliens want to shred you, grab some power armor and a shotgun because this we know: Talking to the monsters never works.
Aliens: Nightmare Asylum
One of the best examples of the expanded universe that appeared in the wake of the first two Alien films, this graphic novel gets to the essential core of Doom’s premise—you’re alone, off Earth, just survive somehow. In Nightmare Asylum we join Sergeant Wilks and a woman named Billie on board a ship that’s fleeing an Alien infestation back home. We get all the classic Aliens themes that were themselves so obviously influential on games like Doom—claustrophobic corridors, morally-questionable government projects, and of course the unstoppable beasts themselves.
If you haven’t revisited the Alien universe in a while, this book is a great excuse to dive back in.
The Last Days on Mars, directed by Ruairí Robinson
Despite its excellent production values and stellar cast, 2013’s didn’t quite get the reception it perhaps deserved. The movie’s plot is a familiar one: A research team is nearing the end of their mission when an unexpected discovery changes everything. Despite some derivative story beats, there’s an entertaining and atmospheric Mars horror film hidden inside the otherwise standard issue setup. Most of this is down to the the incredible cast of actors they secured for the project. Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Elias Koteas bring talent and gravitas to the script and let you dwell, if only for a little while, in their horror story.
The impact of Doom’s expertly-crafted action set pieces and alien encounters is often punctuated by the quieter moments between these engagements. The Last Days on Mars works on this level as well, where the fear of Mars’s hellish and inhospitable environment create a tension that can’t be resolved by an obvious, direct path. In a perfect world, if we could mashup the best parts of this film, Cameron’s Aliens, and 2012’s excellent action-gorefest , we’d have the perfect Doom movie.
Redliners, by David Drake
For decades now one of the finest writers working in the subgenre of military science fiction, David Drake’s might be one of his best and most personal works. A himself, Drake’s usual talent for sharp and intelligent dialogue, well-crafted action scenes and solid characterization are on display in this novel. It’s story deals with a unit of battle-weary soldiers who have maybe done and seen too much to be reintegrated into civilian life.
Instead, these hardened personalities are deployed to protect a group of colonists on a new deep space outpost in alien territory. What they find there, and what it will take to survive, will require all of their resolve as soldiers, as well human beings.