April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Doom  
Music composed, programmed, and produced by Clint Mansell
Additional song: “You Know What You Are?” (Nine Inch Nails) produced by Trent Reznor and Alan Moulder; remix by Clint Mansell
  Available on Varčse Sarabande (LC 06083)
Running Time: 60:00
Amazon UK   Amazon US

See also:

  • Requiem for a Dream
  • Pi
  • The Rock, monsters, guns, and explosions! This Hollywood take on the classic series, spawned from the 1993 First Person Shooter (FPS) phenomenon, is one of the most shocking game-to-movie conversions I’ve seen in a long time. Why? I thought it would’ve been much worse. (John Carmack thought so, too.) A rudimentary storyline was included for the sake of big picture “substance”, but the best part of this overly stylized flick is the atmosphere. Doom could have been another Mortal Kombat, or House of the Dead, but the director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, primarily a cinematographer, was able to give fans a visually fun piece of entertainment. It doesn’t have the sleek, creepy-as-hell, satanic atmosphere of Doom 3 (the most recent installation, and the one the film is based on), but it’s vaguely thoughtful, very dark—to the point where you can sometimes barely see the actors’ faces—and captures the basic experience of the shooter genre. As if that isn’t enough, there’s even an ultra-extended, FP point of view segment prior to an insane finale.

    The movie focuses on the Olduvai Research Station (mostly its shadowy interior) on Mars in the year 2046; an unknown attack and several deaths force authorities to bring in the Marines. When it’s discovered that the culprits are genetically-mutated human beings, a whole slew of corridor-crawling and gore-splattering ensues. (Part of the fun of watching these types of movies is figuring out the death order of unessential characters; hence, it’s not a spoiler to say the Rock and Karl Urban are what Milla Jojovich and Michelle Rodriguez are to Resident Evil.) Bartkowiak’s ideas of “drama” and/or “suspense” take the forms of excessive exposition (ironically, not enough), pokey pacing, and over-the-top FX/CGI—almost entirely visual from the get-go. So, much like the games, the key balance is audio.

    “Audio” entails a load of feckless banter, techno-babble, sound effects, and the music. Composer Clint Mansell (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Sahara) scores about an hour’s worth of cues for the movie, and he does it in a way that’s fast becoming his style: functional. The Vrenna/Walsh theme song aside, there’s very little music in the whole of Doom 3, but the movie suffers from massive audio (and visual) redundancy. Gone are the myriad subtleties and sound designs that made the game a two-time ‘Ultimate Game’ winner; Mansell’s blend of electronic-metal-rock (somewhat similar to the Doom 3 theme) is injected whenever possible. It’s hard to discern who was responsible for music placement. Whether assembling, standing, or checking gear, the grunts must always appear badass, and the music lets you know. (The sheer amount of awesomeness loses its appeal by the third time you watch men jogging from room to room.) There’s moderate entertainment value in watching an ineptly directed movie, but there is even less when you take away half of what’s fun.

    In the barely remembered film, World Traveler, and the UK-only theater release of The Hole, Mansell’s music—while not as unique or as distinctive as his works for Darren Aronofsky—shows that he’s more than capable of subtlety and suspense. Traces of electronic-warped ambience from The Hole and soft dissonance—reminiscent of Pi—are used to good effect in the quieter cues (‘Searching...’, ‘Experiment: Stahl’, ‘Superhumans & Monsters’ and a couple others) or portions of the bombastic ones (‘Kill 'Em All...’, ‘Olduvai/Facing Demons’, ‘The Lab’). A surprising element is a smidgen of underdeveloped tenderness in the harsh reality of Doom; the fraternal Grimm twins (Urban and Rosamund Pike, playing his sister) have a stilted relationship on screen. It’s an emotional artifice that doesn’t lend a thing to the story, but Mansell’s only worthwhile motif (heard in ‘C24’, ‘Doom’, and fully expressed in ‘Sibling Rivalry’) instills in it some warmth. So much so that the reappearance of this electronica, sci-fi synth, and declining string phrase make the pre-God-Mode transformation scene almost believable. There’s also a solid remix of the Nine Inch Nails (NIN) song ‘You Know What You Are?’ by Mansell. It’s a fitting addition considering id Software’s ties with Reznor and Vrenna, but a better song could have been picked from NIN’s extensive repertoire.

    Just as the movie isn’t one to recommend to the majority of film buffs, this is not an album for lovers of most film scores or fans of Mansell’s grander works. But it might a good one for gamers that enjoy, say… music from Unreal Tournament. It’s an album where the composer seems to be on full autopilot. While the music isn’t a failure, it probably won’t cut it for most traditionalists—who would probably never see the film for the music, or at all. Nevertheless, there’s always hope for something more intriguing, especially now with The Fountain (Mansell’s third collaboration with director/writer, Aronofsky).

    Tina Huang

    In-Movie: 3
    Standalone: 3

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