LAUGHING AT THE APOCALYPSE
I haven’t seen Doomsday yet, but I want to — I loved Neil Marshall’s Descent, and despite the 28 Days Later meets Resident Evil meets Road Warrior mix-and-match vibe of the trailer, I can’t believe this director doesn’t deliver something interesting with this new film. Filmmaker contributor Travis Crawford, who has seen the film and sent the below in an email, corroborates my feelings that Doomsday may offer more than people are giving it credit for.
I felt that it was a very self-knowing, vintage Verhoeven-esque PARODY of the ultra-violent futuristic action thrillers from which it admittedly derives much inspiration — I found it often hysterically funny, and a more authentically post-modern satire of the genre than people are giving it credit for being. I also find it incredibly ironic that it opened on the same day as the loathsome, patronizing FUNNY GAMES remake — DOOMSDAY seemed to me to be a much more intelligent critique of the exploitation of violence in cinema, but it so perfectly and organically internalized the visual vocabulary of the very genre that it was satirizing that I think people missed the point of the whole exercise. Meanwhile, more blatantly “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” post-modern media critiques like HOT FUZZ (which I mildly enjoyed, but it ends there) and DIARY OF THE DEAD (which I actively disliked) get acclaim only because they’re so obvious in their self-referential back-patting smugness that everyone is in on the joke.
I think that the “problem” with the satirical elements in DOOMSDAY is that this is a film that, forgive the sports metaphor, showed up on the playing field willing to play the game on the game’s established rules — it doesn’t hover above the spectators to deliver ironically detached commentary in the vein of DIARY OF THE DEAD, because it attempts to engage you in the Ritalin-riddled, rapid-fire spectacle while it simultaneously points out the absurdity of it all (think STARSHIP TROOPERS). Still, I can’t fathom that a nation of film critics appeared to just seriously regard a film wherein an anorexic girl in a tank top and skin-tight pants defeats a medieval knight in full armor and horseback within an ancient castle courtyard presided over by a fur coat-clad Malcolm McDowell, and then proceeds on to an ultra-futuristic car chase; pardon me while I hold the necessary funeral for irony. The satire in DOOMSDAY might have escaped a lot of critics because it’s both meta-cinematic (she wears a Plissken-like eye patch because one of her eyeballs is a camera!) and politically metaphorical (despite being set entirely in the U.K., I think Marshall is remarking on post-9/11 American isolationism and fear-mongering). And I do think that the ultra-ADD editing is Marshall’s way of poking fun at the Michael Bay aesthetic of action sequences today.