Doom (2005)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Raz Adoti
Extras: Featurettes, BD Live

Based on the computer game classic by id Software, "Doom" is a big budget effects movie and action spectacle that is exactly the kind of food you need to present and sell a new platform like high definition video. Although we are already past the earliest adopter-phase of Blu-Ray, currently the format still needs products that impress viewers visually and sonically, more than anything else and as such, "Doom" makes a perfect showcase product, no doubt.

After receiving a frantic call from Dr. Carmack, a scientist working on some top secret research in a remote laboratory on Mars a SWAT team is sent there to investigate and control the potentially contagious situation. What follows is a nightmarish – or should I say highly Resident Evil-ish – mission filled with undead and mutated encounters.

The story of "Doom" is banal and straight-forward and therefore resembles the game pretty much. The game was essentially a brainless shooting gallery that received cult status because of its revolutionary technology and the pop culture presence of John Romero, one of its creators. The movie follows essentially the same formula and the backstory merely serves to string up a series of action sequences that are getting increasingly frantic as the film progresses. In a nod to the original computer game the filmmakers even employed a first-person sequence in the film in which we basically see "Doom," the game, in full motion video. It is a great gimmick – though it takes you out of the movie entirely and is way too long for my taste, growing stale very quickly.

Presented in its 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio the 1080p presentation of the movie on this disc is simply remarkable. It is a comparably new movie and as such the print quality is staggering and virtually in perfect condition. There is no grain visible anywhere and as a result the high definition transfer we get to see here is absolutely clean, clear and stable. The transfer has incredible contrast and the image you see on your screen is marvelously rich in detail. Even the most subtle details in the image are visible in a clarity that is remarkable. The same holds true for the color reproduction in the transfer. Colors are absolutely stable and never bleed. The color and shadow fall-offs are wonderfully delineated with good gradients even in some of the most difficult shots. As a result the image is always razor-sharp but without any exaggeration or edge-enhancement. The image looks natural at all time, but super-sharp. Overall the presentation of the film is probably the best high definition transfer in the market and will serve as my reference transfer for the time being to which all other releases will have to live up to.

The audio on the release presents itself as a supercharged track also, blasting into your home with a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track that will stress test your equipment. Given the nature of the film, this track is a powerhouse to say the least. Making aggressive use of the surround channels throughout the audio presentation features a striking clarity and impressive dynamics. From the subtlest ambient effects to the most explosive moments everything is reproduced without any problems while the spatial placement is solid and always makes it possible to properly locate sound sources. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable despite the powerful sound effects and the music.

Like the previously released DVD and HD-DVD versions, this Blu-Ray version contains a number of featurettes on the making of the movie, ranging from a look at the training of the cast to create illusion of being a super-efficient SWAT team to a special effects featurette covering the creation of the monsters in the film. Another extra is a longer version of the first-person shooter sequence. Since I found the one in the film already much too long, I'm not sure how much value is in this, though it does also explain how the sequence was created, making it at least interesting to that end.

"Doom Nation" is a look at the "Doom" phenomenon. It discusses the influence the game had on the computer games industry, how it became pop culture and how it has spawned an entirely new genre of games and introduced the word "Death Match" into the common vocabulary. While it is an interesting featurette overall it does have some shortcomings. How can any documentary on the subject of "Doom" be made without an interview featuring John Romero is beyond me but it clearly has something to do with id Software politics and John Carmack's inflated ego. Let us not forget that Romero was the face of id at the time and to most fans probably still represents "Doom" more vividly than John Carmack does. Why we get to see interviews with an array of G4 television hosts is also beyond me, especially since some of them are clearly to young to actually have lived the phenomenon. I don't think there is a lot of value in hearing four journalists from the same TV channel talk about a game whose full impact is beyond their grasp. Having a wider spectrum of journalists or even computer game industry veterans discuss the game, its impact on their work, and its historic importance for the industry would have made much more sense. So, ultimately the documentary is a bit poorly researched.

Also included is a BD Live feature, giving you direct access to bonus content that is hosted on the Internet.

Usually a film like "Doom" would not hold much interest for me but as a showcase product for high definition formats it works very well. The technical quality of the release is impressive and clearly stands out. This is how high definition video has to look like to impress people. Sharp, detailed, with vivid colors and razor sharp edges that put any DVD to shame, that's the recipe here, making "Doom" the perfect show-off product for your Blu-Ray player. Just don't expect too much of a movie…