The Unswung Bat

Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The exact amount of caffeine necessary to rouse the human soul on a morning like today's

The morning is elusive when there's so much gray out, so it took a lot for me to find it. Six cups of espresso, in fact, is what I needed to find and enter that revitalizing moment, so much easier to get to when 9 a.m. is bright blue and warm. This is severe. 480mg of caffeine, daily, officially is too much, therefore I don't plan on repeating this morning's large excess. But for crying out loud, that was after six hours of sleep - not a lot, but damn well enough. I hate this crazy season. I live down here in my body, physically muffled while up there somewhere is a mind diffusing palely down to me through the opaque sky, cold and altered.

Cringe at the bottomless well of coffee if you want, but I'll do what I can to obliterate that eyes-glued-shut gritty exhaustion that wants to keep me in bed all morning. Even being juiced up like a fighter pilot or a truck driver. Or a truck-fighting pilot driver. None of those are things to which I aspire - in fact I fervently hope not to be them, though if I had to choose I guess I'd go with whatever doesn't involve me riding a tank of burning jet fuel barbed with armament - so I'll have to keep an eye on how much I abuse myself into having a healthy cycle of alertness.

Well then, onward to:

Movie Talk with André Beaumont*
Welcome . . . to your Doom!

How I actually look in the morning before a shower and caffeine

I'd like to point out that I've only done this for 3 movies the whole time I've been writing this'n "blog" thing, and those movies, in order, have been The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Revenge of the Sith, and, now, Doom. I notice looking back that I promised not to do it much, and I do keep my appreciation for three-hour-long foreignese, subtitled movies about art and, like, questions, to myself, because I am content to be quietly superior to the unwashed masses that surround me, without feeling compelled to expound on my fabulous genius and sensitivity.

But Doom, well, I can't not talk about it. My suspicion that it was going to be the best worst movie that I'll ever have to see was borne out. It wasn't until after the movie that I realized the six scientists who were the first to fall victim to the demonic Doomery afoot were named after the original team of iD software that made Doom. Dr. Carmack has a prominent role, even. That's positively subtle, as the movie's in-jokes go. The best are entirely visual: every member of the marine squad carries a different gun, each one as big as the wielder's leg and designed by a nasty futuristic wing of Harley-Davidson, and they all have little screens that display the wielder's name, status, and remaining ammo. The sets, I think, come almost straight from the game - slanted corridors maze around, inset with light panels that flicker with no effect on the ambient light, massive bundles of pipes snake orthagonally along the hallways like crown molding, and there are endless grate floors and the occasional meaninglessly stencilled bulkhead or static spatter of undripping blood.

The story, of course, was terrible to the point of causing physical pain if you insisted on paying attention to it. I managed to avoid doing this almost the whole time, with the exception of the '24th Chromosome' scene, a breathtaking moment of cinema which demonstrates in a concrete and visceral way that being stupid can reach a point at which it becomes inherently evil and must be answered by death.

Like the expositional text screens in between levels of the game, the mostly illusory plot was not the reason I enjoyed Doom. I mainly believe and sincerely hope that the makers of the movie - and note that I am making no reference to 'writers' - didn't even try to have a story, opting instead for a progression of segues that keep things moving from level to level. Er, well, yeah.

Technically I suppose the movie's pretty basic. There's little art or impressionism in the things like tight shots of characters' tense faces, or lurking shadowy figures, and sudden shock bursts, and much of the actual killing is just anticlimactic. The movie's not much interested in suspense, either. The one thing everyone was talking about, the sequence in first-person shooter perspective, was, cinematography be damned, Fucking Brilliant. And just so we're clear, I mean 'brilliant' as in cool, not rocket science. Aside from being a whirlwind tour of all things Doom, and providing a moment where we glimpse ourself in a reflective surface and realize that, for no legitimate reason(!), we've switched to CG, this bigscreen level-clearing demo really drives home the point that the movie itself is really just a showcase for the Doom engine, which has mutated into some motor of pure memory, salted with "wait . . . I'm not supposed to die!" tongue-in-cheek moments.

Let me frame my reaction. I played a lot of Quake, which is basically Doom with nominally different weapons, slightly more drenched in trenchcoat Goth blood motifs, and rendered in gloriously moddable chunky 3d - with a soundtrack constructed by Trent Reznor out of old rusty tools and the pain of innocent people.

My friends and me even had a clan, of whose existence all traces have evidently been wiped from the internets. Back in high school, we used to talk about Quake and Quake-like things, kind of a lot. And one of them listened to a lot of Tool and sat in the back of the class with the curtains pulled over his face. Watching Doom was like talking about all that stuff again, in the same ridiculous frame of mind.

If you were cool back then or were some different kind of nerd, for fuck's sake, go watch A History of Violence, or read a book, or go to a pay-what-you-can play on Sunday at 2:30, anything really as long as you're not watching the 50 cent movie. But pay neither time nor money for the movie about which I now write.

If, on the other hand, you know what a BSP or animated texture is, or are familiar with the rhythmic swaying, baton-like in the lower right corner of your computer screen, of the gun-barrels belonging to a succession of incrementally more powerful weapons all of which you have found hovering, fully loaded and slowly rotating, just above the ground . . . if perhaps the idea of devoting serious screen time - hell, character development - to the BFG-9000 strikes your mind's eye like the light from a beacon of gleeful madness, shedding its nonsensical illumination from a perch raised dizzyingly atop a towering monument of highly purified and unalloyed Silly, or of course if you are a 'pixelante,' then I think you will find Doom puts the "fest" in "crapfest." You, without a doubt, should definitely get one of your friends to rent Doom when the DVD comes out and watch it in his basement (I am assuming he is a boy). Doom the game came with a story too small to even scoff at - you'd miss it if you tried - but about a million people really liked it. Why? How do I know, it was freaking high school.

Note: Doom came out in like 1993, so I wasn't so much in high school at first. Rather, I was chasing salamanders and playing four-square in my backyard in Berkeley. It (Doom) was still relatively big by the time I got to high school, since apparently games could do that back then, but Quake was the new Doom. Still though.

*My screen name. "Bovee-Begun" is too ethnic.

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