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'Doom' too often plays by the rules

Life is too short for ''Doom." But those who plan to attend Universal's loose adaptation of the beloved computer game should be warned that while half a dozen archeologists have disappeared from Olduvai, a Martian space station, five times as many IQ points are gone too.

To find the missing scientists, a ragtag team of Marines is dispatched to Olduvai via teleportation. Their mission is to shut down the station to prevent whatever has run amok from getting to Earth.

What's run amok is a creature that kills and infects, creating zombies and worse. The Marines, who are led by the unflaggingly charismatic Dwayne ''The Rock" Johnson, make a shocking discovery that the gamers in the audience already know. The monstrous conditions are the result of a nutty experiment involving the unmapped 10 percent of the human genome!

But enough about that: There are cave-dwelling special effects to shoot up and silly dialogue to say. ''Now let's see if we can find the body that goes with that arm" is one choice instruction.

''Doom" is dreary-looking and painfully slow, but it's not terrible. Even if Andrzej Bartkowiak's direction never rises above straight-to-video schlock (the film's look and tempo are intensely ''Highlander III: The Sorcerer"), the screenplay by David Callaham and the veteran Wesley Strick supplies enough tolerable ridiculousness to make up for the pitiful absence of suspense.

For that family-values feeling, one of the Marines, John ''Reaper" Grimm (Karl Urban), has an estranged twin sister (Rosamund Pike) at Olduvai, who's been holding a grudge since he decided not to go into anthropology like the rest of the family. ''You could have spent your life looking through a microscope instead of a sniper scope," she raps. We can tell they're twins, because neither actor can quite keep a lid on those non-American accents.

As inoffensive as all this is, watching ''Doom" means spending 100-odd minutes slogging around a set that looks an awful lot like a sewer. The movie is clammy. But for fans of the game, ''Doom" pays you tribute with its best sequence, in which we get to see the slaughter of creatures from Reaper's perspective. It's a cheeky, absurd, exhilarating slice of rock 'n' roll moviemaking.

It's also depressing. The only way this movie becomes any fun is when it stops impersonating a game and simply becomes one.

Wesley Morris can be reached at

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