Doom is a film based on the ultra-violent, ultra-popular first person shooter video game of the same name. As one film critic opined, “Doom is less a movie based on a video game than a video game made into a movie.” I see it as an opportunity missed. Even so, Doom illustrates some serious pitfalls in adapting video game experiences into grand argument stories for film. Perhaps others can learn from Doom's mistakes.
I didn't even try to find a storyform in Doom. There’s not enough there. However, we can learn a lot by what was done wrong.
ERROR #1: Confusing the Protagonist with the Main Character
Sarge (played by The Rock) is clearly established as the protagonist practically from frame one. Sarge is figuratively (and perhaps literally) a Protagonist on steroids. He is such a strong character who—with the absence of an alternate—appears to be the Main Character for the first quarter of the movie. Unfortunately, he’s not the MC and it takes a while to figure out who the Main Character is.
SOLUTION: The way to prevent this from happening is to identify your Main Character early on in the story, especially if you’re emphasizing the Overall Story throughline above all others.
ERROR #2: Barely identifiable Main Character
It’s hard to get involved in a story if it doesn’t have a Main Character—the character through whose eyes the audience experiences the story. Though we’re introduced to “Grimm” (his OS character name) early on with hints at a backstory, it’s quite a while before we get to know who John Grimm is and that he’s supposed to be the Main Character. We’re almost half way into the film before we get a concrete idea of what John’s personal issues are.
SOLUTION: It’s important to quickly identify and clearly establish your Main Character in stories where the emphasis is on something other than character. Even though Doom has far more interest in plot, storytelling, and Storyweaving than it does in Character, it would be better overall if John—and his personal issues—were made clear from the start.
ERROR #3: Ineffective Influence Character
Once we’re aware that John Grimm is the Main Character it becomes apparent that his sister, Samantha Grimm, is supposed to be his Influence Character. We determine this as much through the process of elimination than through any real impact on Samantha’s part.
SOLUTION: Giving the Influence Character a strong, alternative perspective strengthens your Main Character too. Though Samantha is a character with strong convictions, they do not serve to challenge the Main Character’s personal beliefs. Properly pairing the MC and IC is important to a sound story structure.
ERROR #4: Weak Relationship Story Throughline
A side effect of a minimal Main Character and Influence Character is the weakness or absence of the relationship throughline in the story. While the Overall Story provides the logical view of dealing with the problems, the Relationship Story throughline provides the passionate view of struggling with the problems. John and Samantha have a strained familial relationship but Doom hardly scratches below the surface.
SOLUTION: Use it or lose it.
By the end of Doom, John has been “changed” by his sister, though not through any change in his character Resolve. He ends at peace with himself (Story Judgment of Good) but he hasn’t earned it. It’s a cheat, but at that point it doesn’t really matter because it’s less “The End” than “Game Over.”
POSTSCRIPT: I find it interesting that the John and Samantha characters are listed first in the IMDB cast of characters. To me this implies that the filmmakers knew the importance of these two characters. It's ironic that they weren't developed sufficiently to match their expectations. — CH