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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Movie Costumes I Have Loved: Doomsday

photo from here.
At some point I'll go back to writing serious reviews, but having spent the day wandering around Glasgow, my thoughts turned to Doomsday instead. In this film the costumes, like everything else, are nonsense and should be taken with a pinch of critical salt. Doomsday is the film that would happen if someone put every 1980s dystopic/apocalyptic movie in a blender and then set the resulting mish-mash in mid-21st-Century Scotland. This quote from Cheri Priest will hopefully give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

"’s got humanity-eating plagues, tribes of cannibal punks, medieval-style fiefs with knights and torture chambers, rubber-wrapped gimps, futuristic soldiers with wacky hardware, cyborg eyeballs, embittered but noble old cops, corrupt and power-mad politicians, tanks, humorous decapitations, and Malcolm McDowell dressed like Henry the Eighth."

Also there's a dance sequence set to Adam Ant. This film came out in 2008, by the way. Not back when Adam Ant was still on the cutting edge of the anachronistic pop-culture zeitgeist. To ease you gently into the logic-free world of Doomsday, here's comparatively subdued screenshot:

Screencap from here. All screencaps are from there or unless marked otherwise.
Important note: there is no time-travel in this film. Doomsday is set in the real world, albeit one where a plague wiped out most of Scotland and the British government then came up with the tip-top scheme of rebuilding Hadrian's Wall to keep the plague (ie, the remaining survivors) from entering England. Make of that what you will, metaphor-fans. In a characteristic example of Neil Marshall movie subtlety, the new wall looks like this:
The one surprising aspect to this photo is the fact that the wall didn't read "RIP, motherfuckers".
Regarding the earlier picture of our hero (Eden Sinclair, played by Rhona Mitra) facing off against what appears to be a medieval knight on horseback, holding a dragonhide shield... I'll get back to that later. Although probably not the shield. I'm not really clear on what that's supposed to be made of, unless there really was a dragon hanging around somewhere offscreen and they were saving it for a sequel that tragically never got made. This would not surprise me.
Eden is a cop. In a rather unusual move for this type of film, she's dressed very sensibly throughout. Tough boots. Body armour. That sort of thing. It's all black, because she's Serious, and has a Dark Past.
She also has a cyborg eyeball that records video and can be removed to look around corners, because WHY NOT?
.gif from this tumblr.
The plague reappears in London 20 years after the first outbreak, and the prime minister (played by Alexander Siddig, Star Trek fans!) needs someone to go to Scotland and find out if there's a cure. Eden, along with a ragtag bunch of British regional military stereotypes, cross the new Wall to Scotland in search of plague survivors.
Doomsday contains a lot of visual/thematic references to cheesy apocalypse cinema (Escape From New York, etc), and frequently borrows from video games and video game adaptations, none more obvious than the armoured suits Eden and her allies wear when they first reach Scotland:
Pic from here.
Once in Scotland, Eden and her crew of cliches discover that there are two groups of survivors: punk cannibals (in Glasgow), and medievalists (in a castle, of course). See, I told you I'd get back to the dude on the horse! The whole medieval thing... almost makes sense? I mean, castles are very durable, and once you've been cut off from imported fuel and other supplies then a 1000-year-old castle isn't the worst choice when it comes to warm-ish, defensible positions. Except...
Wait, what? WHY ARE YOU DRESSED LIKE IT'S 1300? Living in a castle: maybe. But it's only been 20 years since Scotland got cut off! And the population is tiny! You could probably continue to wear clothes looted from Primark and Topshop for at least another few decades, right? But no. Instead, they've gone to the trouble of weaving medieval-style natural-dyed clothes to match their castle. And adopt MEDIEVAL "FASHIONS". AND KNIGHTS ON HORSEBACK. AND....
The fact that he's wearing fur is probably the only thing about this that makes any sense. WARMTH IS KEY.
In a post-apocalyptic environment, surely your priority is survival, right? Not STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS WITH THE BIOHAZARD SYMBOL ON THEM. And TRAINED FALCONS.

Malcolm McDowell's character is a prime example of the impracticality of the Evil Overlord mindset. Instead of, you know, trying to find a few generators and getting someone to set up WiFi so the surviving Scots can start a Twitter feed about how shit it is being trapped in a country full of plague corpses, he concentrates on making sure that everyone who lives in his castle is dressed with historical accuracy.
This picture is such a perfect example of the ridiculousness of both Malcolm McDowell's horrendous leadership techniques, and the movie Doomsday in general. You can't tell here, but Eden's about to engage in single combat with an armoured knight wielding a huge mace/morningstar. In the background, everyone is wearing velvet caps and cloaks and there are BIOHAZARD SYMBOL WALL-HANGINGS. What are your priorities Malcolm McDowell? Have you learnt nothing from when your evil plans were scuppered by that other badass post-apocalyptic heroine, Tank Girl, back in 1995?
Note: Tank Girl is awesome, but probably not as brilliant as Doomsday in terms of sheer extravagance.
(N.B. McDowell really is good value, isn't he? He can brandish a cyborg arm while sucking humans dry in Tank Girl, then do interviews like this where he describes his role in Doomsday as "a cross between Lear and MacBeth". MAGNIFICENT. Can you believe that this role was originally intended to be for Sean Connery? Surely he's not menacing enough! And he doesn't have that all-important futuristic megalomaniac experience that McDowell embodies.)
Maroon velvet: the fabric of OPPRESSION.
I actually have a theory about the silly medieval costumes. The castle where these scenes take place is clearly a castle that's been converted into a musem, as evidenced by the fact that there are still "EXIT" signs in doorways here and there (presumably because... they filmed it in a Scottish castle museum...). Maybe there were some re-enactment costumes left over when they moved in? It's probably best to not think about these things too much, and just revel in Doomsday's complete balls-to-the-wall lack of restraint instead.
I guess the armour KIND OF makes sense? And longbows are a very efficient weapon!
Let's take a look at the urban survivors. Surely they can't manage to have a crazier survival strategy than the medieval knight guys, right?
The people of Glasgow appear to have adopted a kind of goth/urban-tribal look, complete with intricate face-painting (somewhat celtic...?) and hairstyles that look bloody impossible to sleep in. The goth thing I'll allow because Glasgow has a fairly high punk/goth population, and in general I find that the further North you go in Europe, the more goths you find. I'd argue that in Glasgow any tough-yet-unbalance survivors are more likely to be neds, but let's not quibble. People in spiny fetishwear are more visually arresting than people wearing Burberry and Adidas, plus they're an homage to countless classics of the apocalypse genre, such as Mad Max and Escape From New York.
In addition to the whole inexplicable goth/urban-tribal infected-piercings extravaganza, these guys are cannibals. CANNIBALS. Cannibalism? Not a viable survival strategy. Their leader is a punk psycho who gets to ham it up to epic proportions during this party scene, which includes: guys in kilts doing the can-can, pole-dancers, chainsaws, a fire show, and... look, just watch it.
In the great genre movie tradition: He's wearing messy eyeliner, and therefore is probably evil.
I suppose if you were going to try and be smart about it, you could say that Doomsday has some interesting theories about how subcultures might develop in a closed-off society that until recently had all the stylistic influences one expects from first-world media and advertising. Once locked into the pressure-cooker of post-apocalyptic Scotland, the population divides itself into two disparate groups: the snarling, fashion-forward goth savages of the city, and the conservative croft-dwellers of the Highlands. People are so desperate to maintain a sense of belonging that they go to increasingly extreme lengths to prove that they are part of the tribe. Of course, it'd take more than 20 years for this type of society to emerge, but Doomsday isn't really concerned with boring shit like realism. Here's one final example of that beautiful truth: a woman from the start of the film who genuinely seems to have been transported directly from 1975, for no reason other than it seemed like an awesome idea at the time:




    (Also, nothing could be as amazing as the actual movie. I only included like 20% of the ridiculousness that takes place. Like for example, there was no real reason for me to mention the steam train/skeleton-motorcycle chase!)

    but thank you for acknowledging my awesomeness. :///

  3. OH MY GOD.

    I have only ever seen the end of the movie where Eden is trying to get away from the goth punks in her shiny BMW. I've totally missed out on the Ren Faire shenanigans! Will remedy this soon.


    i think i just have a mental block when it comes to dystopic science fiction. BUT THIS IS STILL A GOOD POST.

  5. the best thing about doomsday is that the ridiculousness just keeps piling up as you go! so watching it from the start and witnessing the buildup is what you should do! PREFERABLY with a scottish person, if you can find any. :D

  6. There is a dearth of Scottish people in my peer group. Most of the friends I've made here are American because we do touristy things together!




    LIKE, BECAUSE I SAY SO. :((((((

  8. lol, get some scottish people, we are awesome. ;)

  9. don't think of it as dystopic sci-fi. Think of it as batshit insanity.

  10. The face "tattooing" on the punks looks rather Maori to me.

    Great review! :)

  11. for a quick look at some Maori designs.

  12. i actually recognised it, i think! :) i tend to take body art in this type of movie with a pinch of salt. it seems like they pick designs with little to no basis in race or cultural background, which TBH isn't so very different from peoples' real life tattoo decisions, to be honest. :////

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