Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie
Gonna take a break from Star Wars for a bit and review a movie that i have recently seen for a change.
I’m a fan of 40k, i have always harboured and interest in it since i saw a buddy’s poorly painted models in junior high, but it was only just a couple of years before i actively engaged myself in what the hobby and universe it sprouted had to offer.
I would say however that my focus with the hobby would be leaning more to reading the lore associated with the games then collecting and painting the models although i do indeed enjoy playing the game very much. Which is why my interest was initialy peaked by the news that there would be a 3D animated movie based in the universe. However upon closer inspection my hopes of seeing something good come of it were quite muted, and i quickly lost interest in seeing the project. Curiosity got the better of both a Co-Worker and i and we sat down to watch it.
Well, the over all visual design of the movie is very much in keeping with the over all tone of the established 40K universe. Everyone of the characters looks proper and i can tell a great deal of time was spent (and well spent it is) on getting the look and feel of it right.
The setting also benefits from the attention to detail and the film boasts all the right amounts of gothic arctitechure, desicrated bodies, and so on. When i read any of the fluff in the rule books or dive into a 40k novel pretty much what i see on disply here is more or less what i see in my head (although the veteren battle brothers look a bit too old, wrinkled, and grey for my liking).
A project like this always runs the risk of not being taken seriously outside of the dedicated fan base so i’m quite glad to say that the voice actors (whom the biggest name amoung them is John Hurt) are game for the project and don’t appear to be phoning it in. They are all suitibly Britsh and carry the appropriate amount of battle worn weight or youthful confidence.
Oh, the bolters sound prety good too, i like the idea that they would have a good throaty beltch over a more higher pitch rata-tat-tat-tat sound.
Ya, i’d say that just about does it for the good in this movie…
Where to start? The movie although boasting a good visual design really shows its low production values when anything starts to move. The animation although smooth just doesn’t flow well, everything seems pinned down or stiff, and don’t get me started about the models abilites to express emotion in their faces. The whole thing just looks cheap and rushed, seeming more appropriate for a weekend cartoon series that is rushed out one after the other in a couple of months, then a product that serves as the first 40k movie to be made, and something that apprently took 5 years to come to fruition.
The story itself is an absolute bare bones affair, which may be a good thing considering it is not even 80 minutes in length. What progression it does offer is painfully obvious and predictable to any fan casual or serious of the series. My biggest complaint is that the framework for a decent narrative and character arc is there; it would be an interesting story to see a young group of battle brothers over confident in their abilities due to their lack of experience, come out of hellish ordeal and see their arrogance for the weakness it is. But there just isn’t enough set up to make that happen. The whole thing scoots by so quickly it offers very little room for any of the characters to breath and flesh out. However even if the plot offered more space and intrige the characters are just cardboard cut outs anyway, you could exchange anyone of the other members of the squad with one another and it would make no difference to either the plot or impressions of individuality between any of them.
Despite the attention to getting the look of the film right, the film makers manage to screw around with other crucial elements of the universe that serve to throw me into a line of questioning that goes something like this:
-Why is an apothacary taking the role of a chaplain in the opening scene?
-Why is there only 12 battle brothers aboard a ship that is as massive as this one?
-Why can the Imperial Fist’s chaplain shoot some sort of force weapon from his crozious?
-Why doesn’t the chaos space marine armour stop normal bolt rounds?
-How does a simple close combat weapon shear through the CSM’s armour without a disruption field?
-Why would the Imperial Fists devote an entire battle company to guarding a book of the warp on some back water world, when any relic that they have been given by Dorn or the Emperor is kept on their mobile fortress?
-Why is the Marine tasked with guarding the book reading it like it was a magazine while on route up to the ship? Seriously, he’s strapped up in his mount in the Thunder Hawk and has the thing open and is just flipping through the pages, isn’t it a holy relic? To be read only by the highest authorities and only in the most reverent of times? The Fucking Emperor of Mankind held that book 10 000 years ago, and he just opens it and reads the thing like i would do with a news paper while taking a shit?? And no one says anything? Not even the Chaplain???
I could go on, i mean its not like it gets things so completely wrong that it couldn’t take place in the 40K universe but it makes some strange descisions with its portrayal of it.
5 years in development and this is what they come up with huh. They even got Dan Abnett to write the script and he has apparently written some of the best stuff The Black Library has to offer.
That’s the thing that just rubs the most salt into the wound, there exists some really really good narratives in the 40k universe: Helsreach, Wrath Of Iron, Imperial Armour Vol. 9 & 10, Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising, Dawn of War 2: Retribution, all of these and more are all worth adaptation and are just plain old better stories than what we have here.
Ultimately the film that we have was most certainly not worth the wait. However despite it not being a good movie it may attract new comers to the realm of 40K and that is always a good thing. Hell if this was a success financially we may see another movie down the road, and i always will hold out some hope that God Emperor willing it will be one worth watching.
* 1/2 STARS OUT OF FIVE