The holiday movie season is well upon us. In addition to the big theatrical releases, Codex Pictures has recently released Ultramarines: The Movie on DVD, the first ever feature length production based upon the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The following is a review of the film by my long time friend and fellow Warhammer enthusiast Justin:
As soon as I had heard about this movies imminent arrival, I could hardly contain myself. A Warhammer 40,000 movie, finally. I am a big fan of Games Workshop; I love the grim darkness of the far future and all the Black Library stories and background fluff associated with it. I have been playing Warhammer in both forms for close to 15 years, so I was pumped when its release drew near. I actually first heard about the movie at Games Day Los Angeles 2008 at the Black Library seminar. The Black Library representative said that it would look better than the opening for the Dawn of War computer game. At that time the movie seemed a long way off so I was intrigued but not overly excited.
I always wondered why Games Workshop had not invested in creating a cartoon to supplement their games systems. Obviously cost is the main factor, but when I was a child animated shows and commercials always got me excited for purchasing the action figures that went along with whatever franchise I was hooked on at the time. G.I. Joe, Ghost Busters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.; I watched the show and purchased the figures. Now a cartoon has arrived to pump me up on Warhammer 40K and, even as an adult 20 years later, I could not be more excited. Of course there were some exceptions.
Immediately, I was ready for this movie being low budget and shitty. I did not have high expectations for something grand and marvelous. I, along with everyone else I would believe, want to support this movie so that it will succeed and more Warhammer movies will be produced. It seems that common sentiment among the web is that nobody cares how this movie looks or is edited. The fact that it is a 40k movie overrides all other negatives that are associated with it. Since Codex Pictures was producing this movie I knew what to expect having seen Bionacle cartoons and commercials in the past. However, the more Warhammer movies Codex Pictures produces, the better they will get over time; or so we all hope.
As far as the animation is concerned, it sucks. I saw a video review on another blog from a couple of lucky fellows who got to see an early screening of the film. This blogger said that the animation was not the best but it does not distract from the movie. Since his review I was comfortable that the animation would be alright as I trusted him since he had just seen the movie. Boy was he wrong. I was distracted the whole damn time. I just kept thinking how crappy the animation was. As soon as the movie ended the first thing I thought of in regards to the animation was that Black Library representative at Games Day a couple of years back saying, “It is better than the Dawn of War Opening cinematic”. The animation in the Dawn of War cinematic is better. However, I did appreciate the grim stuff portrayed in the movie. This movie is intended for adults. It is very Warhammery, complete with dead bodies and skulls galore. These parts did look pretty cool. The movie is rated R which I found amusing. I am sure it got the R rating due to these gruesome scenes.
Next, the sound and sound editing seemed poor and low quality. I believe that Codex Pictures should have saved money on the voice acting and invested it on editing and mixing. Yes, it is true and impressive that Terrance Stamp and John Hurt lent their voice talents for the first 40k movie, but any third rate theater actor with a good voice would have done this movie justice. It is as if the animation and sound mixing let these great actors down. I had a hard time following the movie along because the sound was too soft or the voices were not audible enough.
I was most excited about the film’s writing. I love Dan Abnett’s writing style. I have read most of his Black Library books and I am a big fan of the Gaunt’s Ghost series. Unlike his books I thought this movie would have a cool story to go along with it. But Dan truly let me down on this one. I know he can write a good story, but this time he did not. The story takes too long to build up to the action, which there is not enough of. What I did like about the movie was the fact that they portrayed the Space Marines as quick and agile. That is how they should be and that is how they made them. Overall, the story was weak and for the most part uneventful. Besides the animation and sound, the story really let me down.
Now I know this movie is going to do well because Warhammer 40,000 has a strong fan base and, as mentioned earlier, every one wants more Warhammer movies. When I tried to purchase the DVD set on the movie’s website, Codex Pictures had to shut down the site because too many people were trying to purchase the movie at the same time. The server was absolutely swamped. I was not able to get through until the second day it was available for purchase, and the site was still very slow. I would say that based on the amount of people trying to purchase the movie on the day of release it is a pretty good sign that Codex Pictures will see a decent profit from this venture.
Obviously, this is not a great movie, or even a good movie for that matter. However, it is a Warhammer 40k movie. I recommend purchasing this movie for the collector as this preliminary edition comes with a hard back comic book and a cool metal case. It also comes with a bonus features disk which I have not yet had time to watch. (I will let you know what this is all about in a future article.) Also, purchase this movie so that they turn an obscene profit and create many more Warhammer movies for years to come and give us a better product! Finally, go see this movie so you can judge it for yourself, maybe you will be less pessimistic about Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie than I.
There you have it. I have yet to personally see the movie, but if you have any burning questions about it, leave a comment and I'll see if Justin can answer it for you.