Being a follower of all things blue power-armour related I had heard many things about the first Warhammer 40k movie – the CGI based Ultramarines. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything good hence the delay in not seeing it the moment it hit the shelves.
I read a couple of reviews on the internet but I don’t think you can take those kind of things at face value. The problem with a movie like Ultramarines is that every fanboy Games Workshop nerd and his brother is massively biased. Either it is always going to be the best movie ever because it’s got frickin’ space marines in it, or it is always going to be the worst movie ever because it’s got frickin’ space marines in it. There is a third group of fanboys that think the movie is going to be terrible because the second marine from the end had his purity seal on the wrong leg and there is no way that those marines would have had those bolters in that colour on that campaign because of the great pig wrestling bolter revolution of M39.988 meant that all bolters assigned to that particular squad would have been a slightly different shade of grey and therefore the movie goes totally against and ruins the 40k universe. (You can occasionally find these type of fanboys lurking around The Bolter and Chainsword forums).
I think the movie itself is actually pretty decent. Honestly! Now then, it’s not a gun toting slug fest and doesn’t contain too many cliches. No-one gets power fisted, so it’s not strictly true to the board game. The story however is interesting, tense and engaging despite the lack of rootin’ tootin’ and shootin’. There’s not a terrific amount of characterisation but the marines themselves are believeable, as is their predicament. The voice acting is also good and feels right. The music in the film is appropriately atmospheric. If I had to pigeon hole the film into a genre I would have to go with a thriller, which is not something I was expecting. Nevertheless the movie is watchable and enjoyable.
The CGI in the film has come in for some criticism, and probably rightly so. This certainly isn’t a Pixar production. The backgrounds are empty with very little going on in them. Most of the movie is set in a dust storm which adds to the tension but you get the feeling it was done partly to lessen the amount of work required. It’s not all doom and gloom though as these things don’t really get in the way of the story. There are also some memorable slow motion scenes which add flavour to the film.
Is there anything I would personally like to have seen done differently? A few minor points I suppose. There aren’t many characters in the film, however it is difficult to distinguish them once they are wearing their helmets. Yes they all have different voices but the helmets make it harder to tell who is actually talking. Maybe a helmetless squad would have been less believeable but may have improved dialogue. Along the same lines, there is no change in voice effects in or out of helmets. A minor grumble really. The only storyline-type change I may have made is making the space marines seem more super human. Space marines are supposed to be nigh on invincible and stronger than thousands of men in battle. The trouble here is that they are fighting other space marines so this trait is never obvious. Maybe I’m just being picky and I suppose someone with no prior knowledge wouldn’t really mind. Finally, a facemelting cameo from the dreadnought in the Dawn Of War 2 intro would have been good!
So overall – It’s not going to win any oscars, but I was pleasantly surprised by this decent movie venture into the realms of the 41st millenium.