Ultramarines A Warhammer 40,000 Movie
Based on Game Workshop’s popular
Warhammer 40,000 franchise, Ultramarines boasts an intricate
and established universe as its source material and has managed to rope
in some rather big names for what could be considered an extremely
esoteric project. Originally produced in 2010 and only made available by
ordering the film through official websites, Anchor Bay has stepped up
to the plate and provided a wider release, finally offering fans an
easier option for viewing the film.
You’d be best served coming into Ultramarines with at least a bit
of knowledge about the source material; there is some heavy exposition
provided at the beginning for newcomers but for a universe as rich as
that of Warhammer 40,000 five minutes of stilted dialogue doesn’t
do it any justice. Indeed, many viewers will find themselves bewildered
as to what exactly is going on.
The plot concerns the eponymous Ultramarines, Earth’s last bastion
against the scourge of the galaxy and the pride of the Space Marines.
Heavily indoctrinated with an esoteric code of honour, the Ultramarines
draw inspiration from Knights of old, replacing the traditional
chainmail with hulking suits of armour and blasters.
The first half of the film amounts to
a lot of tired dialogue about the importance of honour and the refusal
to yield, followed by a seemingly endless stroll through the desert.
After the plodding opening the Ultramarines finally engage their foes,
the Warp Daemons, and the remainder of the film focuses on the team as
they attempt to defeat their enemy. So far, so clichéd.
The characters are poorly written and
are easily interchangeable with generic roles from the countless other
films of this ilk: Wise, benevolent leader, hot headed rookie in for a
reality check... They’re all present and accounted for.
The cast features such acting
luminaries as Terrance Stamp and John Hurt, but their disinterested
delivery coupled with what could possibly be the most seriously
overblown dialogue ever committed to screen fails to elevate the film to
the level assumed due to their presence.
But easily the biggest elephant in
the room would have to be the animation – Simply put, it’s so horrid
it’s literally eye-rape. Far from the slick CGI of comparable
productions, Ultramarines plays like a stiffly animated extended
cut scene from a PSOne game. Seriously, it’s that bad.
Characters all seem cast from the
same generic template, with very little texture variation at all, and
most of the environments, particularly during the first half, amount to
a swirling cloud of brown sand. Mouths aren’t synced up correctly,
character movements are stiff and poorly animated and even the
Ultramarines themselves seem bored by proceedings.
Anchor Bay’s transfer is the sole
bright light in this release, with their reliably clean and crisp
audio/visual presentation adding credence to what amounts as little more
than a glorified fan film. I understand that the budget for
Ultramarines wouldn’t cover the catering budget on a Pixar
production but when even the execrable Superman 64 has better
looking graphics than your feature film, you know you’re in trouble.
has about 50 minutes of supplemental features, with the main focus being
the half hour “Making Of” featurette that, over five parts, manages to
cover every aspect of the film’s production. Rounding out the package
are short features on the mythology of the Warhammer universe and
creature design and an animated graphic novel that serves as a prequel
to the film, filling in the back story of the Space Marines and Warp
List of Features:
Between Chaos and Darkness: The World of the Space Marines (5:58)
the Void: Making ‘Ultramarines’ (29:47)
Creating the Daemon (2:00)
Ultramarines Animated Graphic Novel (12:04)
If the story was strong enough
maybe you could overlook the horrendous animation but unfortunately
Ultramarines makes very little use of the Warhammer
universe and what it does use isn’t explained very well. What you’re
left with is a yawn inducing ‘Walk-and-Talk’ through the desert and
punctuated underwhelming action scenes. Things play out as you’d expect
– Lessons are learnt and sacrifices are made, all that jazz, but it’s
all too predictable and poorly performed to truly engage the audience.
Long time Warhammer fans could
probably chuck another point or two onto the final score, but to an
outside observer Ultramarines is the very definition of
impenetrable fan service and the ugly production only serves to deter
newcomers to the franchise. For a series with such a devoted fan
following you’d have thought that a little more care would have been
taken with the first feature set in that universe and as a result it’s
hard to recommend this to anyone but the most ardent fan.