Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: The Ultramarines Movie

Me and my housemate Scott sat down to watch the Ultramarines movie a couple of days ago. Now I'll try and keep this as spoiler free as possible but if I don't manage it I'm sorry in advance. 

The story follows a squad of Ultramarines as they battle on an alien world. The story itself isn't too badly written. It's a little predictable and the dialogue is very cheesy at times. I got a bit sick of them saying "and they shall no know fear" but I guess it's a necessary evil. I was keen to watch the film as Ultramarines were my first army back in 2nd edition. I didn't really expect a lot from the film since I knew it was largely an in-house production and was on a very tight budget. In general I thought it was fairly good. I was originally going to write a review slating it but I had to remind myself that this isn't an epic hollywood picture but more an independent work.

The animation felt a lot like a cut scene from a video game than a movie but to be fair I think we're pretty spoilt by amazing CGI these days so post Avatar everything looks a bit amateur. Let's face it the budget was a touch smaller here. The marines all have a unique look and there's some nice touches to the armour. Somehow the heads looked a little on the small size when they didn't have their helmets on but then their armour is meant to be pretty chunky. The couple of vehicles in the film behaved pretty much as you'd expect them to. It was nice to see a land speeder zipping around. My only gripe was that for superhumans the marines didn't seem to run very fast!

The planet where most of the action takes place felt very much like a 40K environment but they scrimpted a little by making it misty. I suppose they'd argue it was to build the tension but in reality it was probably to save on animation! The internal environments were pretty solid and again were in keeping with the universe.

The voice acting was of a high standard, early on in the film some bits were slightly wooden but otherwise it was decent. The choice of actors fitted pretty well with the characters and all of them sounded "mariney". There were no excessively cheesy voices that might have ruined it. The sound effects were pretty much spot on too. Bolters sounded how you'd expect them to.

Without giving too much away the only major problem I had with the plot was that a handful of Ultramarines managed to achieve what a whole company of Imperial Fists had apparently failed to do. Pretty sure there'll be some unhappy Fists players out there. As a wolves player my only gripe was that they did a bit of intro about marines and ended with "and the greatest of them are the Ultramarines" (probably a slight misquote) which I obviously disagree with!

We only see one enemy race in the film which was a bit of a disappointment to me. The enemy are again well animated and voiced and they are in keeping with their fluff (as far as I remember anyway). The ending, as I've already mentioned, was somewhat predictable which was a shame. As a stand alone story I think it was reasonable but it's certainly not particularly original. Mind you it's difficult to come up with a plot line that hasn't been thought of these days!

It's a noticably short film and it's a shame they didn't spend a bit more time on it and extend it for another 10-15 minutes. It would've been good to see a bit more of what befell the Imperial Fists for example. It also felt a bit small scale. Whilst marines are meant to be an elite unit who don't need numbers to achieve their goals, it would've been amazing to see battle on an epic scale. I think the fact that I've just finished the Space Wolf Omnibus that has a huge Imperial army in it near the end makes me wish they thrown in a few more tanks etc. There really wasn't enough action in it. Granted they'd got to do some background for the uninitiated but really I doubt it would appeal to anyone who isn't already into 40K.

Overall I can't pretend I'm blown away by the Ultramarines movie but it's a good start. They're on the right lines but it just needed a little something extra. Personally I'd love to see GW sell the rights to a studio that will have the resources to do the stories justice. I'm glad I didn't fork out for the DVD myself as I think the content doesn't really justify the expense. Obviously it's GW pricing again but still, you wouldn't expect to pay as much for a special edition of a hollywood blockbuster, even on blu-ray!

So where next then? Will we see another Ultramarines film or will a different chapter get the treatment? Obviously I'd like to see the Space Wolves in action but whichever chapter it is I hope we get to see them fighting various enemies and that we get a lot more action.

Verdict: 6/10. Not a bad start but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement. I'd recommend watching it to a fan of 40K but it isn't going to win over anyone who isn't already hooked.


  1. Perhaps the issue with the dialogue is that Space Marines are actually quite boring, one-dimensional characters who don't actually say that much that isn't devotional business?

    Bring back Ian Watson, say I. At least he managed to make the lumbering great space-bullies interesting.

  2. Fair review, it was watchable but hardly rewatachable. The comparisons to a cut scene are very valid.

    Saw only one main fluff mistake when the main character fired his bolter for the first time it was described as rookie nerves even though he would have served as a scout for a long time.

  3. Pretty much how I felt overall too.

    Marines will always be 1 dimensional character wise (outside of Space Wolves).

    I think a film based on a squad of IG in a bigger war would be better - Think "Band of Brothers"

  4. Good review - I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the new Blu-ray release in June.

  5. Wow didnt realise there had been an Ultramarines film. There is definately scope for hollywood to make a big blockbuster base on the 40K universe!


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