Friday, February 25, 2011

Movie Review: Ultramarines back around the holidays I ordered a copy of Ultramarines, and it showed up in my mailbox on Christmas Eve.  I mentioned this to lars4life, and we agreed that we would get together to watch it.  Well, after dealing with the holidays, everyone in his house being sick, a blizzard, everyone in my house being sick, a back injury, and an ice storm, we finally got together six weeks later and checked it out.  (Check out his review here).

The Packaging:
I do want to mention that the "Collector's Edition" is a very nice set - there is a small-format, hardcover graphic novel, two DVD's (one with the movie, one with bonus content) in a stamped metal case, and a slipcase to hold everything.  I understand that a lot of people are waiting for a cheaper "basic" edition to become available, but I definitely didn't feel ripped off paying for the Collector's Edition.

The Visuals:
By far the biggest drawback of the movie.  The filmmakers obviously focused on a few "showpiece" shots (closeups of the main characters, scenes of post-battle carnage) but the vast majority of scenes look like circa-1990's computer animation.  The majority of the movie takes place on a world that is conveniently covered in dense fog, and apparently Space Marine Strike Cruisers are kept so dark that you can't see five feet in front of your face.  I haven't watched the bonus content as of this writing, but I hear that one of the segments is all about how they spent hundred of hours making sure that the Space Marines moved realistically - well, guess what guys, you missed the mark.  One thing visually I did like - the first-person POV in some of the battle scenes is very stylized & chaotic, and really did a decent job capturing what I've imagined combat to be like in the 40K universe.

The Story:
Actually not bad at all.  Given the time & budget constraints, the story was understandably kept extremely narrow - we're watching a brief recon mission in real time.  I've only started reading Black Library books very recently, and the movie uses a trope I've already seen three or four times ("We just happened to pick up this barely-audible distress signal...")  There is a twist at the end that is done pretty well.

Nitpicky Stuff:
I'm not going to niggle over small details (I read some blogs & listened to some podcasts where they were appalled that the chapter trim colors didn't match the squad's designations, or that the weapons that the Marines carried didn't mirror a legal list choice - seriously, guys?  These are the things that get your panties in a wad?)  But there were a few details that bothered me - I guess the Chaplain's Crozius now has a plus-eleventy-million Death Ray built into it, and Ultramarines apparently crumple & bleed out when hit by a single bolt pistol shot - except when they're in a hurry, then one of them can single-handedly kill hundreds of enemies with just a sword.  I realize that the movie was made for a more "general" audience than a "hardcore gamer" audience, but these are pretty major fluff violations, and Dan Abnett should know better.

Overall, I'd agree with lars4life - 6 out of 10 for me.  I've paid to see worse movies in my life.  I'd like to see this endeavor be successful enough that they make more movies based in the 40K universe, but I'd like to see more attention focused on developing interesting characters & stories - how about a traditional war movie, but following an Imperial Guard unit?  Or a supernatural thriller featuring The Inquisition?  I understand why they used Space Marines the first time out, as they are the "cash cow" of the 40K universe, but there are a lot more interesting stories to tell...


  1. Why didn't they use one of the stories out of the Omnibus?

  2. I quite agree, this movie could have been far better, but on the same side of that coin it could have been so mouch worse. I think most of the outrage is aimed at GW effectivley calling it the best movie in the universe which seems to imply they haven't actually watched it yet. -.-;

    Still, a movie franchise would eb welcomed and they have to start somewhere...

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