Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ultramarines Movie review

I'm torn. I don't want to give in to my GW fanboi nature and wax eloquent as only a mother can over her ugly child, and claim I only see the good. At the same time I know that the entertainment industry runs on money first and talent second. I know that if we, the die hard fans don't make sure this movie isn't accepted and applauded, the real potential we know is out there likely won't ever be realized.

The good:
- Yes! A 40k movie. I've waited for this since reading the Rogue Trader and Lost and the Damned books and realized the cinematic potential this universe has.
- As Jawaballs so eloquently depicts in his review here the production value on the package, novel, and case are outstanding. Everything we as players could hope for I think. The story in the graphic novel is a bit light, but the art is good (and has Tyranids kicking Ultramarine backside mwahaha)
- For what it is, a low(er) budget animated film, it is very good. Compared to other similar movies of similar genre (Dragonlance anyone?) the values and art are excellent.
- The voice actors are good, if often uninspired.
- Sound effect quality was excellent; I really liked the chainsword, heavy bolter fire and brass.

The bad, or what the uninitiated would see if they knew nothing about 40k:
- The animation is jerky, and looks very, very unnatural. By comparison, the Dawn of War/Dawn of War 2 movement are similar, but look more complete and natural.
- Speech mapping of the character's lips to the voices is rudimentary and often appears to be off-sync.
- Pixel jags of character and detail occurs regularly, particularly in ranged shots with multiple characters. I thought it was just my 1080i TV, but I put it into my other HDMI-input 1080p and had the same effect.
- While I get the intended "realistic" effect of the skin/faces, it ends up with characters being nearly indistinguishable, especially with the lack of expressive animations and speech mapping.
- Plot timing. For a 76-minute movie, the first 36 minutes is taken up with Marines walking and whining. Mostly walking. It gets better, but the first half sucked.
- Character development or dialog that helps the watcher understand the depth and nuance of the backstory was largely lacking. Even a few lines of elucidation would have been nice, beyond the quickly boring "Chaos is the root of all evil" that gets intoned over and over.
- I own just about every GW book Dan Abnett has written; I was less than blown away with the almost painfully obvious plot and the lack of character development.

The potential:
- Every one of us that has watched Pirates of the Caribbean (let alone Avatar) knows how unbelievably stunning the 40k universe could be on the big screen. I practically wept to see the crew of the Flying Dutchman and Davy Jones in POTC2, knowing that Abaddon and Sanguinius and Tarik and Bloodletters and Banshees could exist on screen in all their ornate, baroque glory.
- Babylon5, Stargate, V, and (the new) Battlestar Galactica are all fantastic examples that prove without a doubt that Hollywood could do justice to Eisenhorn, Ravenor, or the Horus Heresy plotlines/novels.

Overall - I'm happy and stoked to have it. I'll watch it dozens (and dozens) of times over the next few years and be happy that a tiny piece of the dream is real today. A part of me mourns the unrealized potential, but a bigger part is happy for what Codex has achieved in making this a reality. The bottom line is this movie is worth the money if you're a fan of the fluff or the game. But I think I'd have a hard time introducing this movie to someone new to 40k or gaming in general and expect them to have more than a lukewarm response. YMMV. Anyone know Guillermo del Toro's number?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. >Every one of us that has watched Pirates of the Caribbean (let alone Avatar) knows how unbelievably stunning the 40k universe could be on the big screen.
    I suggest you to keep eye on The Lord Inquisitor-project.

    And about the budget...think they could've done better with their 9.000.000 budget.

  3. $9m and all these crap reviews?
    im from Australia, so mine hasnt arrived yet, but every review ive read in blogs are forums from the northern hemisphere, well... lets say they make me regret buyin it already :S

  4. Don't regret, Meph. It is good and worth having - you'll be pleased I think as your expectations have been sufficiently lowered =)

  5. Ack hit return on accident. In continuation... the rest of us and the 40k community are at heart artists in love with the art and story. Those are very high standards to live up to.

  6. I have just finished watching the Ultramarines movie on DVD, and yes the graphics are not Avatar but once you get swept up in the plot, and immersed in the world, it is all really good.

    I agree it is a solid film where it counts, in the atmosphere, and an encouraging start for a small independent company.
    It is a VAST universe and let hope there are some more epic films to follow!!

    I liked some of the lines from the film, and thought they would make comically awesome ring tones...

    Then I found out today you can download them here!

  7. Hmmmm....I just like the fact that outta all the BL books you just dashed off Ravenor and Eisenhorn...
    they happen to be a couple of my favorites, too.
    A lotta people didn't like Ravenor, for whatever reason, but damn they would be cool movies....

  8. I've wondered from time to time who I'd like to see in the different roles for Ravenor; and yeah - that would make a hellacious movie or tv series. Ewan McGregor would make an excellent voice for Ravenor; Hayden Panettiere for Kara, Vin Diesel (maybe?) for Harlon Nayl, Bridgette Wilson (she makes a great angry face that would do Patience well).. etc...

  9. after watching it, i must say im impressed but also unimpressed.

    seriously, they cant walk or run for shit, but put them in a sword fight and they are elegant and move so swiftly... wtf?

  10. It's kind of the cheese sandwich of movies - it's a sandwich, and cheese is pretty good, but seriously, only cheese? WTF?