Film Review: Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie

As a child of the 1980s and 1990s there is a game, a hobby, that not only stole 90% of my pocket money but resulted in super glued fingers, paint splattered furniture and many happy hours shouting “death to all” before rolling a 1 on the die meaning apparently, it was my man who, in fact, died. I am of course talking about Warhammer and the world of Space Marines, Orks and Chaos created by Games Workshop.

As a hobby: buying, building and painting little plastic and metal warriors passed many a wet afternoon and gave me huge amounts of pleasure; creating the “perfect” army with no tactical knowledge or skill, after all, the greatest armies are those not kept up your sleevies but rather, those born solely out of owning the latest, greatest “new” member of the fighting force they just released whether or not your army needs it.

It was very apparent, very quickly, that practically my future was never going to lie on a battlefield, real or polystyrene. However, I am a firm believe that the world of Warhammer and the late nights spent painting solider after solider, developed my love of creativity and design. In fact, over the last few months, I’ve actually been going through a bit of a nostalgic clearout – ebaying large amounts of old, now unused and sadly unloved fighting warriors – although having found it, I can’t bring myself to sell the first model I ever painted, a very rough and ready Commissar Yarrick of the Imperial Guard!

And so, while bored and passing the time I worked my way through the Amazon “Bargain Blu-rays” section when I stumbled across a film that caught my eye, Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie. Now, t has always surprised me that there hasn’t been more films and/or computer games based upon Warhammer. Whatever you think of it as a hobby, Games Workshop has created some amazing characters, worlds and stories over the years that are just screaming for the Hollywood treatment.

And so, ignoring the reviews and with nothing but nostalgic love in my heart I purchased it. Not expecting much, but hey, it’s a film and it’s a few hours of potentially reliving a very happy part of my childhood. Sadly though, what I found, what I remember and what I wanted, were very, very different things.

Firstly, the movie, for what is potentially claiming to be a feature film, is short. It falls into the not quite one but not quite the other category where it’s not really long enough to be a true film but is too long to be a TV programme or short. However, this in the middle timing has a larger and more noticeable influence by dramatically effecting the plot. Everything just feels rushed, it feels crammed. You almost get this impression that Ultramarines – A Warhammer 40,000 Movie is simply a foreword to a bigger, longer story. This is the first few lines of the opening paragraph. Certainly not the whole book.

And this causes the plot to become very shallow and superficial. They never go into any detail, because they’ve got no time to, it just marches regimentally through the basic outline, point to point. Like I said, it’s comes over far more as the foreword, as the preamble that is there to simply fill space, time, a gap before Chapter 1 starts.

This means that to start off with you have no idea who any of the characters are. They’ll happily throw away radio chatter between Brother Proteus and Brother Carnak and Brother Pythol but when everyone essentially dresses the same and sticks on a helmet, following who is talking to who becomes impossible and disconnects you completely from everything happening on screen. Especially as most of the time you are viewing the film from the 3rd angle, looking into a squad from a distance. The film creates a complete split between the picture and the dialogue.

Add this character confusion to the lack of depth and explanation of plot and you suddenly stumble into the films biggest problem. Unless you know anything about the world of Warhammer, Space Marines, their technologies and the regimental structures, things will become even more confusing. Granted the chance of anyone watching this film who isn’t already a fan, or have passing knowledge of the table top war game is not high, but either way, that shouldn’t matter, a film shouldn’t be this specialist. Poor or not.

And then, for the people that do understand this world and have a minute idea of why things are going on, there is another problem. The scales seem all wrong. Space Marines are meant to be these super human 7ft tall fighting warriors and yet their proportions just look wrong. The Thunderhawk Gunship transporter they use seems to change from big, interstellar craft to small man mover as it flies them into battle. There is a simple reason for this sizing problem though, the models on which it’s all based and designed, being a physical entity, define such structure as to the weight, size, strength of the objects portrayed, whether man or machine. This means that any difference, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem fails to go unnoticed.

I knew this wasn’t going to be a ground breaking film that blew me away. After all, it’s a very specialist film, that is noticeable in it’s isolation and limited by a hit and miss running time but I didn’t expect to get a film anything like as bad as this. This result was made even more strange as the voice cast used is a virtually a “who’s who” list: John Hurt, Terence Stamp, Sean Pertwee, Donald Sumpter the list goes on and on and yet, it felt more like a fan produced tribute than commercial film.

I’m a fan of Warhammer, and I was thinking when starting to think about this review that just like I found, returning to The Matrix Trilogy, that you should never try to relive memories for days past, but this is way beyond any pedestal my memories could create. This is just rubbish.

Oh, and it didn’t help that I am now unable to hear John Hurt narrate/voice anything after his toning of a Dragon in Merlin!

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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