I finally got to sit down and watch the much anticipated and (in some quarters at least) much maligned Ultramarines Movie from Codex Pictures. I had been planning to see it with the rest of the Gents, along with a good supply of beer and pizza to sustain us through it's epic run time of...erm...70 minutes.
But the fates were conspiring to prevent us all being in the same place at the same time and the DeLorean was out of juice, where's a group of Libyan nationalists with a stolen shipment of plutonium when you need them!? So when the chance arose to borrow a copy, I took it; an afternoon showing on my todd with some Christmas leftovers would have to do.
Having seen the trailer at Games Day last year and forewarned with the knowledge that the film had been made on a very tight budget, I had set my hopes limiter to mildly entertained. On that score I was not disappointed, but I was perhaps a little surprised, this isn't the disaster many have foretold. True, I doubt it'll win any awards, unless one of the forums is going to start the Orkstars or perhaps The Golden Thrones!
But for what it is, a straight to DVD B movie, it's not bad.
First off the screenplay by Dan Abnett is an exercise in economy, it manages to distill and impart the basic premise of 40k to the unenlightened whilst still fitting in enough fluff, albeit with a few errors (Geek Rage advisory) to keep a veteran interested. But it is 'very basic' I'm fairly sure he was shackled by budget restraints, so don't watch expecting the creative depth of say Ravenor, you will be sadly disappointed.
The soundtrack grabbed me right away, the opening was very reminiscent of Aliens and the rest was suitably epic and gothic in tone; I'm a big one for movie soundtracks and do most of my painting to them, I'd be tempted to part with hard cash for this one.
The sound effects are not so good and did detract from the film, its little things that make a big difference; for example, the Marine armour makes hardly any noise, these huge suits of ceremite go stomping around ships deck plating, rocky worlds and clambering up cliff faces with barely a clunk, there's no sense of weight or power.
The graphics on the whole were quite good, with attention to detail given in the right places, the Marines armour is varied, with the Imperial Fist Chaplain being a standout favourite. Vehicles and equipment are pretty much spot on, although I wasn't hugely taken by the Marines HUD displays in their helmets, they looked like they were playing the original Doom. Also the senior members of the Marines looked like a bunch of Chelsea Pensioners, brave souls all, but not really fit for frontline action; I always thought Marines were functionally immortal, aside from a little grey hair and the odd augmetic they should look the same as they did when they graduated from the Scouts.
The background is a bit spartan and or foggy at times, Mithron ain't no Pandora, but the buildings are dark and brooding and the ship interiors could have been kitbashed from the Imperial Sector boxed set (lashings of skulls) so they are very much in keeping with the 40k verse.
The voice talent is good, getting John Hurt, Terence Stamp and Sean Pertwee as leads doesn't do any harm, the supporting cast weren't bad either and they were all suitable in their rolls. The script left something to be desired in places, especially Apothecaries whining on about the horrors and consequences of war, these are Space Marines for Thrones sake! And I would have liked a little more character and charisma between the squad members, Battle Brothers live and die for each other, not bitch and squabble like a bunch of school girls.
To sum up, it was a valiant effort with the resources at hand, not without fault as you can see, but not the utter train wreck predicted. I was entertained and didn't feel my time was wasted; I would sit through it again and may do so with my missus to see what she makes of an animated movie about my little toy soldiers.
Would I buy a copy of my own? I probably will, the film is not all I had hoped for, but without a show of support, I don't think Games Workshop will be convinced to get behind the concept; further films will need greater financial investment if they are to live up to our expectations or indeed be made at all. There is a wealth of storytelling to be had from the 40k verse, stories that will translate well to the medium of film; we should want to assist these first few faltering steps, rather than cut it's legs off and then grieve when it doesn't get up again.
I'll leave you to marvel at those last sage like words, yes I typed them, must have been the cheese I had last night; fear not, usual inane babble will return next post.
Pictures featured screen shots from Ultramarines the Movie, produced by Codex Pictures Ltd, copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2010