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Featured TV on DVD Review: Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie

January 22nd, 2011

Ultramarines - Buy Direct

Warhammer 40,000, a spin-off of Warhammer, has been a popular table-top miniature game for nearly 25 years now dating back to 1987. The game has remained popular enough for a series of books to be published, and late last year the first movie, Ultramarines, was released as part of a two-disc collector's set. Will it appeal to fans of the game? Will it have crossover appeal?

The Movie

The film begins with a very chaotic battle scene in which we see the first person perspective of soldier on what appears to be the losing side. We hear chatter through the com system that they must protect the relic.

We don't see the results of that battle, but it doesn't look good.

John Hurt begins his narration explaining the basic plot. Its the 41st millennium and mankind is battling against the forces of chaos in a never-ending war that spans the galaxy. Man is led by the Space Marines, and the elite among them are the Ultramarines.

We then move onto the a training session of one Ultima Squad led by Captain Severus, who's personally giving a lesson to Brother Proteus, whom he thinks isn't ready. Proteus will get his chance to prove that very soon, as they receive a distress call from Mithron, the site of the battle we saw in the prologue. The only location of interest on the planet is a holy shrine, which is home of an important tome. The troops are eager for combat, and the glory that comes from it, but Apothecary Pythol warns them that their quest for glory will get them killed and that the point of war is victory. And when they finally get to their battle, they soon learn death is a lot more likely than glory, even for Ultramarines.

This movie actually has really good atmosphere, so going any further into the plot might provide a few too many spoilers, so I'll stop there. In fact, its atmosphere might be the best thing going for the movie. Once the squad lands on Mithron, it's clear they are not quite prepared for what they are going to find, and the few hits we see add to the tension. (Like the shadowy blur, or the point of view shots of something watching the marines.) I've seen a lot of compliments about the music in this regard, and it is certainly an asset. Additionally, the voice acting is much better than expected, especially compared to most direct-to-DVD releases.

On the downside, the animation looks second tier and some of the character movements felt stiff. Good detail, awkward animation. This was especially evident in the melee combat. Speaking of melee combat... really? Its the year 40,000, give or take, and you are still using swords? Okay, the chainsaw sword looks cool, but it doesn't seem practical. In that vein, too often the soldiers take off their helmets. They need to do this in order for the viewer to be able to tell the difference between characters, because the blue power armor looks too similar. But it doesn't make sense in the context of the fight. Finally, while the voice acting is great, the dialogue usually falls into two modes, short yells along the lines of 'For the Empire!' and long speeches about the sanctity of their cause, with almost no room for character development in-between.

So on the plus side, there's some good battle scenes, the mood and tension are well done, while the music and the voice acting are excellent. On the downside, the animation is stiff, the characters lack real development, while there are a few things that don't make sense from a tactical stand point. (Put on your damn helmet in a fight!) Overall, I would say it should appeal to fans of the game, but I'm not sure about crossover appeal

The Extras

Unfortunately, I only have a DVD-R version of the movie, and not the full collector's set. That's too bad, because the collector's set looks cool. There's a second disc with special features that include featurettes on the making of the movie from the voice cast, to the music, to the story, etc. There's also an exclusive hardback graphic novel. It does cost $40, but that includes shipping and handling to the United States and considering how expensive Warhammer merchandise normally is, this shouldn't be a real concern for most fans, but again, it does limit the target audience.

The Verdict

I'm not well-versed in the world of Game Workshop and the only product of there's I've played is Blood Bowl. (I hate the Khemri. I hate battling any team with Regeneration.) If you don't know anything about the world of Warhammer 40k, then Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie might not appeal to you. However, if you are a huge fan and have a massive collection of Space Marines, the Two-Disc Collector's Edition is worth picking up, but I hope that if they make another film, they work on a little more character development and a smoother animation.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ultramarines