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Massawyrm enjoys the hell out of the Warhammer 40,000 CG feature film ULTRAMARINES

Hola all. Massawyrm here. The first thing you need to know going into this is that ULTRAMARINES was not made for anyone but established fans, so if you were hoping for this to be some kind of primer ushering you into the universe, you will be sorely disappointed – and more than a little lost. Made on a shoestring budget and written by veteran Warhammer 40,000 novelist Dan Abnett, this thing is not exactly what one would call accessible. But for those of you 40k nuts jonesing to see some Space Marine action, this thing will do the trick nicely. In fact, it’s pretty kick ass. The entirely CG film is a lean 75 minutes that pretty much fly by, following a tactical squad of first time marines sent on a recon mission - with a Captain and an Apothecary in tow – in order to investigate a distress beacon pinging from an Imperial monastery. Their slow crawl through hostile terrain and eventual clash with the forces of Chaos are pretty much the bulk of the film; there are no sweeping battle sequences between hundreds of individuals or grandiose vistas. It is a straight forward man on a mission movie set on a single planet with additional scenes on the Ultramarines ship. For those unfamiliar with the history of the Imperium or the Space Marines, this will seem like a senseless trudge with almost no exposition whatsoever and very little development of the threat. But for longtime fans, it is a fairly tense mission into the unknown, riddled with clues and foreshadowing, pitting our heroes against one of the Imperium’s most iconic foes: the Black Legion. The film is chock full of great visuals and exactly the kind of detail fans are looking for. Every piece of stained glass in the background tells a story, the equipment is everything you want to see in action and when the violence ramps up, it is bloody and brutal in all the ways you expect 40K to deliver. There are a few bits of character design that are pretty much jaw dropping, with two characters in particular stealing the show (though mentioning them would take us into spoiler territory). When the film is at its best, it is everything you’ve been hoping to see in a 40K film. But it’s not perfect. Sadly, the film’s biggest problems all stem from the budget constraints on Codex pictures; this wasn’t a big budget production, and it shows. There are a handful of shots that look like they needed a few more passes through the computer, and one tracking shot that looks exactly like a gameplay cut scene from a Space Marine video game. And while these are admittedly very short, and I was watching the film on an HD projector and 8’ screen, it is still something folks are going to notice. Fortunately, not only are these sequences few and far between, they are also each placed near absolutely gorgeous - and occasionally brutally disturbing – patches of ornately designed, perfectly rendered CG. Though the lack of budget certainly also contributes to the small amount of characters and locations available for the film. If there is one oft repeated complaint, it will be that fans want more – and hopefully now that they’ve got these designs and locations on file, they can move on to expanding into some of the Ultramarines other toys – like terminator armor, Dreadnoughts and maybe some time with everyone’s favorite chapter master, Marneus Calgar. This is a fanservice movie – nothing more, nothing less. It will do little to nothing for anyone who hasn’t played either the tabletop wargame or several of the videogames. If you have, however, ULTRAMARINES is a lot of fun, a good old fashioned R-Rated, sufficiently badass, bloody fight against the forces of darkness, with plenty of references to the canon you hold quite dear. It should be played loud, watched with friends and followed up by a night of gaming – possibly Killteam if you can swing it. Definitely worth checking out. ULTRAMARINES is available on a limited edition DVD November 29th here.
Until next time friends, Massawyrm
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