Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a look at the first animated movie based on the miniature wargame
It is the 41st Millennium, and the only force that stands between humanity and alien hordes are the Space Marines. Genetically enhanced, clad in power armour and knowing no fear, they are the angels of death. And the greatest of them are the Ultramarines. But when a select squad of scarred veterans and raw recruits responds to a distant planet’s distress beacon, they discover that a horrific evil has been unleashed. Amidst a living nightmare of chaos, carnage, and daemonic fury, these steel battle-brothers must now survive the ultimate enemy: themselves. (Taken from the PR.)
I guess I'm what some people would label a 'geek' on account of my fondness for cultural phenomenons such as Star Wars and Star Trek, my love of video games, comics (well, some anyway), and fondness for quirky televisions shows. Warhammer 40,000 enthusiasts are people I would label geeky, so I'm not sure where that leaves them overall. I'm sure it's a perfectly fascinating way to pass your time, but whenever I've walked past a Games Workshop - the only store I know of that actually carries the line - it's been exclusively populated by a staff of bearded grown men playing soldier with small boys. That rather dodgy image aside, I did play the recent Space Marine video-game, and while it was ultimately rather shallow it did provide some visceral thrills. This movie is sort of like the cinematic counterpart to that game, but unfortunately when the interactive elements are removed you're left with something that only hardcore Warhammer fans are going to enjoy. The voice acting is competent enough - in fact, the heavyweight voice cast is the best thing about the film - but the story is uninteresting, the dialogue is stilted and the animation is uninspiring, rendering the whole affair rather boring. That's quite an achievement for a film in which giant cyber-augmented soldiers fight daemons from another dimension.
A 1.78:1 (1080/24p AVC) presentation is the order of the day here, but don't go expecting Pixar-like visuals from this budget British production. The animation, while competent enough, is clearly one or two notches below the top tier titles and often has the appearance of a video game cut-scene. Movement can be jerky and facial animation lacks realism, which only serves to remind you that you're watching a DTV movie. The colour palette is essentially quite strong, although some of the primaries appear a little muted (perhaps by design), while contrast is such that the image occasionally looks a little washed out. Detail is acceptable rather than spectacular, with many scenes covered in a layer of mist that partially obscures much of the action. A number of the close-up shots exhibit a surprisingly revealing level of detail though, and it's during these that the picture looks its best. The underwhelming visual style is further hampered by some posterisation and noise, both of which serve to highlight the film's bargain-basement status. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad looking film, it's just unlikely to become anyone's go-to demo title.
A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is the solitary offering in this department, and like the video before it there are a number of issues that mar what could have been a really nice effort. Things start well enough with an opening scene that thrusts the viewer into a frantic battle. Gunshots, explosions and screams can be heard from every angle, creating an aural maelstrom that sets the tone for what is to follow. The frequent skirmishes that punctuate the seventy-odd minute runtime provide ample opportunity for the track to flex its muscles, with atmospheric ambient effects, plenty of directionality, and some earth-shattering bass. The Ultramarines' guns are a particularly potent source of low-end, each blast eliciting an almighty thud from the subwoofer. The problem is that the track really only has two levels: 0 and 11. Listening at reasonable levels renders much of the dialogue indistinct, and turning the volume up to compensate poses the risk of serious damage to one's hearing every time the ultramarines engage in a fire-fight. Now I don't mind big, bold soundtracks, but I do like them to have a little more finesse than this one.
- Into the Void: Making Ultramarines: This is a five-part making-of documentary that covers the various aspects of production, from story development and casting, through to animation and sound design.
- Between Chaos and Darkness: The World of the Space Marines: A short featurette in which the filmmakers discuss the setting, characters, and the Warhammer universe as a whole.
- Creating the Daemon: This focusses on character design for the film's ultimate bad guy.
- Animated Graphic Novel: Ultramarines Prequel: This short animated novel provides a little bit of back-story to the main feature.
- Trailer: The film's trailer is included in high-definition.
Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie is probably best suited to hardcore Warhammer fans. The film has obviously been created with them in mind, and as such it's not particularly accessible to casual viewers. All things considered the feature itself looks and sounds relatively good, but no one is going to be mistaking it for a top-tier animated title. The extras are also fairly lightweight and unlikely to interest beyond the initial viewing. It's great that fans finally have a movie celebrating the universe that they love, but I simply can't recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with said universe.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 17th June 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Extras: Making of, Featurettes, Animated Prequel, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Martyn Pick
Cast: Terence Stamp, John Hurt, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, Donald Sumpter, Johnny Harris
Length: 77 minutes
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