“Ultramarines: the Movie” Review

Back in 2010, Games workshop released a full-length digitally animated movie set in the 40k Universe called “Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie.”  Given that my chapter of choice is the boys in blue, it seemed inevitable that I’d own a copy of it.

Of course, I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to pay MSRP on a GW item, so I put off purchasing it in the hopes that someone else would let me borrow it sometime.  Years passed and I almost forgot about it–well, until last year when Kurt was goodly enough to purchase it for me for Christmas.

For some reason, it took me almost a full year to actually sit down and watch the movie, despite the fact that it was sitting in a DVD case on my mantle.  It’s not because I was too busy, or insufficiently bored.  It was a little out of the way, so it was easy to forget about, but I’m sure it also had something to do with the reviews.

You see, everyone I’d spoken with who saw the movie generally said the same thing: if you like walking, you’ll love this movie!  Each person seemed to say that the movie largely consists of a squad of marines walking, and walking, and walking with very little action.  Some also mentioned the fact there was a landspeeder that zipped around from here to there, but almost nobody spoke of the action.

ultramarinesmovielogo-20170404-500pxAnd there’s good reason for that: despite being a movie set to the theme of a futuristic war-torn battle game, there really isn’t that much in the way of fighting.  The movie is really more of a coming of age story of a newly anointed marine into that of a captain.  Given that the average person playing the game, that seems like a questionable decision.  It would seem more likely that people who purchased the movie really expected to see more of an action flick than they did a movie about maturation.  I think that’s ultimately why a lot of the reviews are a little sour.

Overall, I think it was a pretty decent film.  Rather than go through a detailed review of everything, I thought I’d list a few things that I liked and a few that I thought could’ve been better improved.  Let’s start with the former:

Three things that I liked above the movie:

  1. The voice actors.  It took a little getting used to the fact that all the marines were British, but when you consider that’s where the game was born, it makes sense.  The level of voice actors that they got for what seems to be a low-budget movie was relatively impressive though.  I mean, General Zod from Superman and Winston Smith from 1984 (or, if you’d prefer, the bad guy from V for Vendetta)?
  2. The apothecary.  He was a stoic sort of character that really served as a role model as the young recruits developed.  He was especially solemn when extracting the geneseed from fallen comrades, and he had a cool light on his backpack that turned wherever his head faced (something that the actual model has, but I’ve never really considered before).
  3. Little things with big meanings.  It was subtle, but things that are often ignored elsewhere seemed to stand out as having actual value.  For instance, it was never spoken of, but they made an effort to ensure that the standard never hit the floor during combat.  As soon as one marine fell, another would wordlessly take up the banner and continue to fight on.  Likewise, fights themselves seemed to mean something.  Even when it was just a small skirmish between them and a chaos marine or two, spatter of bolter fire would cause real damage (unlike in the table-top game), and heavy-bolter fire was enough to take down a citadel.

And here are three things that I would’ve liked to have seen done differently:

  1. codexmarineThe graphics.  The graphics in video games are never as good as the cut scenes.  The graphics in this movie seemed more akin to those in the actual game than they did to those of the cutscenes.  Granted, the film is now 5 years old, but I don’t play video games anymore, so I’m basically comparing it to games of that era.  They looked alright, but I would’ve have been overly surprised to see any one of those characters walk into the original Morrowind video game either.  They also had some weird proportions on the marines themselves.  In particular, the backpacks and the helmets looked out of place, both were too tall and narrow.
  2. The animation.  Much of it was decent, but there were a few things that really stood out.  In particular, the gait of the marines looked off.  Watching them walk wouldn’t have been bad if they walked at all normal.  Also, the banner seemed to stick out to me.  Though it was strung up on both the top and the bottom, it really never moved.  Seeing as the majority of the film took place on a desert planet wracked with windstorms, you would think that it would’ve moved a bit more.
  3. The flamer marine seemed to discharge his weapon an unnecessary amount as he walked around.  Having never been in the miltary, maybe this is something one must do to keep the weapon operational, but I think they just got giddy with the flame effect and wanted to use it more…

Overall, I think it was a decent movie.  It wasn’t a must-see by any means, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already interested in the 40k universe; however, if you are (and you must be, if you find yourself on this blog), and you can rationalize that the movie isn’t entirely about killing things, it’s worth checking out.  I’m not sure I’d buy it, but if you know someone who owns it, there are worse ways you can spend an hour.  And, if you’re local, feel free to borrow it from me…

Image Credit: All image copyright Games Workshop.

15 comments on ““Ultramarines: the Movie” Review

  1. You are much more generous than me when it comes to this movie. In the lead up to its release, I remember the production company hyping the voice actors they had hired for the movie. However, the voice acting seemed terribly flat to me. There is almost no emotion displayed, even in combat, and the rousing speech that is given to the scouts before their mission sounds like it is a bedtime story being read for the 10th time that night by a parent trying to get their kid to sleep.

    And the graphics. The show Transformers: Beast wars had better and more realistic computer animation, and that show is nearly 10 years the senior of this effort.

    Maybe I should watch the movie again, I suppose 5 years could soften the blow somewhat. At least GW has now decided to do some licensing of their brand and perhaps we will see another effort on this front.

    • Oh, this review is much more generous than any review I’ve ever read. That’s sort of the point. I think that GW’s vision was off on the movie: they didn’t have any idea what their audience wanted/expected (big surprise there), but they didn’t turn out a horrible movie. Granted, it was far from great, but I just don’t think it deserves all of the hate that it gets. In total, I can accept the movie for what it was… maybe a 4-5/10.

      On Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 6:15 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  2. The movie was down right horrible. They would have done so much better to let Relic, the game company who has produced the Dawn of War series, to do the movie. The quality would have been far superior.

    The story was OK, but on account of the movie being so short, it couldn’t really be anything overly compelling.

    • I liked that your review wasn’t entirely negative (though it seemed like it was at least 80% that way). I’ll have to go back and check it out and see if I don’t notice the inside of the rhino on the second pass. The movie did have some redeeming qualities though–which we seem to agree upon. I’m just tired of people hearing folks bag on the movie entirely. It’s far from great, but it has potential.

      • It has so much potential! That’s what’s so frustrating about it. I feel like if they put the money into it to make it great all around GW would have seen a profit, then made more, potentially. But they didn’t, saw no profit and here we are years later without any other movies… Bah..

  3. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already interested in the 40k universe; however, if you are (and you must be, if you find yourself on this blog)”

    What??!! Hang out with sad weirdos on this website? No way, I’m off!

    Actually, I’d quite like to see this movie, if only to see what it’s all about. On the rare occasions I remember it exists, I’m waiting for someone else to pay for it so that I can borrow it!

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