I was pretty excited when I heard, over a year or so ago, that GW had finally put the gears in motion to produce a movie based on their best selling game line, Warhammer 40,000. It all started with postcards being handed out at GDUK with nothing but the Ultramarines logo on, so it wasn’t long before teh interwebs were on fire with speculation.
It was shortly after that teasers where posted up on the movies official dedicated web page which got legions of fans drooling. It was all pretty cool, and the design work was great. After a while I sort of forgot about the whole thing, figuring I would hear something about it when it was due for release, and thats exactly what happened.
I was pretty impressed by some of the names on the roster like Sean Pertwee (big fan of Jon ‘Dr Who’ Pertwee’s son, ever since I saw Dog Soldiers), Terence Stamp and John Hurt, amongst others. Also the fact that Dan Abnett wrote the story said to me that this was going to be the dogs bollocks*
About October time 2010 (I think) I was sent the info to pre order the movie. There was the standard version and the ‘all singing all dancing with fecking bells hanging off it’ version. Naturally I wanted the latter So my mom picked it up for me as a xmas gift.
It’s a nice package thats for sure. It somes in a card sleeve, which holds the metal tin with 2 discs in and a hard back mini-comic which is the ‘prequel’ to the movie. 10 out of 10 for presentation.
So, the other night, after the dust had settled from the holidays, I sat down to watch it. Clocking in at a mere 76 minutes, I wondered what sort of story you could cram into that time slot…
Some Ultramarines, 12 of them, hanging out on their ultra-megaginormous battle barge intercept a distress signal from a planet called Mithron. Not a planet of great significance save for a shrine there that holds a chapter codex relic for the Imperial Fists. In true ‘Aliens’ fashion, the squad head planet side to help out and save the artifact from falling into the hands of chaos.
We begin with a narrative from John Hurt, laying down the background foundation of the universe that this story takes place in, pretty much like you do with any 40K book from Black Library. Hurt’s voice is slightly gravelly and sounds perfect for setting the tone. I possibly start to get a few goosebumps.
We find our Ultramarine heroes (?) sparring in the training hall (I thought they used training ‘cages’?). Brother Proteus (Pertwee) is sparring with Captain Severus. 5 minutes in, and i’m already thinking that Terence Stamp sounds a little flat, almost like he’s bored, but I give it the benefit of the doubt. After concluding their match, the Brother Captain reveals to them their mission, and they all swear fealty to the Emperor upon a giant warhammer that is held in the chapel/training hall. Already I was wishing that there was a full company of marines, and not just this small group. I understand that it makes for more intimate stroy telling, but seeing them rattling around this city sized ship seemed a little odd to me. Anyhoo.
They prepare for battle, we see them in the, umm, locker rooms? being tended to by Servitors who are assisting with their purity seals etc. One attends Captain Severus as the Captain swears his oath of the moment. At this point i’m thinking, ‘hang on, would marines do that to Servitors?’ I thought it would be a chaplain, or a senior officer or something, but a servitor?? We see them checking their weapons, and the heavy bolter dude inscribing his rounds with ‘kill the heretic’. This was a nice touch.
They set off… they make planet fall. They’ve brought a land speeder which scouts off ahead.
There is lots of walking. I mean, lots of walking. All the while there are exchanges between the characters, but honestly I didn’t feel a connection, nor really care for any of them. Proteus comes across slightly whiny, like he’s been scolded for something, and is trying to get back in everyones good books, as the rest of the group seem a little pissed off at him. Its here that you get to see the marines properly, and I did not like the way the legs looked. From the waist up, they look great, but waist down looked to me like they were wearing bell bottoms. It made them look a little top heavy, and made their walking look clumsy and uncoordinated.
They walk, more, seeing fleeting shadows, walk into a warp/sand storm and locate the rocky mountain top they need to ascend to reach the shrine. The landspeeder occupants bite the dust, as they come under attack from Black Legion marines before climbing up to their destination. Their journey reveals all sorts of atrocities perpetrated by the chaos legions in taking the stronghold. This bit was actually pretty cool. The visuals were excellent. (I won’t spoil it for you).
They get to the shrine, only to be attacked by a demon, also, Captain Severus plummets to his death while taking a Black Legion member with him. They locate the room with the artifact, which is being guarded by the remnants of the Imperial Fists force, one battle brother and their chaplain (John Hurt). So they all start back to their extraction point, which of course involves even more walking, all the while private exchanges are being made as to why and how 2 members were able to survive. I had to chuckle, as the word ‘taint’ is used often >snicker<.
Arriving at the extraction point they come under heavy attack from Chaos Space Marines, and suffer casualties. When it looks like they are about to have their asses handed to them Captain Severus appears, apparently unscathed, to save the day. They make it back to their ship. We get a twist in the story here, which I won’t reveal, as it will spoil it, but lets just say I saw it coming lol!
Over all I actually did enjoy it. Its obvious that it has been ‘dumbed’ down so that people who are not gamers and are newcomers don’t get too bogged down in the ‘fluff’. There are some pretty glaring things that those who are into 40K will pick up on, but all in all it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. The backdrops are well designed, and it does have that dark, gothic, slightly gritty feel to it which is good, as I was expecting it to turn out like Space Crusade or something. I think the voice actors were good choices, even with Terence Stamp sounding like he was ready to fall asleep. I was not a big fan of the marine design, as I mentioned earlier, and I didn’t care much for the apparent groundbreaking technologies they had used for the faces. The marines felt too ‘fragile’ and not the one man tank machines that they are always depicted as. They get thrown around a lot, and I read someone elses review on it elsewhere that said they looked like toys being thrown around by a kid, which I agree with. It did feel like I was watching a feature length episode of Dawn of War.
I hope that this does herald a beginning of 40K or even fantasy features from Games Workshop, lets hope they can deliver more next time, and not spare the horses!
Thanks for sticking with me though my wall of text! I wonder if I too will be spammed by the mysterious GW bot that posts singing praise comments whenever this movie is mentioned…?
*pretty freaking awesome, general term for something that is good to the nth degree.