Friday 31 December 2010

Ultramarines - The Movie : Review


When I first heard the news that Games Workshop were planning on releasing a movie I was excited and sceptical in equal measures. I could still remember the promise that the Bloodquest movie held before it was ultimately and unceremoniously canned.

However, following the big announcement at GD UK '09, and the raft of details which followed after, it seemed that this time something would actually be produced.

When I saw that Dan Abnett (my favourite Black Library author) was attached to write the script and the quality and pedigree of the voice actor cast (including the likes of John Hurt, Terrence Stamp and Sean Pertwee), my excitement levels were on the rise and I was filled with hope that the incredible and rich 40k universe which GW has created over the last quarter of a century would be done justice in its official screen debut.

In the run up to the special edition DVD launch of the movie the creators, Codex Pictures, begun to release teaser trailers and screen captures from the movie. I have to admit, what I saw in these gave me some concerns - particularly the trailers. So by the time the DVD finally arrived (4 weeks late after a lot of delays which made the £8 for postage seem ludicrous), I was probably more nervous than excited.

The Review

Sadly I was right to be nervous. Pretty much from the off I was disappointed and I don't think this was entirely due to the movie not meeting my lofty expectations for a 40k movie.

I sat through the first 10 minutes hopeful that it would get better as it went on, but sadly it didn't, instead just crushing my optimism the longer I watched.

So why isn't this movie a good first foray into the glitz and glam of the movie world for 40k? Well, lets look at the basic elements of the movie...


The animation isn't terrible - but it's not exactly anything special either. The space marines just don't seem to be animated to convey any kind of size, power or weight - they skip along without any real weight shift taking place or much movement in the armour. The shoulder pads are also quite oddly shaped and curved and most scenes seem to lack any real detail. The backgrounds and environments in particular being very poor for the most part - it felt like I watched 40 minutes of marines walking in poorly animated fog, a cheap cop-out for rendering environments.

The lighting is also pretty poor on characters faces throughout, often having too strong contrasts between light and shade and ruining any sense of realism.

Yes, some of these seem like nit-picking points, but for a short movie that aims to convey the core elements of what a space marine is, it's pretty important.

There were a few decent points, such as the armour on John Hurt's character Chaplain Carnak and elements of the few fight scenes there are, but the negatives far out-weigh these few bright points.


The sounds of this movie were very noticeable throughout due to there almost complete absence. Be it speech, sound effects musical score or environmental sounds, there was very little given the movies length and the lack of any kind of noise was often quite jarring - detracting significantly from the viewing experience.

Whole scenes would go by without any speech, sound effects or accompanying background noises or music, making quite boring viewing.

Voice Acting

On paper the voice acting cast looks amazing, sadly in the movie it seems like they either don't reach their full potential, or aren't given a chance to shine. The speech often seems emotionless and stilted with the exceptions of Sean Pertwee and Steve Waddington who are the few bright points in some otherwise uninspired voice acting.


I'm not sure of the constraints which were put upon the scripting/story for this movie due to length, budgets and marketing/IP usage, but it's hard to believe this script came from Dan Abnett.

I won't spoil any of the story for those of you who may still choose to watch this movie, but suffice to say it's bland and un-engaging throughout, leaving the viewer caring little for what happens.

As I said before, much of the movie is marines walking in fog with little dialogue - no bright points here I'm afraid.


All in all a very disappointing first effort for Games Workshop on the movie front. For a universe and IP with so much promise, coupled with what is, on paper at least, a great cast and author, this movie falls so far short of expectations.

Even for a low budget, "hardcore" space marine movie, aiming to typify the character of space marines, as the makers have claimed was their aim, it's poor.

I wanted so much to love this film as I really want to see more efforts made to bring Warhammer and 40k to the screen, but it just feels like the makers have missed all of the subtleties that are essential in creating the character of space marines as they are frequently so well described in novels and army books.

Things like the weight, value and scale of power armour for example. There is one scene where the squad have to cross a rickety old wooden bridge - I actually cringed. Seriously. Mankind's superhuman elite, 7ft of power and genetically enhanced muscle, encased in what one can only imagine to be around 700 - 1,000kgs of ceramite power armour, crossing a bridge from a Scoobie-Doo cartoon.

They skip across unhindered and without so much as a creak.

And on that bombshell, good night and have a happy New Year!

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Airbrushing, Photography and Miniature Painting DVD's

Well, since I've been a bit ill since Christmas, and busy in the build up to the holidays, I never got as much done as hoped - hence the lack of updates!

That will hopefully change over the next couple of weeks as some nice presents and a bit of rest have helped my hobby motivation return. So what were these gifts? Well, firstly I decided to treat myself to a portable airbrush booth to make sure I get more use out of the airbrush I bought last year. The booth I got is an Expo Tools Airbrush Portable Spray Booth #500 - a bargain at £70!

The booth is a nice, compact piece of kit with everything folding away neatly into a roughly shoebox like size. It is also modular, in that if you buy another of the same booth, they can be linked together to create one long booth for larger projects. The extractor fan is powerful enough to remove any fumes, yet silent so as not to disturb your painting mojo. I'm looking forward to giving this a whirl while spraying some Hellion skyboards.

I was also received a nice fold out photography light box from my girlfriend as one of my presents - which hopefully means better quality pics as I get the hang of it! I did a few hurried test snaps earlier (below) of my GD UK 2010 fantasy single entry and a current WIP to test it out. The lighting setup was a little hurried though so they aren't perfect.

Finally, I also received the excellent Miniature Painting with Jeremie Bonamant Teboul DVD from Figone. I've purchased and viewed plenty of painting and sculpting books and videos in my time, and while all have proved beneficial, none have provided me with such valuable knowledge and understanding as this has already.

There is over 7 hours of theoretical and practical examples and applications over 2 discs, along with a gallery of images. While the camera work isn't quite as sharp as say the Miniature Mentor videos, you can still clearly see everything that is being done and the technical demonstrations and theory are well explained.

If your looking to improve your blending and understanding of miniature painting theory then I'd thoroughly recommend giving this a look. Also, the guys at Figone produce some incredible looking figures (Furgol and Carlos being among my favourites) and from the examples in the DVD, they look a joy to paint.

So, its back to the DVD (got another 4.5 hours still to go!) and some festive drinks and food for me before I get down to some serious hobby time and begin planning the coming year's GD entries.

Hope you all had a good Christmas and have an even better New Year! (oh and here's the quick pic of my latest WIP)