Created in 1987 by Rick Priestly and Games Workshop, Warhammer 40,000 has gone on to be one of the most successful tabletop games that has lasted for more than 20 years. Spawning tons of expansions, novels and even video games, plenty of things have managed to carry the torch of Warhammer 40K. Back in 2009, Games Workshop had decided to announce a CGI film, focusing on the space marines in the world of Warhammer and reached out to writer Dan Abnett, whose written a few the Warhammer novels and created Ultramarines as a result. The film focuses on the Ultramarines, a sect of space marines that have been created by the Imperium of Mankind. They receive a distress signal from the Imperial Fists space marines on the planet, Mithron and decide to take on the mission. They find that the planet is home to various evils and must find a way to save their fellow brethren. At 70 minutes, Ultramarines is a middle of the road affair, with some fantastic action set pieces, a fantastic audio track, but an impenetrable universe and a mediocre script that totally bogs things down.
The biggest problem in the Ultramarines movie is the writing, that was tailor made for fans of the game, but a bit difficult for a laymen, like myself. I adore the writing that Dan Abnett has done in comics, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion Lost and he’s certainly made me want to get into the universe itself, but I found his script to be a bit lack luster. There’s no character development for the any of the Ultramarines and the character arc for the main character, Proteus (Sean Pertwee), is so cliché, that I predicted it after seeing the first scene that transpired in the film. While this was certainly a major issue I had, the voice talent behind the characters, like Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Donald Sumpter provide stunning work as voice actors and do everything in their power to make the film as riveting as it can be.
The blu-ray of Ultramarines comes in a AVC encoded, 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. While the CGI film doesn’t look terrible, the bland color palette doesn’t do Ultramarines any favors. The textures are middle of the road, with the faces, armor and weapons looking very top notch, but the environments and background could have looked a hell of a lot better. The audio on the disc comes in an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that is out of this world. The absolute highlight of the disc, Ultramarines’ soundtrack is brimming with dynamics and active surround channels that make it a joy to listen to. The mix feels genuine, with dialog getting drowned out by gunfire, during action scenes that help sell the mood of the film and the intense visuals that accompany the action. There’s a good amount of extras, which include a 30 minute behind the scenes documentary, a segment that discusses the setting and characters of the film, a segment on creating the Daemon in the film and an animated motion comic, that acts as a prequel for the film.
While I liked some of the ideas and action of Ultramarines, I still felt like I needed to know a whole lot more. This film seems as if it was made with the hardcore Warhammer 40K fan in mind, but somewhat fails to try to stand on its own two feet.