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Ultramarines - Movie Review

                No one really knew what to expect when the trailers for Ultramarines hit the internet-o-sphere. All we learned was the Ultramarines were the far future, intergalactic Men In Black, and we saw a bad looking CGI zoom in to a grizzled Space Marine’s head. The forums were a-blaze with speculation. Was it going to be some grand expose on the history of the Ultramarines, and whatever role they may have played in the Horus Hersey? Would it focus on the great “Fall of Macragge”? Showing some phenomenal battle scenes between the Ultramarines and their arch-nemesis, the Tyranids? Scenes that would make any Warhammer general proud? Would we learn the great history of its Chapter Master, Marneus Calgar?

Well, if you said “yes” to any of the above options. You’re wrong. You’re damn wrong. You’re so wrong it’s not even funny. Oh, lordy, you’re wrong. Allow me to summarize the plot of Ultramarines:  

The Ultramarines receive a distress call from an Imperial Fist’s shrine. They fly there in possibly the most empty Battle Barge imaginable (seriously, it’s just this single squad in the entire barge). They land on the surface of Mithron, and walk (we’ll get to that shortly), a rather long distance, to the Imperial Shrine. Along the way, their banner does some tin-foil-in-a-microwave stuff, which is explained with some odd pseudo-magic, something about indicating the presence of chaos. There is a fight! They stumble into one Chaos Space Marine along the way. Brother-Captain Severus goes all Gandalf vs Balrog when a wild Daemon Prince appears later and decides to try to wreck their days, pitching himself and the daemon off a cliff. Upon arrival they find a Chaplain and a surviving Imperial Fist guarding a codex. They return to their landing spot, fight one of the worst looking shootouts I’ve ever seen, which also shows that our dear Captain Severus is alive and very well, despite a rather long fall, and then head back into the warp for the trip home.   Turns out, in a twist that would blow M. Night Shyamanan’s pants apart, Severus the White is actually the daemon prince in disguise (boo!) and proceeds to wreck the ultramarines shit, trying to create a poorly explained summoning ritual before they reach their destination. One short, badly choreographed fight later, good prevails and we move on with our lives.

That’s it. I’m serious. No, don’t go reading elsewhere looking for a more detailed synopsis. There isn’t one. Mine’s three times as long as the one of IMDB. That’s the entire movie. And guess what? The movie is seventy minutes long. Since the plot barely fills about 40 minutes of that, they needed filler, and boy do we get filler.

There’s enough walking in this film that I first thought it was directed by Bert I Gordon. Despite the fact that they have a Thunderhawk Landing Craft, they opt to park at what seems like the furthest point possible from the shrine – which, I might point out is an Imperial Fists’ shrine, the Fortress Builders; you mean to tell me it doesn’t have a single landing pad? – and then walk the rest of the way. They don’t even give us a reason for it. They just do. It wouldn’t be so bad if the walking had a purpose: if something interesting were to happen along the way, but nothing does. Walking in Ultramarines has the same purpose as if someone made a film of me walking to the pizzeria and back.

I promise you that’s not all the padding we’ll be subjected to. There’s also a “shootout” with one lone chaos space marine. And sadly, for kill-to-death ratio, he does a 3-1 on the space marines. It might have been interesting if most of it didn’t happen off camera. They just come across two of their dead forward scouts, on a Land Speeder (the Chaos Marine was the 41 millennium’s Lee Harvey Oswald), and then a third marine buys the farm on camera before they run up the hill and sword the guy a new one. This whole interaction takes a good five minutes of screen time, but has absolutely no bearing at all on the film. It came from nowhere, and it leads nowhere.

                The same thing happens on the way back to the Thunderhawk. Yes, we see them walk there, and then we see them walk back! Thrilling! When a bunch of Chaos Warriors bum-rush the marines and proceed to get gunned down in chilling reminder of Finnish-Ski-Troops vs German Panzers. Again though, the entire scene has no reason to exist in the film, but to take up screen time and pad this baby out.

                The film’s climax is a very disappointing mix of expectancy that something awesome will happen, and having that crash down around you. You’d think a final battle between a mighty daemon prince and the Emperor’s finest would be a fantastic showdown, but it isn’t. It feels more like a phoned in ending to the movie; like they didn’t really know how to end it, so they have a battle that seems more at home in Hamlet than the grim darkness of the far future.

 I’ve watched this film a few times now (three to be exact), and I’ve never bothered to sit through the techno-rock that is the credits. But I’m going to have a look now to see who wrote this steaming pile of bantha-poo-doo

                Oh god.. oh dear god no.. Please…

That’s right. Dan Abnett. A sci-fi author so profound we need to be blessed with his middle name (seriously, what’s up with that: Arthur C Clark, Robert A Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, L Ron Hubbard). The man who wrote the Eisenhorn Trilogy, one of my favourite sci-fi trilogies of all time, wrote this? He wrote in the script “Ultramarines walking”. It hurts. This is the kind of hurt you get when you meet your childhood hero and realize he’s nothing like you imagine.

The last word: Do not see this movie, under any circumstances. You know when you watch a bad movie like Birdemic with your friends just for the laughs? Don’t ever see this movie, even then. It won’t cause laughter; it will cause tears, followed by ritual suicide. Sometimes a terrible movie can be turned around by its cinematography, good acting, or directing. The problem is none of these happened. The story is more suited for a sword and sorcery film rather than a full blown Warhammer movie, the graphics look like they fell out of mid 2005’s video game cut scene. The voice acting was quite phoned in  and lackluster, and finally, the characters are completely wooden. We have no reason to care about them in the slightest; they don’t grow, or develop. In fact, I don’t even remember their names or their faces, they were that generic, I started calling them brother Blandius, and brother That-Guy-Over-There.

Story: 4/10
Character: 2/10
Acting: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Cinematography: 6/10
Total: 46/100

BONUS: The director, Martyn Pick, has only directed one film previously to this. It was called Plaza (2001), a 6 minute long animated short about a trip to the supermarket. Prime candidate for a war-epic in the grim darkness of the far future…