LotN Reviews: Ultramarines the Movie by Dan Abnett
Lord of the Night reviews the very first Warhammer 40,000 movie, by Codex Pictures and written by Dan Abnett.
“We march for Macragge!, and we shall know no fear!”
The very first 40k film has been added to my collection and I very much hope that others will follow it. For those of you who have hoped for a great film, your wishes are answered. While not without its flaws this is definitely something that will please many 40k fans.
The story revolves around a group of Ultramarines, Ultima Squad, who are experiencing their very first combat mission as true Astartes. Led by Captain Severus of the 2nd company the squad is taken to Mithron, a shrine world which houses an entire Astartes company, the Imperial Fists 5th company. Called by a distress beacon the squad is eager for their first taste of real combat, however they are warned against seeking glory at the cost of their lives by the veteran Apothecary Pythol. But things are far from simple on Mithron, something is alive in the darkness and out for blood, and the new recruits must learn to recognize the taint of Chaos, before they are destroyed by it.
Now the story itself is very good, normally with projects like this they bring in their own writers who don’t know the subject and don’t understand it very well. However Codex Pictures did the right thing by bringing in Dan Abnett, and as such the story is very well written and perfectly 40k. The mystery that the story contains is very good and keeps the viewer curious as to just what exactly is Chaos plotting, and of course its filled with heroics by the Astartes saving millions of people without them ever knowing.
My only issue was with the story was that it didn’t specify the time that the movie takes place, since we all know that Captain Sicarius is the 2nd Captain, then the Ultramarines movie must be set before Sicarius became Captain and thus somewhat early in the 41st millennium.
The protagonist of the story is Brother Proteas, an inexperienced rookie who has to re-learn what it is to be an Astartes and an Ultramarine, and whose steadfast nature will see him go far. Proteas himself is a very interesting character, while the concept of a young soldier put into command before he is ready is nothing new Abnett has done quite well in making Proteas who rather then been burdened and indecisive quickly rises to the challenge and isn’t bogged down by his own doubts.
Other characters include the members of Ultima Squad who don’t really play a huge part in the film story, aside from Brother Verenor who has his own place. Brothers Verenor, Hypax, Boreas, Remulus, Decius, Maxillius, Junor and Lycos are more background characters, really this story is about Proteas. Captain Severus plays a big role and with Terrance Stamp’s patrician voice his motives are interesting, from his curt dismissal of Proteas and his determination to keep the mission going. Apothecary Pythol is one of the more interesting side characters, dismissing hunger for glory and making us remember that the Apothecaries are the ones who patch up the Astartes when they wound themselves trying to gain precious glory, earning them a more pragmatic view of the world and of war. And finally Chaplain Carnak and Brother Nidon, both of the Imperial Fists, are quite mysterious throughout the film, their survival suspicious and their attitudes secretive, they are quite good in the film.
The animation, I will admit is the not the best. But its the best we can get at the current time. Personally I loved the facial capture, the Astartes looked like real people which is sometimes tough to picture underneath their Power Armour and with all their enhanced genetics, sometimes just picturing a regular face on them can be difficult, its a lot easier to picture a fearsome helmet. The running animations were a bit clunky but I felt that the action scenes and the general tone of the animation made up for it, the environments themselves were amazing, I felt that it perfectly captured the tone of 40k from the Ultramarine’s strike cruiser to the barren world of Mithron, it definitely feels like a dark millennium.
The pacing of the film was quite good, it kept me interested throughout and never rushed things unnecessarily, it slowed and sped up when it needed to and made sure that the viewer wouldn’t be swept up by events moving too quickly.
The film ends on an inspiring note, its hard to not want to chant “And we shall know no fear!” alongside the Astartes, its that kind of scene that is iconic to the Astartes Chapters and that we all love to read about, but now we can actually see for the very first time. And the end scene feels far more inspiring than the beginning, I know why but I won’t say here.
I give Ultramarines an 8/10, it has its flaws but it does well anyway and is definitely something that 40k fans should check out, even if you don’t care for the Ultramarines. But truthfully I wasn’t reminded of the stodgy and dogmatic Ultramarines that we have come to recognize dominate the chapter, rather I was reminded more of Uriel Ventris, a character that you can like because he doesn’t just say “The codex says do this, so lets do it”, and Proteas is definitely along those same lines.
Should you buy this film?, once its released in general then I would say yes. This is a great step forward for Warhammer 40,000, and I hope that more films are in the future. We’ve had Ultramarines, now give us a Blood Angels film!