Sunday, 19 December 2010

Movie Review: Ultramarines - The good, the bad and the ugly

Captain Severus of the Ultramarines Chapter receives a distress signal on the planet of Mithron. Leaving the bulk of his company on Algol, Severus sets off for Mithron with only a ten-man squad for support. On the tough and unforgiving surface of Mithron, Ultima squad discovers that a terrible battle has taken place. The planet's shrine has been desecrated, and vile evils unleashed. As unseen dangers close in around them, the recruits have to mount a tense and deadly insertion to find any surviving Imperial Firsts and the reason behind the distress beacon.


After a long wait, and some terrible mistarts - i'm looking at you Bloodquest:The Movie - we finally have a Warhammer 40,000 animated film, albeit a fairly short one. Featuring the Ultramarines chapter, poster boys extroadinaire, the film revolves around the (mis)adventures of Ultima squad and its leader the courageous Captain Severus.

So was it worth the wait? Sort of.

Well let's start with what works. No expense seems to have been spared in gathering prestigious voice talent for this project, every actor is pitch perfect and portrays their characters wonderfully. Likewise the story, written by Dan Abnett no less, while relatively small scale, works well as an introduction to the characters and the setting.

So if it has good voice acting and a decent script, what's the problem then i hear you ask. The script is good but theres only about 30 minutes worth of material there, the film is very padded out which is suprising considering its only 70 minutes long. Apparently Roboute taught his marines to land miles from their objectives and walk, slowly, everywhere. For the first half hour we are watching eleven marines walk, across rather featureless terrain doing bugger all, with Severus apparently taking the Battlecry "We march for Macragge!" rather literally.

Which leads us to the next issue with the film- the animation. It is very uneven in quality. While the characters look good in their armour, the second their helms are removed the quality dips. Faces look waxen and stiff and deep in the middle of the uncanny valley. Likewise their surroundings vary wildly. There are moments of very high quality, like the mist effects that gather around the Marines feet which look fantastic, let down utterly by bland ground textures, and lack of shadows and footprints.
The animation of the characters also varies, we have moments of fluid lifelike action coupled with awkward jilted movement that doesn't look good at all and throws you out of the film. The film feels like they used up their budget before realising that they only had a half hour film, and so they cut corners with textures and added extensive padding of the same repeated walking animations.

Overall the voice acting and script are what saves the film from mediocrity. And they are worth buying the movie for, and i urge you to do so. Because with a tad more cash the film could be a lot better, so if we can make Ultramarines a success maybe we can convince the powers that be to invest more money in future animated ventures.



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