It is 41st Millennium, and the only force that stands between humanity and the alien hordes are the Space Marines. Genetically enhanced, clad in power armor and knowing no fear, they are the angels of death. And the greatest of them are the Ultramarines. But when a select squad of scarred veterans and raw recruits responds to a distant planet's distress beacon, they discover that a horrific evil has been unleashed. And amidst a living nightmare of chaos, carnage and daemonic fury, these steel battle-brothers must now survive the ultimate enemy: themselves.
The closest I've come to being involved in the impressively expansive Warhammer universe is thumbing through my friend's figurine catalogue. I was awestruck by the detail and work that went into the figures that are then used for tabletop warfare with 20-sided dice. Legions of people continue to follow the franchise that has now expanded into numerous video games and now a CGI-animated movie. I'm just surprised the hugely popular game hasn't spawned a big-budget action movie. That would seem to be the next logical step.
Anyway, I admit my ignorance about the Warhammer history and characters going in. I'm a newbie, so please, hardcore Warhammer fans, be kind.
There's a good bit of exposition given at the beginning of the movie to clue in Warhammer dummies like me. Deep into the distant future, the year 40,000 to be exact, mankind finds itself plunged into a constant state of strife and warfare. The Space Marines protect Earth from the onslaught of evil relentlessly headed their way. The badasses of the Space Marine corps are the Ultramarines. Clad in impossible looking armor, toting guns bigger than most people, and brandishing big ol' swords (yes, in the far distant future we'll apparently revert back to using swords because they look so damn cool). These guys are the baddest of the bad. They're loyal and recite intimidating oaths that have phrases like "Courage and Honor," "Unbroken in Battle," and "…we shall know no fear." Indeed, these guys are the guys you'd want to have on your side if your planet's fate rested in their capacity to kill anything that moved.
It's tough getting into 'Ultramarines.' For one, I'm not familiar with the richly varied backstory of the Warhammer universe. I was thrown into the deep end and told to swim. People not acquainted with the game will find themselves bewildered to what is going on, why it's happening, who is who, and why are they killing each other. For much of the movie I felt lost, unable to grasp what was happening because I lacked the prerequisite knowledge.
The other reason why I couldn't really get into the movie was because the animation ranges from poor to downright horrid. This is as stiff and as lifeless as CG animation gets. Even though this was made in 2010 it feels like it's already decades old. Eyes have no life in them. Mouths hardly move when people are talking. It's an altogether ugly animated movie that is rarely fun to look at. When an animated movie turns off its viewers with off-putting animation, no amount of story or character construction can save it.
I have a hard time accepting the Ultramarines as mighty warriors as they're portrayed in this movie. The tabletop game features some pretty awesome looking figures, but when they're put into motion on the screen they look big, clunky, and awkward. I couldn't imagine these guys being a real threat to anyone that was even the least bit agile. Away from the game the Ultramarines make pretty unbelievable action heroes.
The hail of gunfire and copious amounts of CG blood weren't enough to draw me back into the movie. The entire movie feels lifeless. Even though the Warhammer universe has a vast history to draw from, somehow this thrown-together CGI-animated monstrosity manages to turn out flat as a pancake.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Anchor Bay release. It's packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, comes on a 25GB disc, and is coded for Region A usage.
The ugly animation isn't helped at all with the marginally average video presentation. The 1080p presentation is overly dull, lacking color and texture. Most of this can be traced back to the deficiencies in the animation itself though.
The tell-tale sign of low-budget or outdated computer animation is the absence of any sort of believable textures. Here textures are simple at best. They have a video game quality to them. As a matter of fact the entire movie looks like a video cut scene from a Playstation 2 game. That's actually the perfect way to describe it.
The entire presentation looks washed out. Colors never really pop or shine. It's got a grimy, unfinished look from start to finish. Banding is noticeable throughout the movie. Gradients and fades are replete with color bands. The crappy quality starts with the animation, but the video doesn't do it any favors.
The overzealous audio presentation confuses loud for good. Here we have a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that is certainly cranked up, but doesn't have the tonal range that other better mixes might have.
Gunfights are filled with booming low-end sonics as bullets fly and things explode. It's all well and good until you hear how low the dialogue is mixed. Many words get lost in the battle fray. Either the dialogue is mixed too low or the sound effects are mixed way too high. I lean toward the latter. My ears felt assaulted any time a new firefight commenced.
Rear channels do handle a nice load of ambient sound during the seemingly endless gunfights. Directionality is acceptable. However, I didn't care for how ear-screechingly loud some of the sound effects are mixed.
This the epitome of a "fans only" release. I found myself drowning in a universe I didn't know much about. If you know more about Warhammer or actually take part in the game I'm sure you'd get more out of the movie than I did. However, that doesn't change the fact that the animation used here is just too ugly to watch for 77 minutes. If you don't care much about aesthetics and you're a huge fan of the game, then go for it.