Let me preface this by saying I’m not a huge fan of Warhammer 40k. It isn’t that I don’t like it; it is just that I’m not overly familiar with it. I’ve played some Dark Heresy RPG, I’ve painted some miniatures (the wrong colors, and never done any actual gaming with them). So I’m probably more familiar than most with the 40k concepts that show up in this film. For those who don’t know, this is an animated film, not live action.
Let’s start off with the good stuff. The voice acting is very strong. There are a lot of recognizable actors here, including John Hurt and Terence Stamp. Sean Pertwee is the lead space marine, and after seeing him in the similar Mutant Chronicles, it wasn’t a stretch to see hear him in this role. The ambient music and sound effects are quite good also. The sense of forbidding doom that creeps around the tainted planet is established quickly and effectively. The dialogue doesn’t win any awards, but it is effective at showing the grim dark future of Warhammer 40k. The marines refer to each other as brother, despise chaos, and constantly look to the Emperor for protection.
The bad? Everything else. The animation is very weak. The battle scenes are pretty hard to follow due to shaky cam. I don’t know why things need to be shaky in cartoon, but they are. The lack of any female characters keeps the interactions quite limited. The space marines are entirely indistinguishable from each other. I’m not sure if their armor markings actually changed or not, but it sure felt like they did. And once the helmets went on? I had no idea who anyone was, even the leads. It is hard to be worried about characters dying when you literally have no idea who it is.
There are only 12 Ultramarines on this mission. There are no named bad guys. There are almost no bystanders or other characters. And yet I still couldn’t figure out who was who. And keeping the cast of marines so limited made the space marines seem like a particularly disorganized organization. Why send 12 guys on a ship as enormous as the one we see them travel on?
So this is pretty flawed. I’d say it really is only for hard core fans who want to see the Ultramarines on their TVs, but I’m worried those people would be upset at the portrayals that veer too far from the game books. This is a movie to check out when it hits Netflix streaming. Any more commitment than that will leave you disappointed.