“Don’t disappoint me, or I’ll make you wish you could die.”

This is the trailer to the RTS game Dawn of War, which came out in 2004. It’s a fantastic trailer to a fantastic game, which is the exception to the all the sweeping generalisations I’m about to make. If you want a benchmark for good visual depictions of the 40k universe, in all its desperate brutality, this is it; and if you’re going to make any other video interpretations of 40k, they had better look even better, because this was 2004.*

So, on an unrelated note, there’s a 40k movie in the works this year!

The announcement actually came out quite a while ago, and was met with scepticism from the 40k-liking people I hang with (ie: /tg/). Not that we didn’t want one, but we had no faith it could be any good. Games Workshop have a history of catastrophically mismanaging their IP; there’s been one genuinely, unreservedly good use of the 40k world in the last ten years (the aforementioned DOW1).

Not only is it sold to crappy no-account studios who make terrible games, but it’s totally mishandled: it makes its endless and at times very good universe look boring, limited and derivative of the very things it inspired. In a world which has a huge cast of rather well-developed factions, limitless reasons and hooks for plots and intrigue, and an absolute smorgasboard of dramatic WAR! tropes, damn near every single game decides to put you in the power-armoured boots of Brother-Captain Generic, leading your proud Marines of the Genericus Chapter to defend Generica Prime from the Orks of the feared Generik tribe/the apocalyptically evil Chaos Space Marines of the Cireneg Legion (to save on extra animations, they’re just your marines plus EVIL SPIKES.)

The last time they announced a movie, Bloodquest, was back when all-CG animation was a seriously new and revolutionary thing. They were running clips of in-progress animation on a screen in the GW Plaza store back when I lived in London, and I saw some nice little shots of a Land Raider driving around, but we have better graphics than that in handheld games nowadays. That folded; apparently they spent the entire budget on a space battle in the first five minutes. Then the fan film Damnatus, which was pretty good (with the important qualifier: for a fan film), they stamped out in a corporate copyright bitch-fit.

Most of what they’ve turned out is a stolid, unimaginative, play-it-safe attempt to milk the popularity of the Space Marines, which all 40k aficionados above the age of 12 (which is about half of us, I guess) are pretty tired of nowadays.

So it seemed to us that GW wouldn’t do anything good, and didn’t really deserve to. This was borne out somewhat by a devblog, which offered reasonably encouraging interviews mixed up with tidbits of truly pointless, masturbatory “concept art” (good goddamn, is there anyone connected remotely with 40k who doesn’t know what a bolt pistol looks like?), the news that the film would be obsessed (once again) with Space Marines, and, best of all, they’d be the Ultramarines, aka the vanilla-scented Genericus Chapter.

Then opinion reversed somewhat, as it emerged that the voice cast included such luminaries as Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Sean Pertwee (not exactly the A-list, but reasonably distinguished) and the script was to be by the deliciously capable Dan Abnett, the great white hope of 40k-related writing. It’s Dan Abnett, it’s an age where CG can do absolutely anything; how bad can it be?

Well, they recently posted this.

It’s not just me, right? John Hurt’s voiceover (which is like being drowned in rich wine) notwithstanding, this looks like wet arse.

* The DOW2 trailer, with its shrunken-headed wavy-haired Marines derping around clunkily against utterly gormless Eldar, is, like everything else about DOW2, an affront to its heritage.


14 thoughts on ““Don’t disappoint me, or I’ll make you wish you could die.”

  1. >Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Sean Pertwee (not exactly the A-list, but reasonably distinguished)

    Fuck the A-list. Getting the likes of John Travolta or Angelina Jolie in to do voice work tends to result in mediocrity (see Bolt and Kung Fu Panda, respectively). Instead here you’ve got three massively experienced actors, each bringing their own flavour of gravelly English sexiness to the table.

    Film still looks wank though.


    1. Correct. You don’t want A-list, you want voices of distinction. A lot of A-list actors have mediocre voices, because film is after all a visual medium.

      John Hurt is never going to look like a gorgeous Hollywood hunk, but he’s got excellent acting skilz (he can play different characters that are actually different and make you appreciate really nasty people without making them in the least bit nice — Caligula, Big Brother, et al) and a great voice.

      The same goes for Terence Stamp and Sean Pertwee — they have versatile voices.

      This is what you want for CGI movies — radio actors rather than film actors because it’s all about the voice and just the voice.

      However, the choice of actors for the voice overs might be the only good thing about the movie if that clip is anything to go by. John Hurt’s voice over, while very nicely done, is not really a great speech. Now, I’m not expecting a “Tomorrow is the feast of Crispian…” level of dialogue, you don’t get that often, but something a little less hackneyed would be nice. Dialogue that was written by an adult rather than a 12-yo fanboy for example.

  2. Yeah this does indeed look like a right bucket of arse.

    One thing I wonder continually – why no love for the Imperial Guard? The Commissar Cain series showed just how awesome they can be.

    And let’s face it, given just how many people you have to kill to make one Spess Mehren, throwing a metric shitton of conscripts at the enemy is a far more practical course of action. Numbers count for a lot, I’m sure you know that better than I.

    1. I think – and this is me trying to put myself in the position of some GW exec, rather than my actual thoughts – because the Guard just don’t stand out as distinctive enough? They’re just men, with guns and tanks; that the guns shoot lasers and the tanks are P1000 size doesn’t change the fact that they’re basically just soldiers, and no matter how much gothic bling and religious fanaticism you put on them, that doesn’t change.

      And yes, production, numbers and logistics are what win wars. It says a lot about the insanely fantastical (and fantastically insane) 40k universe that Space Marines still come out as practical, though the numbers of dead aspirants aren’t that much of a problem; the one thing the Imperium is absolutely never short of is manpower.

      Guess we’re just going to have to stick with Starship Troopers and Event Horizon…

      1. In my mind, the most likely thing which makes the Spess Mehrens practical is when there are significant bottlenecks in terms of troop deployment. In those situations it’s not possible to Zerg Rush with the Guard, you need to stack as many force multipliers as possible on the troops you can deploy.

        Hence, Spess Mehrens.

  3. I have horrible horrible memories of fire warrior rushing back to me…


    Notwithstanding that the ultramarines are a little shafted by the fact that they are the definition of Space Marines – but they are more than that they are THE Space Marines – the C.A. is everything to them and if you actually could explore that then it might be at least as interesting as say the Raven Guard or the Imperial Fists can be.

    And at least they aren’t using the f*cking Blood Ravens for a change.

    1. Well, yeah. If the Ultras were actually depicted as all dogmatic and doctrinaire, obsessed with their Codex to the exclusion of common sense and everyday expedience, there would be some interest there. But instead, the Codex is described as actually perfect, Rowboat is the be all and end all of tactical genius, and the Ultras are perfect paragons of everything.

      Though I agree, fuck the Blood Ravens.

      1. Salamanders are cool. It is an entire army of geno-augmented supersoldier kick-ass black guys. Their foes frankly stand no chance.

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