Do you like how the film has turned out?
Yes is the simple answer. I’ve been privy to parts of the production as it’s gone on, seen bits of the animation at work, and just knowing the serious and sincere intent behind the film has been incredibly reassuring. When you have a property that’s 25-odd years old and obsessively loved by its fans across the world, then there’s always that general fear that someone’s going to come along and ruin it by making a movie of it. Just watching these people at work, they’re not setting out to Hollywood-ise anything, they’re genuinely trying to make the best 40K film they can.
Do you feel it’s adequately captured the spirit of 40K?
Yeah definitely. It’s dark, and not very many people get out alive. That’s the thing, though, there is a particular visual quality for Warhammer 40,000, which is what makes it, I think, so popular around the world. It’s that beautiful, gothic, ornate-yet-decaying, magnificent-yet-stagnating sense of the universe… I mean the tagline is “In the grim darkness of the future there is only war” and you can’t get more pessimistic than that. It’s this romantically, tragically pessimistic universe where mankind, with the aid of these extraordinary posthuman warriors, is fighting a glorious, but ultimately doomed battle to stave off its own extinction in a universe filled with the most inimicable horrors closing in around it. It’s very heroic, but it’s offbeat heroic as opposed to the uplifting heroism of Star Trek, and that’s what the film’s got.
How do you go about making these post-human warriors, representatives of an autocratic, proto-fascist government sympathetic? How can the audience relate to them?
I have to say that is the most difficult thing to do… I think I’ve written something on the order of 36 novels for Black Library, featuring the Warhammer 40K universe. Some of them have been about Space Marines, but most of them are about the Imperial Guard, which is the regular humans. The reason I picked them is because they’re accessible, you can identify with them, you can understand how their emotional ranges work. Space Marines are much more difficult, impenetrable, they’re not supposed to have emotional ranges. They’re genetically bred for war and they’re also the product of a cloning process, which means they are generally speaking interchangeable. Not literally interchangeable, but they are very much alike each other, that’s the whole point. It took me a long time to find ways to get into that. With the movie, you’ve got to start with Space Marines because they’re the iconic brand. I had to really draw upon the ideas that I put into novels, and it’s nothing simple but it comes down to the tip of the tack. On the one had, they might be the product of an autocratic, fascistic society as you mention, but you’ve got to treat that as your baseline because they are your heroes. Once you understand the sheer horrors of the world they’re in, you understand why they’re so hardline. It’s not like, for instance, Judge Dredd where you’re invited to question and appreciate the irony of Dredd’s position in the world that he lives in, and looking at the universe through the lens of satire… it’s more a case of this being exactly what it appears to be on the can, you’ve just got to appreciate how horrible it is.
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