Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Ask any video game fan out there and they’ll tell you that translating the source material into a movie or television show never seems to go that well. And fans have a long history of mediocre content to back this claim up. Yet recently with the success of live action shows like The Witcher, the CGI animated Arcane (based off League of Legends) and the anime-inspired Castlevania, we’ve seen proof that it is possible to bring these games to glorious life.
I think the key to these types of shows succeeding lies with creating a product that both players and non-players of the games can enjoy. You have to be able to tell a cohesive story that takes into consideration those who’ve never lifted a controller and pressed play, but you also have to respect the fan base that made the content successful to begin with. Not an easy feat to pull off. Which brings me to Hammer and Bolter.
Inspired by the world of Warhammer which is made up of novels, table top games and video games, Hammer and Bolter consists of nine episodes and utilizes anthology-styled stories to explore this violent and complex world. The animation, which is entirely geared towards the PG-13 and older crowd, will evoke comparisons to Japanese anime.
But for me it brought to mind 1981’s Heavy Metal as the artwork on display here focuses more on aesthetics and details than fluidity of movement. By this I mean if you’re looking for fight sequences that are fast paced and full of energy such as what was found in Castlevania, you’re going to be disappointed. While there’s a ton of blood and gore to be found and there are action sequences they are done more in a comic-panel style than a frenetic one. The scenes are dialogue-driven most of the time to draw your attention to the story being told more so than the story being shown.
I’ve never played or read anything relating to Warhammer, but I also had no previous experience with League of Legends, yet I found Netflix’s Arcane to be highly entertaining and the story easy to understand. Which brings me to my biggest issue with this series so far. The anthology-styled storytelling of Hammer and Bolter (so named for the monthly e-magazine which included short stories, novellas and novel extracts, all from the world of Warhammer) expects its viewers to know EVERYTHING about this world in advance. The factions, the peoples, the conflicts—everything has been previously established. So if, like me, you’re not a Warhammer fan and you’re not familiar with its world, you’re pretty much screwed.
Every episode I watched left me more than a little perplexed because I had no idea why Guy No. 1 hated Guy No. 2. Why were these people fighting? Who is the guy with the big gun and the laser eye? Is this a world of science or magic or both? I understand you can’t do a lot of hand-holding when you’re dealing with a well-established world and the fans that love it, but there has to be some sort of balance if you expect newcomers to enjoy your storytelling.
Take for example The Witcher television series. I’ve played the games and I’ve even read one of the books. But even if I didn’t do any of that I’m pretty sure I could follow the Netflix series as the material is handled in a way anyone can follow. Same goes for Castlevania. I’m betting 60 per cent of Netflix viewers didn’t even know it was based off a video game series, yet they would have no problem enjoying the adventures of Trevor Belmont and friends.
Hammer and Bolter on the other hand had me lost from the jump. I was hoping things would get clearer as it went along but because of the anthology-styled story telling there was just no way to get to know these characters beyond their own self-contained tale. Same goes for the worlds they inhabit.
Of the nine episodes there were two I was able to easily follow and one I truly enjoyed for its darkly comedic elements. The first was Fangs and the second was Old Bale Eye, my personal favourite of the bunch. “Good enemies are hard to find”. Indeed.
So while I’m sure fans will have a blast with this series (the voice acting is solid and the animation, while not the greatest, is still better than average) for those who have never read a book or played a game with the words “Warhammer” in the title, be forewarned—watching this series will feel like you’re taking an exam for a subject you never studied or even signed up for.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
So are you a fan of the world of Warhammer or a non-fan? What did you think of the mini-series? And you can check out more great content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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