Movies From Boxes of Scraps Built in a Cave

This five part movie about the adventures of an Astartes spec-ops squad in the Warhammer 40k universe is my favorite cinematic product of 2020.

It’s hard to know where to even start – the atmospherics, animation, pacing, special effects, the sounds and music – they are all perfect. Perhaps my single favorite thing is how perfectly the spirit of the Space Marines is captured. These are not the clanking, plodding bipedal tanks that they appear as in many other videos and video games. Here, they are extremely fast, agile, and rapid-reacting – just as they’re meant to be in the lore. For all the competence, tactics, and teamwork of the heretic mooks in Part 3 – their training was in a different league from that of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy – they are still utterly hapless against the Astartes.

And it was all “filmed” by a Patreon-funded amateur.

Forget about China, or some other national film industry, displacing Hollywood. It will come from small studios and even individuals posting to YouTube.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. Blinky Bill says

    The studio was created with the goal of distributing experimental short films via YouTube and Steam in order to gauge the community for interest and feedback as to which of them are viable for expansion into feature films.

  3. Yeah, these small studios can do impressively good shit

    Another example is “This Room Does Not Exist”, made by like some australian teens. You might find it intriguing since it delves into some simulated world matrix shit

  4. In regards to a Warhammer movie I’m not sure if I would want a big studio to do it. It would obviously just become pozzed and become a terrible adaption that has the potential to ruin the franchise. Fans should just fund movies like this instead (with the blessing of GW and their support) to create faithful adaptions.

    Also on the topic of 40k, what is the best 40k video game?

  5. Spisarevski says

    Thanks for reminding me to check the other parts – I only saw part one recently and did not occur to me that there are others already, nor did youtube suggested them ^^ Though I could have checked the channel I guess.

    This is indeed some of the best portrayal of space marines that I’ve seen.

    Forget about China, or some other national film industry, displacing Hollywood. It will come from small studios and even individuals posting to YouTube.

    Let’s hope so.

    Is this a thread about cool amateur productions?

    Here’s some Korean student doing cinematics with the MCVs from Red Alert 2

  6. AltSerrice says

    Good to see someone giving Astartes the praise it deserves. I honestly couldn’t believe it was just some patreon-funded guy when I first found out.

    Though the first indicator for me that these high-quality animations could be the future was with Blur Studio’s remaster of Halo 2. Their pre-rendered cutscenes are some of the best animation I’ve ever seen, and were done on a comparatively tiny budget when compared to film animation.

    Likewise I’d recommend the Netflix show Love, Death, and Robots for another example of this. Blur contributed some episodes to it and they were the best by far. I’d recommend watching the sci-fi episode Beyond the Aquila Rift, and the Soviet-inspired episode Secret War to see what I mean. Incredible visuals and realism.

    I think as Hollywood (and TV) continues to decline in quality we’re likely to see a move towards small animation studios, or even individuals, producing a great deal of the media consumed by young people going forward. It will be able to serve niche audiences willing to fund things themselves rather than the common denominator TV and film have to play to. Small studios and creators could also do deals with streaming services, which are likely to become the main source of entertainment – particularly in a post-Coronachan world where immense damage might be done to the box office.

    Also nice reference with the blog post title. Getting excited for next product just reading it.

  7. Max Payne says

    best 40k video game

    I gotta hand it to Dawn of War series (Dawn of War 2 specifically; though you can have fun with the single player campaign in Dawn of War 1). Sure it’s nothing compared to Company of Heroes but 1 vs 1 rounds can get pretty intense.

    There are a lot of faithful adaptations on steam if you want something more aligned to the tabletop gameplay but Dawn of War (1 & 2) is a good balance of RTS with WH40K units.

    However I would give my left nut for a 40K version of Total War Warhammer 2. Would love to put a 300-400 turn grand campaign in the 40k universe of that.

    One day…. one day….

  8. AltSerrice says

    Starship Troopers was a fantastic film though and I can’t fault Verhoeven one bit

  9. another anon says

    Sure you can make big Hollywood style blockbuster for normies set in Warhammer universe, by showing glorious Space Marines heroically wiping traitor, mutant and xeno scum in spectacular and unforgettable CGI show.
    But what would be the point? The whole principle of WH40K is that there are no “good guys”, there is only war, war without end, and you can with clear conscience keep playing and buying miniatures of any faction, playing and buying without end.

  10. Yeah a 40k warhammer would be perfect. There’s just so many of them with stuff like Space Hulk Tactics, Inquisitor Martyr and such it’s hard to decide what’s worth it.

  11. Max Payne says

    Tabletop Simulator and mods is the closest you’ll get to the real deal, measuring tape and all. And unlike real-life flipping the table won’t make you lose friends forever. Things like this:

    There are very few games faithful to the tabletop style of play. Space Hulk, Battlefleet Gothic and (the most excellent) Blood Bowl are the only ones I can recall really. And they are extremely niche to say the least.

    There is no standalone WH40K tabletop video game (that I am aware of anyway, I could be wrong, could be something free out there) that lets you build your army based on points, commit to turn-based action, behind-the-scene dice rolling once decisions are made, etc. WH40k is a landscape of real-time strategies or third/first person shooter (oddly).

  12. Belarusian Dude says

    This small Russian game studio made the best action film (split up into short episodes of course) of Russian (and since capeshit is capeshit, dare I say world?) cinema for quite a while, and this was only a side-project/promotional film for them. Imagine if those directors actually got proper funding.

  13. It’s remarkable that there hasn’t been more disruption in the film industry. Last year, Disney’s share of the NA box office was 38.2%, if you include Fox.

    Digital cameras have brought video-making to the masses, and Youtube has brought free-distribution, but I haven’t heard about any breakout talent. People that Youtube has made famous seem like very minor celebrities, outside of vlogging.

  14. Autists Anonymous Rehab Camp Fugitive says

    Sure you can make big Hollywood style blockbuster for normies set in Warhammer universe, by showing glorious Space Marines heroically wiping traitor, mutant and xeno scum in spectacular and unforgettable CGI show.

    Don’t think you can do even that. Modern mass entertainment is overly ideologically charged to the point where it can’t entertain a morally relativistic stance even in theory.
    The space marines have to be nice to minorities and trans-inclusive, you can’t show them as unabashed religious zealots and add a “but that’s just how their culture works” somewhere in the end credits.

  15. Autists Anonymous Rehab Camp Fugitive says

    In the original Heinlein novel, there’s a stress on anti-racism, and how people from all over earth come to appreciate multiculturalism by serving in the cosmic IDF. I can’t see why supposedly right wing people glorify this sexually degenerate boomer.

    The movie elevates the work.
    Everyone knows about it being a parody of nazi propaganda. But it really fails at the parody bit, and overly succeeds at the nazi propaganda one.

    If I tell the world that a right-wing, fascist way of doing things doesn’t work, no one will listen to me. So I’m going to make a perfect fascist world: everyone is beautiful, everything is shiny, everything has big guns and fancy ships, but it’s only good for killing fucking bugs!

    If I tell the world gay porn isn’t sexy, no one will listen to me. So I’m going to make the perfect gay porno: everone is hung…you get the gist. It doesn’t work like that.
    Show ST to your kids to make them right wing because violence is cool.

  16. another anon says

    The space marines have to be nice to minorities and trans-inclusive, you can’t show them as unabashed religious zealots and add a “but that’s just how their culture works” somewhere in the end credits.

    If you want politically correct and uplifting story, you can have Abhumans fighting for their civil rights as equal citizens, as it used to be in more enlightened times under the direct rule of the Emperor of Mankind.

    An Abhuman is a descendant of baseline human settlers whose ancestors mutated and evolved after being isolated on worlds across the galaxy with various extreme environmental conditions. The term may be short for “aberrant human”, “abnormal human,” or, less pejoratively, derived from the High Gothic term ab humanis, “from humans.”

    In an Imperium of Man where genetic mutation and spiritual corruption are often viewed as interrelated or one and the same, Abhumans are a focus of much controversy for the Imperial government. In more enlightened times under the direct rule of the Emperor of Mankind during the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium, even markedly divergent Abhumans such as the Beastmen could serve in the Imperial Army.

    Since the Emperor’s stasis on the Golden Throne began at the end of the Horus Heresy, however, only the lesser Abhuman mutants, such as Ogryns and Ratlings, are allowed full citizenship in the Imperium. However, they are still distrusted by the Puritan members of the Inquisition and by the more devout believers in the Imperial Creed in every corner of the Imperium.

  17. Spisarevski says

    Love, Death, and Robots

    I’d recommend watching the sci-fi episode Beyond the Aquila Rift

    My favorite one as well, seconding the recommendation.

  18. Why was Johnny Rico white in the movie though?

  19. Hyperborean says

    Forget about China, or some other national film industry, displacing Hollywood. It will come from small studios and even individuals posting to YouTube.

    A lot of countries produce decent films and television series – yet so far most of them have at best regional influence. Current Year Hollywood has abandoned even making novel (if still morally dubious) works and is basically cannibalising itself with remakes and safe genre templates, but is still able to hold worldwide influence.

    My belief is that they benefit from distribution networks as well as brand recognition. So to gain greater influence, though the quality of the work should be good, it is also important to develop advanced logistics in order to transition from a peripheral institution to a central one.

  20. Can someone do the math and see if it is possible to crush the curve of coronavirus in places where it is widespread like Italy, Spain, the US, Sweden, and the UK, how much more months of lockdowns will it take if they follow what the China did not try to eradicate coronavirus as much as they can?

  21. The three kingdoms Chinese TV show from 2010 was pretty decent and had good subtitles.


    Would you still see these figures without Trump?

  23. AltSerrice says

    Presumably they wanted an attractive lead. Also if Verhoeven did intend the film as a parody, obviously white people as fascists makes more sense in their heads.

  24. AltSerrice says

    I dont know if you’ve played it but I got serious Mass Effect effect vibes from that episode. Just another reason why it was great.

  25. Blinky Bill says

    Presumably they wanted an attractive lead.

    obviously white people as fascists makes more sense in their heads.

  26. That’s funny, I always assumed Malkin was Chinese. Oddly enough, I think Filipinos are the only conservative Asians – or the group that comes closest to it, when voting in America.

    Verhoeven probably wanted a blond for his fash aesthetic. Likely would have been a hard sell in 1997 anyway.

    Personally, I’ve always been a bit amused by Verhoeven. I mean, it is funny when James Cameron gets talking like he is some sort of philosopher, like Plato or Aristotle. I don’t think he has that sort of intellectual power, and clearly it is not what people want from him, anyway, but, with Verhoeven, it is even funnier. For much of his career, Verhoeven strikes me as a guy asking, what can I do that the censor would not allow on TV?

  27. I’m afraid that, in addition to his odd sexual mores, Heinlein had some strange ideas. I quote from his 1952 This I Believe speech (which was a national radio program in the US):

    I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.

    “I believe in — I am proud to belong to — the United States. Despite shortcomings, from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.”

    “And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown –in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability….and goodness…..of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being.

    (this was in 1952! IIRC, he was running for office at the time)
    Despite all, I still enjoy reading his books, at least the ones where he does not go too far off the rails. Never was a fan of Stranger in a Strange Land, where his autobiographical, oldman, author character has a multiracial harem, but he comes across as almost normal in comparison to a guy like Arthur C. Clarke.

  28. AltSerrice says

    I would argue the film portrayed all the best aspects of the book quite well, and did so even through Verhoeven’s parody-lens.

    It’s easy to dismiss the film as insulting and shallow if you’ve read the book first, because all you see is parody, a relative lack of seriousness, one-dimensional acting, and hollywood beauties – but if you can look past that surface layer, you’ll see it retained all the morality of the book.

    I’d suggest you read our very own Trevor Lynch’s review of the film.

    Also Dina Meyer was way hotter than Denise Richards.

  29. As an older teenager or a young adult, as I started to read more and more paperback books in lieu of comic books and science fiction was prime stuff, and nobody stood higher at the top of the apex than Robert Heinlein. Although I couldn’t now tell you why (its been a long time since I read anything of his), “Stranger In A Strange Land” was one of my favorites. Heinlein just was a very good and engaging writer. His imprint has left a huge mark on many boomers. If you do a search here at this blog site and enter “Heinlein” you might be surprised at how many entries you’ll locate. Looks like Sailer held him in the highest esteem of all, as a close friend in a familiar land. 🙂

  30. I suppose it would be fair to call Heinlein my favorite author, if you go by number of books. He had better skill than some of the sci-fi authors that I think had more imaginative ideas, like Hal Clement or John Wyndham, and he was always thought-provoking.

    The ’40s and ’50s were Heinlein’s peak, IMO. After that, for the most part, like a lot of popular writers of sci-fi or fantasy, he lost his sense of discipline, and a lot of his books became bloated and unfocused. I’ve wondered whether he started doing drugs, or if it was the change in format, where he was a big enough name that he didn’t have to worry about editors.

    Stranger to me was too hippy-dippy. I think it had dianetics in it, and there as this strange quasi-religious quality to it, like L. Ron Hubbard, who was also interested in dianetics would come up with. I believe John Campbell was also sadly bitten by the dianetics bug.

    Heinlein’s best format was books that come in at around 200 pages. I enjoy some of the books, where he went back to that format and tried to write a traditional story, like Podkayne of Mars and Friday.

  31. anonymous coward says

    My belief is that they benefit from distribution networks as well as brand recognition.

    No, it’s because capeshit is legitimately better than your ‘decent’ films about literal and metaphorical shit-eaters feeling angst for two hours on screen.

    American cinema will implode once Hollywood abandons reason and starts inserting homosexuality into capeshit.

  32. The other novel of Henlein’s that I recall thoroughly enjoying was called “Farnham’s Freehold.” It’ a post apocalyptic piece that was written quite well and one that I actually recall re-reading at least once. Sometime about 10 years ago I recall buying a hardbound edition of many of his better short stories for only a buck. Now, that I’m sitting out the pandemic and have a lot more time on my hands, I’m going to locate it and give it a whirl! 🙂

    BTW, I have seen “Starhip Troopers” and thought that it was a good film. I notice that there are at least five other films based on his works, none of which that I’ve seen: ?..

  33. Farnham’s Freehold.

    Oddly enough, I never read that one. I was thinking of reading it, but I was put off by the synopsis which seems to include a blank-slatist theme about race, and it had negative reviews. But you and the New Republic make it sound interesting. The NR: an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love/resurrected some of the most horrific racial stereotypes imaginable.

  34. Personally, I think W40K should look more like this:

    Nothing can stop me!

    The linked videos seemed a little too Master Chief of HALO.

  35. Korenchkin says

    Those two episodes had a noticeably higher quality then the rest for me, agreed

  36. Toronto Russian says

    I had to watch this explanation video to understand everything.

    E.g. that what happened to the Inquisitor was not a “curiosity killed the cat” case. He was following a standard procedure and when it failed, went out like a hero, neutralising the alien with his psychic energy in his dying moment and making it release the Astartes. It’s great that the author invented an original enemy. It does a lot to show the mysterious and dangerous nature of the universe, and was much more work than using something already designed.

    As for the big future of small studios and individual artists, well, nothing is impossible. Makoto Shinkai 20 years ago was a nerd who single-handedly drew animation about cats, clouds, cables and kettles. Now he’s a household name in Japan and his films are shown in theatres internationally. Perhaps we’re seeing the breakout of the “Action Shinkai” here.