After almost 10 years in developmental hell, with names like Steven Spielberg and Rupert Wyatt attached at various stages of its production, it almost seems like a miracle that an adaptation of the award-winning and much beloved video game franchise, Halo, has finally made its way to our screens. In an article recently released by entertainment outlet Variety, it was stated that ‘265 drafts’ of the show had been written, and that each episode cost approximately USD $10 million to produce. So, does all the work and money that has been thrown into this new Paramount+ series pay off for fans of the games and newcomers to the Halo world alike?
Halo’s first season follows an original quest not yet seen in the games but is heavily inspired by and set in the vast lore that the video game series has had to offer in the past. In the 26th century, a conflict between humanity and a brutal alien race known as ‘the Covenant’ rages through the universe. Halo opens with a savage ambush by Covenant soldiers (a grotesque and large alien species) on a remote village on the planet, Madrigal. With the small army of humans attempt to hold off the attack with inferior numbers and weaponry failing, assistance comes in the form of a group of genetically engineered super-soldiers, known as Spartans. Utilising their military training and super-human abilities, the Covenant ambush is defeated, but at a large cost of human life.
In the hopes to find out why the Covenant attacked this outpost in particular, leader of this Spartan group, Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) investigates a cave that has been infiltrated by the alien enemies and discovers an ancient relic. A relic that Master Chief soon finds out, he has a special connection with. Joined by the sole human survivor of the attack, Kwan (Yerin Ha), Master Chief returns to the UNSC (United Nations Space Command), only to discover they have ulterior plans with the potentially powerful weapon and makes a hasty decision to escape with the relic and Kwan, knowing that he will be hunted down by his former military.
The immense budget that Halo has is on full display with the incredible production design and exciting action scenes. The series opening 20 minute is an explosion-filled, action-packed, CGI heavy battle scene that rivals the quality of some sci-fi films. The humans’ guns pack a hefty punch as the bounce of the incredible animation of the Covenant, much like the laser pulses of the alien weaponry feels invigorating and exciting within the land of TV. All the weapons that fans will recognise and love from the games are littered generously throughout its opening battle, immediately throwing Easter Eggs and nostalgic wins at the screen.
It’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Especially when the show’s lead, Master Chief, falls hundreds of metres from the sky and lands heavily in his ‘superhero pose’ before unleashing his one-man army of destruction. The show even throws in an immersive, first-person POV shot of Master Chief’s rampage, with a HUD (heads up display) that replicates that of the game itself in a truly exciting Easter Egg! Master Chief’s brutality with weapons and his own hands is the best way to establish a character who is not here to muck around, and it immediately makes him a protagonist worth getting behind.
It’s brash, and admittedly enjoyable, introduction also sets a tone of what is to come tonally and quality wise outside of the amazing sets and action. The stilted dialogue between characters feels almost more computer-generated than the video games themselves. There is an odd feeling that, even though real people are on the screen, there’s no authenticity or nuance in the conversations, in a very noticeable way. The poor quality of dialogue (and exposition for that matter) leaks through into the way Halo navigates its plot.
Halo’s story feels like the most generic version of this plot that the writers could have possibly come up with. Detaching itself from the already established plotlines of the video game can be a daunting task, as the risk of upsetting fans is a real possibility. However, taking the bold step to create a new story can pay off incredibly well… when it’s done with a bit more passion and care than what the first two episodes of Halo has to offer. Obviously utilising its early episodes to establish the world, the villains and the characters is a necessity, but the formulaic set up of the galactic threat, a ‘Chosen One’ story arc and the eventual planet hopping that Master Chief will have to go on to save the universe is presented in an incredibly slow and meandering format.
On a technical level, Halo sets itself apart from other sci-fi shows, and even movies, with fantastic production design, incredible costumes, and sets, and most importantly, brutal and engaging action scenes that truly capture the power of Master Chief. Unfortunately, these first two episodes do very little in keeping the engagement on the story, as it falls into generic plotlines and delivers cringe-worthy dialogue. The vast difference in the quality of the action, only makes its flaws plot wise more noticeable. Hoping that a TV show improves as it goes on, doesn’t always make for an enjoyable viewing experience.
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