FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE HALO, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
As someone who spent hours upon hours playing multiplayer Halo back in the day… I would say I am a pretty big fan of the video games. I haven’t touched any of the newer iterations, but I will never forget spending a big chunk of my school days driving around a warthog and obliterating alien scum. So, when the trailer dropped for Paramount+’s television series, I felt a few things. First and foremost, I couldn’t help, but utter… It’s about time.
I can’t count how often news of an adaptation of Halo would come out (including a Peter Jackson film), only to fall apart and never come to fruition. This series itself has gone through a slew of high-profile directors who were tapped to helm the pilot, including Neil Blomkamp and Rupert Wyatt, only to drop out at the last minute. So you could say that I was pretty shocked that they had finally made it happen.
My other feeling was one of cautious optimism. The special effects looked pretty amazing. But, would it feel like we were just watching a video game up on the screen? And would the showrunners be able to create a show that wasn’t just visually stimulating, but emotionally resonant, as well? There are so many worries you can have, especially when a video game is being adapted, that it is all style without any substance. So, as the second episode of Halo finished, I couldn’t help, but give out a little squeal of fanboy excitement. Though the series still has a long way to go to prove that it will be a series worth committing to… I nonetheless had an absolute blast with episodes one and two.
WHAT IS HALO ALL ABOUT?
The series follows a young girl named Quan Ah (Yerin Ha), whose village is desecrated by an alien force called the Covenant. The only reason she makes it out alive is through the interference of the Spartans, led by Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber). They begin investigating why the Covenant attacked this village, only to find that they were there searching for an artifact. Master Chief discovers that he is one of the only people in the universe that can harness the power of this mysterious relic. But, on his way back to the United Nations Space Command… He realizes that he may not be able to trust the ones that he’s been working for. And so he sets out on a journey to uncover his own past, to save the present.
HOW ARE THE SERIES’ VISUALS?
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind with my positives on Halo is how incredible this series looks from a technical standpoint. The first season has a reported budget of $200 million dollars and every penny of that, shows. Though there were many points within these first two episodes, I did feel like I was watching a video game, I honestly didn’t care. The CGI is so crisp and detailed, that every alien creature, spaceship, and setting feels utterly convincing. I was immediately drawn in because showrunners Steven Kane and Kyle Killen (and executive producer Steven Spielberg) have painstakingly brought this world to life through intricate design and world-building. My mouth dropped on multiple occasions… As I just muttered “WOW” under my breath, due to the visual splendor on screen.
DOES HALO BRING THE ACTION!?
The other thing that must be mentioned is how riveting the action is. Halo had me on the edge of my seat with the adrenaline pumping… which is exactly what one would hope for, from an adaptation of these games. I was extremely impressed with how the show was able to balance so many things including the aforementioned world-building. As well as, the character development, story arcs, the smaller intimate moments along with the epic action set-pieces. One could only hope that they will be able to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. Typically, the second episode wasn’t nearly as grand as the first (which is always to be expected).
HOW IS PABLO SCHREIBER AS MASTER CHIEF?
While we are still really just getting to know the ensemble cast at this point, I can surely say one thing… Pablo Schreiber is the PERFECT choice to play Master Chief. Schreiber, who many will recognize as “Pornstache” from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black… Really caught my eye with his masterful and delicate performance in last year’s underrated Lorelei. He showed in that film that he can be a giant with a heart of gold, and that is exactly what we needed with Master Chief.
The showrunners had a heck of a task to try and create a character that the audience can relate and connect to, based on a non-descript soldier from a video game. But, with Schreiber, they have found someone who not only fits the bill appearances-wise, I mean the man is a towering jacked beast compared to everyone else… but, also a performer of genuine humanity and quiet resolve. This soldier is desensitized by violence and hardened by war… But, hidden beneath his grizzled exterior is a haunted man struggling to find his deeper purpose and reclaim his life.
And luckily, Kane and Killen have allowed Master Chief to appear on screen with his helmet off, just as much as with it on. Though I know many Halo purists won’t be gung-ho about this… I found it to be integral to letting the audience connect with our lead protagonist more. Being able to see into John’s aka Master Chief’s eyes; gives us a chance to reach into the soul of the man under all of the gear. I honestly cannot wait to see where they take this character. And what Schreiber will do with his role in future episodes.
DOES THE SHOW’S STORY HOLD UP?
My biggest worry going forward… Is that the series will fall into so many of the unfortunate tropes of the sci-fi genre. The story so far is interesting enough. Especially the mystery surrounding Master Chief’s past and how he became the super soldier he is. I am also intrigued to learn more about this mysterious human woman who lives amongst the alien covenant and her relation to our protagonist. But, they are really going to have to expand on what they’ve created so far because the plot itself is pretty basic.
How many times have we seen a film or TV series about a hero who has to save the world from an alien race, with an ancient artifact at the center of the conflict? It’s definitely been done a million times before. So, only time will tell if the showrunners can elevate the material and make it something truly special, regardless of the cherished property it’s based on.
It’s always hard to do a review of something if you haven’t seen it in its entirety. However, what I can say is this. Halo surpassed my expectations in pretty much every department. I was gripped from the second it started all the way to the second episode’s credits. And above all else, I’m not just looking forward to continuing my journey with it… I can’t even fucking contain my excitement for more. So, I would say we’re off to a good start…
Halo will be premiering its pilot episode Thursday, March 24th, 2022 on Paramount+.
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