Halo has spent a long time getting this silver screen adaptation off of the ground, being passed between executives and bean counters for the better part of a decade.
And after all of that time, it sticks the landing like a one-winged Banshee, wearing its inspirations on its sleeve. Its not-so-subtly derived companion quest, plucked from the likes of The Mandalorian, feels less personal despite the showrunner’s efforts to rebuild what we know of the Halo universe for the small screen.
That said, for everything I feel Halo gets wrong in its journey to premiere on Paramount+, there’s something it does really well and should go some way to pleasing fans of the series.
WAR NEVER CHANGES
Halo’s hour-long premiere ‘Contact’ opens with what can only be described as the categorical slaughter of Madrigal’s insurrectionists at the hands of invading Covenant forces. It’s a nearly twenty-minute prologue that really sets the tone for what I hope we can expect in future episodes: it’s a violent and frantic struggle that feels like it incorporates a lot of touchstones from the game’s famed combat.
The Elites, armed with plasma pistols and energy swords, grunt and groan, Spartan shields recharge, and butted melee attacks all sound as though they’re pulled from Combat Evolved itself.
I could do with far less of the attempts to depict the Chief’s first-person viewpoint. If The Rock can’t sell that gimmick, no one can.
A NEW CHIEF
As someone who’s listened to Steve Downes deliver turn after turn as the hardened, blistered supersoldier Master Chief for the better part of two decades, Pablo Schreiber is a bit of a tough pill to take at first.
Over the course of the hour-long pilot, Schreiber takes command of the role though he definitely doesn’t reinvent what we know about the Spartan known as ‘John’. There’s still a conflict in him as he juggles his programming and his humanity, even if it originates from a new place.
I feel like Halo borrows a little from other sci-fi giants, including The Mandalorian and it does seem as though John is the Din Djarin in his own story.
HER NAME IS GROGU—UH, KWAN HA
And if John is Din Djarin, Kwan Ha has got to be Grogu.
Halo’s premiere climaxes with Master Chief defying his programming and beginning to question everything he knows and, as a result, blatantly disregards an execution order for the sole survivor of the Madrigal massacre, and surviving daughter of an insurrectionist general, Kwan Ha.
Australian actress Yerin Ha does a fine job realising the cynical Kwan Ha, and her performance serves as one of the premiere’s best. Although analogous to Grogu, I think she’ll serve as a sympathetic foil to John’s particular veneer.
Instead, the pair escape in a military craft and flee into a vast and limitless galaxy. Probably sounds a little familiar?
SOUND THE CHOIR
If there’s one thing that Halo has always done well, it’s its music. Fortunately, the television series carries on that legacy.
Not only does the hauntingly iconic monk chant make its inevitable appearance during the show’s credits, but the entire score is also tremendous and serves as the most impressive way I feel the series respects the source material.
IT LOOKS LIKE $10M
If there’s one area that Halo definitely doesn’t skimp, it’s its production values. If the reported cost per episode of $10 million is to be believed, I think every cent is definitely left on-screen.
With the Covenant themselves, I feel like the cracks show with the CGI a little, but all of the settings of the premiere, both practical and not, are gorgeously realised from Madrigal’s arid outpost to the toadstool-shaped planetoid High Charity, the holiest of Covenant cities.
I expect a large focus was placed on making sure that the Spartans’ kit was up to scratch for this adaptation as it’d be easy for it to look cosplay-grade. I must say, I love the attention to detail in all of the battle born armour and all of their imperfections. I think the costuming department for Halo deserves a big hand.
A NEW MYSTERY
Halo definitely veers from the established canon of the games and books, setting in motion what fans are calling the ‘Silver Timeline’—which is perhaps a nod to both the medium and Master Chief’s Spartan-II unit, Silver Team.
I think it’s going to be for the better of everybody that the showrunners can carve out their own canon, even if it isn’t official, because adapting a lore as dense as Halo’s would prove difficult in this format. Based on the premiere, they’re incorporating familiar bits and pieces that’ll excite fans as they embark on an exciting and largely unknown mystery.