After years of development, the series Halo, an adaptation of the famous video game, is finally available on Canal+. But what are the first three episodes worth?
By launching the first episode of Halo, one can only feel anxious. Finally, the project finally comes out of the depths of hell after more than a decade of lying around in Hollywood drawers. Originally, Bungie’s mega-blockbuster was supposed to take the form of a feature film, produced by Peter Jackson and directed by a young Neill Blomkamp from a script by Alex Garland, before being canceled altogether. In 2013, Microsoft returned to the lead, announcing on the E3 stage the creation of a series, with Steven Spielberg as executive producer and quality guarantee.
However, we have to wait another nine years before Paramount+ reveals the first footage of the Masterchief’s cosmic adventures against the alien Covenant army. Besides this not very reassuring development of Hell, other elements are worrisome, starting with the location of 343 Industries, the new guardians of the franchise’s temple since halo 4†
The first to say “In oil”, I smell it!
A priori, the idea of imposing structure on itself in the creative process is not bad, except that video game developers are not specialists in the cinematographic medium, or at least in the transition from one form to another. The year 2016 was a compelling example of this in the field with the fast-paced release of warcraft and D’Assassin’s Creedfor which their respective publishers, Blizzard and Ubisoft, have established a cinema branch.
As a result, the two films have forced themselves as bitter failures, but mostly conceptual aberrations, obliterating any adaptation of the games’ gameplay and their thrills to preserve only the trappings of the universe, either way.
Outside Cosplay Convention
Master Chief or Master Shit?
Therefore, with as many caveats, so much to say that the introduction of the first episode of Halo is a minor miracle, as it manages to avoid most of the pitfalls mentioned above. While the Covenant attacks a rebel outpost on the planet Madrigal, the series manages to organically lay the foundations for its geopolitically complex world in minutes.
For the occasion, 343 Industries had the great idea to create an alternate timeline for games, the Silver Timeline, thus giving the series creators more leeway to appropriate the major events of the franchise’s lore. In short, here we stand at the dawn of the war between the UN Security Council, this great human corporation determined to unite the galaxy for good and bad reasons, and the Covenant Alliance, an alien race in search of the ultimate weapon: the ‘Halo. In the midst of this emerging conflict, we follow the jewel of the UNSC army: the Spartan John 117, a genetically and technologically modified soldier who puts his feet where he wants… and it is often in the mouth.
The elite of the series?
On this point, Halo no need to pray thanks to the explosive introduction. At the heart of the chaotic battlefield (which also allows itself some welcome spills of blood), the Masterchief arrives for a surprisingly well-designed fan-service festival. You might criticize the obvious use of shots from a subjective point of view to highlight the connection to the games, but the latter serve as stylistic bridges to other proposals, starting with a few long takes where our super soldier depicts the skirmishes fluently connected.
Of course it’s hard not to scream with happiness while listening to the energy shield alarm in the harbor or the characteristic sound of the assault rifle, which greatly aids in the submersion ofa montage that refers to the nervousness of the games’ battles† Behind this facility designed to excite the fan, Halo nevertheless proves that it wants not only to change its space opera universe, but also to recapture what has always been the spice of games, namely the thrilling adaptability of the Spartans, either by chaining heavy fire and melee, or by using their opponents’ weapons .
Don’t make Pablo angry
From there comes the compelling statement of intent from showrunners Steven Kane and Kyle Killen. Due to its nature as the origin story of the founders of its mythology, the series deconstructs and dissects the franchise like dismantling a car to understand its inner workings. It is even in this way that the character of John 117 is approached, who could never have decided to remain this monolithic and unflappable mass that he has always been.
If the Spartan’s personality wants to be blotted out in the games in order to better project the player into his overpowered body, the story allows itself to question the validity of this dehumanizing silence. His psychological conditioning and an inhibitory chip block his emotions and sensations, as if to make him a robotic killing machine, an empty envelope waiting to be inhabited.
A good rebel is a dead rebel
Is there a pilot in the Warthog?
Hardcore fans will no doubt have something to say about this less badass proposal, but it seems necessary Halo passes this sharp turn, supported by Pablo Schreiber’s balanced play, which encompasses a saving vulnerability in the gaze of a character who is supposed to never waver. What follows is a build that is far from uninteresting about the natures and moods of his fellow Spartans, as well as a pretty well thought out introduction to the character of Cortana, the famed artificial intelligence that follows the Masterchief in his adventures.
As a result, this quest for meaning and identity becomes a pretty good driving force, although the general rhythm of the first three episodes is quite slow due to the rather flatly implemented secondary characters, starting with Kwan (Yerin Ha), only Madrigal survivor who John takes on 117 as Baby Yoda.
This is also the main limit of Halo, whose bland production has clearly forced the creators to draw on the performance of any given competition. In addition to the violence and political nuances inherited from Game of Thronesthe series doesn’t shy away from turning its Masterchief into a copy-paste of Disney+’s helmeted bounty hunter.
The comparison can only be made against Paramount+ production which, despite its vast resources, often makes its glaring lack of decor palpable. Despite a series of asteroids connected by space ziplines (a rather clever idea and well exploited), Halo nevertheless has the air of a space opera shot on cheap paintball or laser tag grounds, to the point where the set’s successful design production often leaves a blemish in the midst of dreary forests and rocky deserts.
The fact remains that the series is still in its infancy (over its nine episodes, knowing that a season 2 has already been ordered), and at this point we’re ready to forgive its clumsiness in production given the intelligence of its approach to adaptation.
The Halo series will be broadcast on Canal+ from 28 April 2022