In 1993 audiences were introduced to the first major video game adaptation. Super Mario Bros. took viewers on a wild interdimensional ride filled with fungus, lizard people and and an over the top Dennis Hopper. Ever since that fateful film hit cinemas (and bombed), studios have been trying their best to crack the code and deliver an above average video game adaption. Unfortunately, failure after failure has proven that to be a tough hill to climb. Halo is the newest video game to take the challenge with its upcoming series, streaming on Paramount+ March 24. It should be noted that I was provided with screeners for the first two episodes. So, this review is based off those first two episodes only.
The primary hurdle that video game adaptations face is finding balance. It’s a tricky tight rope walk of staying true to the source, while also crafting something new. Halo stays true to the games, primarily with the visual aesthetic and design. Master Chief’s armor looks as if it were ripped directly from the games. It’s a look that was achieved through practical affects, rather than CGI. During a round table interview with FandomWire, Master Chief actor, Pablo Schreiber (The Wire, Orange Is The New Black), spoke about the difficulties of performing in the cumbersome suit; but noted that the end result was worth the trouble. And I’d have to agree with him. In a time when armor and outfits are created in post production, its refreshing to see Halo take the time and effort to bring the armor to life.
While the armor is practical, the series relies heavily on CGI to replicate the game’s environment and the villainous alien race, the Covenant. The quality of those effects varies, but for the most part succeeds. The problem isn’t with the CGI. It’s Halo. Of course it’s going to utilize CGI, and lots of it. Halo’s short comings stem from its inability to stand out as something original. It never feels like its own entity and more often than not, gives off the impression of a video game cut scene. Considering the average, casual gamer chooses to skip the cut scenes, that isn’t a great sign.
The camera movements, choreography and dialogue are all in line with a video game. And clearly that was Halo’s intention. A few scenes are filmed utilizing a first person perspective; a gimmick employed to replicate the view of the video game. Doom, another video game adaptation, utilized the same camera tricks in 2005. It didn’t work then, and unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work here, either. Hardcore fans of the game franchise will likely love what the series brings to the table. As somebody who grew up playing Halo, it was thrilling to see it brought to life the way that the series does. The weapons, vehicles and character designs are replicated perfectly. However, its dependence on the games, hinders its ability to branch out and become something more.
The series has been a long time coming, with production beginning all the way back in 2015. Before that, a movie adaptation was in the works with Oscar winner Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of MacBeth) being rumored for role of Master Chief. Now that its finally here, I found myself underwhelmed by what it brought to the table. The show takes a couple of big risks. Primarily in their decision to reveal Master Chief’s face (a decision that has already angered some fans) and to tell a story that focuses so heavily on an original character. Unfortunately, that seems to be where the risks end.
Perhaps years of expectation and hype play a factor, but Halo fails to make lift off. The first two episodes coast by with a wash of generic ideas and deliveries. Halo is a series for the fans. And while that’s admirable, it will likely prevent the series from finding a wider audience resulting in a Game Over. 5.5/10
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