Halo review: A bumpy start but has game changing potential [SXSW 2022]

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief.
Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief. Pic credit: Paramount

Halo has been in development for years, including a movie many years ago that had Peter Jackson as producer and Neill Blomkamp as director.

Now, Halo has life at Paramount+ and has Steven Spielberg as the producer on a television series. The first two episodes get a lot of things right, including the weapons, characters, and some of the story elements.

However, this version of Halo will hit differently. There are creative choices here that make it less kid-friendly and heighten some of the darker elements of the game. And fans of the series need to understand with adaptation comes a different experience.

Here is our Halo review, which will make its premiere on Paramount+.

Halo review

The series begins with an ambush on Madrigal. A young girl named Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) is living a normal day with her friends within the colony when her settlement is attacked by the alien army known as The Covenant.

Right away, we get a real sense of how the creators intend to approach the violence in the Halo series. It is not fantasy violence like in Star Trek or Star Wars. Kwan’s friends get blown in half and The Covenant soldiers use the energy sword in alarming ways.

It is not gory violence like Starship Troopers. It is just depicted more harshly than one might expect.

And as the genocide escalates, the UNSC arrives with Master Chief at command to disrupt the attack. Sadly, he is too late to prevent a tragedy.

From here, two things transpire on the planet. The first thing is they discover The Covenant was after an ancient artifact on Madrigal, and the second thing is Kwan is taken into safekeeping by the UNSC.

But to top it off, when Master Chief engages with the artifact, it comes to life in his hands and triggers an energy event that spawns memories of a life. Whether these memories are his own is unclear.

To be transparent, this writer has not played Halo since the days of Halo 2. But from memory, the approach Paramount is taking with the UNSC seems to be brand new. Here, the UNSC is not trusted by many in the galaxy and is even accused of spreading war propaganda.

This is further cemented by some of the leaders depicted in the series as they have questionable motives towards Kwan.

The thing about Halo being translated into a series is that it was inevitably going to be different in tone. The only truly satisfying way to please the gamers would be to make Halo into a war movie with small portions of the politics between UNSC and The Covenant.

Making it into a television series drops the budget considerably and forces the story to focus on character instead of warfare. And Halo was typically non-stop interactive warfare the entire gameplay.

The Halo TV show also takes massive creative risks with the character of Master Chief. The studio will probably hunt this reviewer down if we reveal those specific decisions.

But what we can say is the choice is not as bad as one might believe. And after a while, we as viewers get used to said choice.

Furthermore, Pablo Schreiber does a terrific job as the man under the helmet. He was always great in other films and elevated properties like Den of Thieves. His ability to humanize the stoic killing machine that is Master Chief is quite admirable.

Some critics have drawn comparisons to The Mandalorian and one could argue they made efforts to be different here. But again, trying to discuss those reasons would require spoilers.

Master Chief decisions aside, as much as fans might push back on the creative choices within these first two episodes, the potential is present for improvement. The ongoing action warfare we have come to know with Halo could be building.

Halo on Paramount+: Should you watch the series?

Overall, of all the video game adaptations to a television show or movie, this one at least tries to get the details right. There are Warthogs, Energy Swords, familiar characters such as Dr. Halsey and Captain Jacob Keyes, and the creation of Cortana.

And the script is seeded within the realms of Halo: Combat Evolved. More specifically, this writer has a theory that the artifact is the key that opens the door to The Flood. And if this is true, then we have a lot of reasons to see where Paramount takes the series.

It might be a bumpy start but some of the best television shows in history had similar beginnings. We shall see in the months ahead as Halo premieres this week.

For more SXSW coverage, read our reviews of The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic and DMZ.

Halo will premiere on Paramount+ on Thursday, March 24.

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