Paramount’s original series adaptation of the revered video game series
Let’s get one thing out of the way. I approach this as a non-Halo gamer, so without bias or expectation. Sure I’m aware of the overall thrust of the franchise, but free of preconception, Halo the series is clearly a determined effort on the part of Paramount to craft a distinct slice of sci-fi, with well wrought action and intrigue, as well as an engaging mythology.
Set in the year 2552, it is a time after mankind has endured civil war, and a Unified Earth government has spread to the stars. Political unrest exists in the outer colonies, many seeking their independence, but all mankind must contend resistance to their expansion that comes from an assembly of alien species, known as the Covenant. In response to this threat, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) created the Spartans, a team of super-soldiers to stem the tide of the alien foes, and also to curb the rebellions on the outer edges of their territory. These conflicts ratchet up another notch , thanks to the looming specter of an ancient technology named Halo, that could forever change the balance of power in the galaxy.
Key to the plot are two main characters. The first is John-117 (Pablo Schreiber), aka the Master Chief. A totemic figure amongst the Spartan forces, and one who comes into contact with a mysterious artifact, a piece of a larger construct that is purported to signal the way to Halo. Physical contact with the device begins his journey, but also starts to unlock parts of his mind and hidden memories about his past. Hi s counterpart amongst the Covenant is Makee (Charlie Murphy), human raised among the aliens as a “blessed one”, who mirrors John in her ability to connect with the artifact, and similarly begins to question her past, as well as her current allegiances. Mirrors essentially, and their actions and insights propel both the central mystery and conflict along, while connecting to the larger political powers and their maneuvering, both internally and against each other.
The series does a pretty nice joy of getting the viewer up to speed on the state of the galaxy, while holding enough back to build mystery and intrigue. Painting a Universe with shades of grit and grey that draws from various aspects of conquest, including the crusades and colonialism. The humans, largely represented by the USNC, the military and exploration branch of a unified earth. Think of how Starfleet relates to the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek, only far less enlightened and combative enlightened. The Covenant is an interesting entity, unified in their fervor for finding Halo, something that only serves to heighten their danger. Also impressive is the full throttle action sequences. Detailed, dynamic, and well choreographed sequences, with plenty of creative flair. Even on occasion showcasing some of the first person perspective, synonymous with the video game genre.
While the bones are there for a gripping scifi yarn, there are some missteps when considering the season as a whole. First, much of the escalation comes in the later half, which wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the first half wasn’t unnecessarily preoccupied with some side characters and subplots. There is enough to work with and establish here to warrant trying to leverage in some thinly sketched characters or unnecessary romantic subplots. Essentially, more focus and better pacing would strengthen this promising start, and hopefully allow the showrunners to fully leverage the scope and scale hinted at in the show.
The overall image quality here is very well done. With solid primary color representation, a good range of palettes, and well represented blacks. All while delivering top notch detail. The show relies heavily on special effects, in generating landscapes, vehicles, creatures, graphical interfaces, and more. All show up well in this transfer. I must note, having seen a few early episodes on streaming, the physical media release seems a lot more robust in terms of image quality.
Aside from the slipcover housing, inside are several “character cards”, featuring info on key players in the show. The package delivers 9 episodes of the first season, across 5 discs, along with several hours of extra features.
- Halo The Series: Declassified: Presented by Sydnee Goodman, there is one of these segments for each of the 8 episodes, all running around 20 minutes in length. Essentially a recap, running down the key moments from the episode, interspersed with interviews, behind the scenes content, notes on the ties/inspirations from the video game series, and fan reactions
- Dissecting the Battle of Madrigal: A featurette that dives into the planning and execution of the base assault sequence, and introduction of the Spartans, that opens the series
- The World of Halo: A good addition for those unfamiliar with the game series, as it looks back over the original, and the franchise spawned from it
- The Culture of the Covenant: Gives some perspective on the creation and place of Makee in the show, an original creation not in the original game series. This also covers some of the work done to translate other aspects of the game to the TV screen
- Adapting Halo: Another featurette looking at the design aspects of the show
- Becoming Spartans: Interviews and backgrounds on the cast who fill the (big) boots of the Spartan characters
- Creating the Costumes of Halo: Costume design considerations and meanings
- Weapons and Vehicles of Halo: With battle being such a big part of the game, plenty will be glad to see this extra that focuses on adapting the vehicle, gun, armor designs for the screen
- The Making of Cortana: The digital effects used to bring this computer character to life
- The Lake of Eternal Life: A Song from Halo’s Score: Just a few minutes in length,covering aspects of the composition of this piece that accompanies a sequence in episode 3
The Bottom Line
Halo season one is perhaps more of a solid start than a slam dunk. While at times a little too familiar, the world building and mythology impress. A fine foundation sparks interest, and hope, that the series will expand on this potential. Paramount Home Video deliver a great transfer and a wealth of extra features that allow a deeper dive into this promising show.
Halo Season one is available now on Blu-ray, and 4K-UHD