What an absolute pile of trash. (spoilers)
The first episode of Halo is out, and if you’ve had reservations about the Halo TV show well…prepare to have those reservations confirmed. The first episode dropped today, March 24, and with no less than twelve executive producers steering the show it’s really shaping up to be one of those “by committee” designs. And by that I mean another poor attempt to adapt a video game series.
It takes a lot of effort to make explosions boring, and episode 1’s director Otto Bathurst really pulls it off. If you don’t recognize Bathurst, he directed 2018’s dumpster fire of a box office bomb, the Robin Hood movie. We join the world of Halo on an off-world colony of insurrectionists that get summarily wiped out by a group of Covenant soldiers. It’s a firefight that quickly becomes boring because the Covenant forces all have magical armor that stops the human colonist bullets and splosions from doing any damage whatsoever. Then the Spartans show up and are basically to the Covenant what the Covenant are to the normal humans, crushing them with very little effort but taking just long enough to do so that the Covnenant can conveniently wipe out the entire colony except one girl.
It’s a really hamfisted way of explaining not just that the Covenant are a threat, but that the Spartans are awesome ass kickers even by that comparison. But it’s boring when you establish immediately that the well-armed group of rebels can throw everything at a single soldier and evidently not make a dent. How about having them kill at least one Covenant? Or injure one? Or make him stub his toe? Or get a slightly chaffed ass crack? Anything.
The Halo TV series takes place in an alternate timeline at the start of the story; the UNSC is an Earth military force, the Spartans are crazy powerful warriors, and the Covenant are a species that humanity is just barely starting to grasp. The UNSC also appears to be fighting a war with colonies of insurgents who “just want to be free” according to our surviving now-orphan Kwan (Yerin Ha). The first episode goes a long way to establish that the UNSC is not only evil, but absolutely incompetent in its operations. Master Chief’s Silver Team doesn’t do much Covenant hunting at this point in the timeline, they mostly seem to be about delivering huge quantities of murder to off-world colonies that don’t want to be part of the UNSC. In fact when they show up the outpost’s leader fires on Master Chief assuming he’s there to kill all of them.
Chief takes Kwan with him on his ship back to UNSC HQ, and on the way receives orders to just straight up execute her for uh…something. Despite Chief being the best weapon in their arsenal, Admiral Parangosky (Shabana Azmi) has almost no hesitation in ordering his execution for not murdering an unarmed teenage girl. Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) deals with the chain of command after Master Chief touches an alien artifact that seems to bring up memories suppressed by the UNSC training, allowing him to think for himself over his military programming. Miranda Keyes (Olive Gray) deals with balancing her military career and personal morals against executing unarmed teenage girls, all under the mentorship of her father Captain Jacob Keyes (Danny Sapani). At the end of the episode Chief and Kwan escape the UNSC capture, flying off to anywhere but here.
It really doesn’t help that the Halo show looks like absolute garbage, like a mid-budget CW show or something you’d see on the SYFY network as opposed to Showtime. During firefights the camera often switches to a bad first person shooter perspective that feels right out of the Doom movie with The Rock. The sets and costumes look like something out of a low budget fan film. Dialogue between the UNSC members is stilted and packed with bad cliche including the part where Miranda and Jacob have their back and forth of “what’s the point in fighting for humanity if we lose our own in the process” and “they are orders and you will follow your orders.”
You can tell the people running the show have no connection to the series. The pacing is awful, considering we are in episode 1 and we’ve already shoved in Chief finding the magical object and going AWOL. At least leave that stuff up to the mid-season finale. We also only see the elites in the fight, leaving out big swaths of the Covenant forces. I have a feeling we’re not going to see comical dialogue with the grunts. Master Chief also takes his helmet off in the first episode and immediately deflates any feeling that the creators give a damn about the IP.
The first episode of Halo has some good moments, but those moments are sparse. The characters suck, the dialogue is boring, the show is putting far too much attention on things the audience is not going to care about. The only interesting part of the first episode takes place with the Prophet of Mercy on a big Covenant ship, and the CG there is fantastic. The Prophet of Mercy actually looks like a practical puppet in some spots, but that might be a trick of the lighting. The soundtrack also feels like a generic ripoff of the music from the games.
Halo has a ton of lore, and they decided to go with this.