A television show based on the hit video game Halo feels like a long time coming.  And now that it’s finally come to fruition as a Paramount+ exclusive, audiences both familiar with the game and unfamiliar may walk away shrugging their shoulders.  The show isn’t necessarily bad (based on the first two episodes that have been made available to the press) but, just like the armour of the franchise’s leading “supersoldier”, the result is very shiny but very, very dull.

The show has been modelled as a Star Wars clone – who could blame show creators Kyle Killen (creator of FOX’s Mind Games) and Steven Kane (executive producer of TNT’s The Last Ship)?  While always popular, the Star Wars franchise received a resurgence in 2015 with The Force Awakens which has inspired Oscar-nominated sequels and acclaimed Disney+ television spin-offs.  Just like the story that took place in a galaxy far, far away, Halo focuses on a curious teen, Kwan Ha Boo (Yerin Ha), as the show sets up an inevitable journey and unlikely destiny for her.  An ongoing war exists between humans and aliens, while enigmatic Spartans intervene.  Kwan is taken in by Master Chief (Orange Is the New Black’s Pablo Schreiber playing the iconic role), and together they unfold the mystery behind a sought-after item with unspeakable powers. 

A big issue, so far, with Halo is the problematic contrast between the show’s tone and its intense depiction of violence.  Halo is often set up like an adventurous yarn geared towards a younger audience (think Power Rangers).  While it doesn’t floor the viewer, we can understand who may benefit from this entertainment.  However, as soon as the assumptions are made, the show follows up with extreme action.  The first time Kwan is in peril is when she discovers hidden aliens which is followed by an attack.  The aliens proceed to kill her teenage friends, complete with high-powered lasers that blow these kids apart.  Along with an unexpected scene in the second episode featuring execution-style shootings of blindfolded innocent bystanders, I was honestly shocked.  The effects are as convincing as they can be and they garner the correct knee-jerk response from the viewer, but it’s overboard and confounds the audience.  The story is too basic for older viewers, and the violence is too extreme for younger ones.

As a very casual participant of the video game, I wasn’t looking for the show to be faithful because I’m unqualified to judge on those details.  I watched Halo in hopes to be entertained and, unfortunately, it left me discouraged.  The production design, costuming, and the aforementioned effects are well done, but the characters are too bland and they are not elevated by the actors. Especially, and surprisingly, by Schreiber who goes too far with his “numb soldier” performance.  I instantly found myself missing Karl Urban’s Judge Dredd.

The story alternates between an adventure based around a MacGuffin story device, and a tired “save the child” plot.  A movie like Guardians of the Galaxy can get away with familiar plot lines because the filmmakers bring a unique twist to the material.  For Halo, much like the subdued actors, the show’s writers lag on providing any interest.

While Halo doesn’t have a promising start to its run, viewers will hopefully see improved progression over the rest of the season (and its confirmed second season).


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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