As we know too well, adapting video game material to the big screen is a risky gamble. Many producers and directors believed that the source material was heavy enough from a narrative perspective to make their work entertaining and profitable, which was not always the case. Numerous have tried and brutally failed before. We can only think of the first Final Fantasy movie, that remains one of the biggest box office flops of all time, Doom, which made the ‘first-person shooter’ POV an actual one-shot sequence (see video reference here), and of course the forgettable Tomb Raider movies with Angelina Jolie, heavy on action and bad CGI (but don’t tell Sean that). Now that the new HALO: Infinite game on Xbox and PC is all gamers are talking about at the moment, it was only a matter of time for the HALO franchise, still considered as one of the biggest video game trademarks to this day, to come to our screens as well. There was a rumor for a while that directors Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) were interested in adapting the video game to cinema. Unfortunately, that never came to be…
So, the creators and current owners of the franchise, 343 Industries and Microsoft, chose a ‘safer’ method, opting for direct-to-video and TV movies like Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and the animated HALO: The Fall of Reach. Although unsuccessful, these went under the radar just enough not to disgrace the whole fanbase. BUT NOW. Paramount Studios are the first to really dare to adapt HALO as a live-action epic for mass audiences. They chose the format of a TV series to be streamed on Paramount+, which is a brilliant idea to test the waters before committing to more productions.
This will finally show modern audiences that the character of Master Chief, or Spartan 117, is a force to be reckoned with!
I’ve been a HALO fan for most of my life since my brother and I received as a Christmas present the very first Xbox console. HALO 2 is the game that started it all for us; we played the campaign in all difficulty modes and butchered ourselves in multiplayer so many times in our basement with friends and distant cousins. We had fun designing the armour of our Spartans and trying to beat our previous records in Slayer mode on Multiplayer. Now 29 years old, I still enjoy rediscovering the games out of pure nostalgic fun, but also for the story.
HALO games are still the few that remain today that I choose to play in my busy schedule. That is why, as a fan, I have BIG expectations from this series. I took the liberty to list a few of them below, see what you think!
WHAT WE WANT
- Materials from the storylines of Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST
Even to this day, 20 years later, it is well known that Halo 2 (2004) and Halo 3 (2007) are the fan favourite games of the franchise, and for good reason. They explored the basic and most interesting elements of the conflict between humanity and the Covenant (the alien species that we are fighting as Master Chief). The story was simple, the heroes and foes so memorable (Sergeant Johnson, I miss you so much), it would be a huge mistake not to cover these storylines before digging deeper into this universe, which stumbled a few times in the most recent installments (Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, looking at you!). The expansion of Halo 3, ODST, is another interesting story, this time focusing about humanity and how normal soldiers under the UNSC were handling the war on Earth. It was quite successful and could better anchor the TV series into our day-to-day lives.
- A deep exploration of the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana
What also sets Halo apart from similar video franchises on Xbox or PlayStation is the story…which is great! Yes, the first person shooter action is a big chunk of what we want from the games, but there is a powerful bond between the two central characters of the franchise: Master Chief and the UNSC A.I. Cortana. Their friendship and borderline romantic interactions are deeply felt and still get us going 20 years after the release of the original HALO: Combat Evolved game in 2001. Also, it has been confirmed that voice actress Jen Taylor will be reprising her role as Cortana, so we can expect greatness!
- THE COVENANT!
What would be Halo without Master Chief’s biggest enemies, the Covenant alien race? Barely nothing. It was pretty much a certainty that they would appear here, but the way they are depicted will be crucial. In previous adaptations, they were just mindless brutes smashing and roaring, but here, we want what Halo 2 and Halo 3 did so well: give them full character arcs as well. My personal wish is that they bring the Arbiter, the Elite super soldier unveiled in Halo 2, late in the game, during the final battle of the series, but I’ll make due with Grunts, Elites, Brutes, Hunters, Jackals and of course…the Prophets!
- The horrific menace of the flood
The theory here is that the ultimate villains in the HALO universe were never really the Covenant, but most definitely the flood. The unstoppable force that kills all in its path, making their prey walking zombies once they are infected, is a dangerous enemy in previous games. I died so many times in the campaigns fighting the flood, they gave me the chills. It would only make sense to reveal them eventually, but it is an interesting opportunity to make the show “PG-13” and add a good dose of horror and thrills to the mix. As the main goal behind the creation of the HALO rings was to destroy the flood and its food supply, meaning everyone in the universe, fair to say they will be mentioned.
- Separate storylines for ODST soldiers
As mentioned earlier, the show should rely on narrative materials from Halo 3: ODST, allowing normal humans to shine apart from the Master Chief in battle. My gut tells me it will be the case, but indivdiual story arcs showing different soldiers on the field, with different and authentic personalities, would be a very nice touch! As we know, the Chief is a man of few words, so it might be heavy in the long run to only follow him on his journey.
- An soundtrack from original composers Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori
The original music from the early games, brilliantly composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori (and other contributors along the way), is a classic! Hopefully, the studio invited them to contribute in order to compose a brand new soundtrack inspired by the original HALO music.
WHAT WE DON’T WANT
- The Foreunners, Prometheans or their technology
Halo 4 took players in a totally different direction from previous installments, meaning the world of the Foreunners, the beings who created the HALO rings in order to destroy the flood many thousands of years ago. For me personally, this was a big let down, as these new Promethean villains were not as entertaining as the Covenant and their weapons were grey and repetitive. We can skip them for now, save them for later…please?
- Too much combat
The future series has a golden opportunity to avoid common mistakes in video game adaptations: rely too much on action and CGI combat to seduce the video game nerds. Of course, it will have its fair share, but skipping on the story and the relationship between the characters would be a huge missed opportunity for this series to be anything else than watchable at best.
- The Fall of Reach…again
Ah…the Fall of Reach! Where to begin…For all Halo players, young and old, this is a moment in time in the game’s chronology that is known to all, so much so that they decided to make a game out of it: Halo: Reach (2010). Although this game was a success, the story of the fall of Reach, the secondary planet occupied by mankind as a base to fight the Convenant, was depicted and explained to us many many times. I recommend a simple and brief prologue to refer to this tragedy in the pilot and perhaps some mentions throughout the story, but that’s it. For us HALO fans, this is a reheated dish.
- Too much focus on Dr. Halsey & John as a young recruit
Dr. Halsey is a character that is introduced to us in Halo: Reach and Halo 4 as the scientist behind the creation of the Spartan program and the training of John as Spartan 117. We know she will be a central character in the series, as it was announced that Designated Survivor and Solaris actress Natasha McElhone has been casted, so there will be some focus on the early stages of the Spartan program and John as a young cadet. That’s fine, and it was expected. Although, I would recommend spending a limited amount of time covering it in early episodes, as this arc became more and more confusing and took too much place in most recent games.
There it is, guys! We don’t know much more at this stage, just that we can surely expect a huge audience experiment; will fans convert to Paramount + in order to stream this series like crazy or will they only stay faithful to the games? I, for one, will give it a try and I am pretty excited.
What do you think of the HALO series on Paramount +? Excited or scared to death that it will ruin your childhood?