After one of the most infamously long production cycles for a TV series, the live-action adaptation of Halo has finally arrived. Pablo Schreiber takes on the daunting task of bringing Master Chief to life in the Paramount+ series. Video game adaptations have always had an uphill battle, and with an IP as famous as Microsoft’s Halo series, it seems like a daunting undertaking. With hints that the iconic Spartan will also reveal his face for the first time, breaking a long-time tradition of the games, the project had quite a few eyes on it how it may bring the classic sci-fi series to life.
One thing the series makes clear early on is that this isn’t a 1:1 adaptation of the original game series. Instead of going down The Mandalorian route of focusing on our masked main character, a lot of this episode’s story is told through Yerin Ha‘s Quan Ah. Not only does it ease us into the story while spending time with a human resistance faction trying to get by, but it also sets up a very different look at the Spartans. We spend the games through the eyes of Master Chief as he heroically takes on the Covenant. The UNSC is shown as a darkly flawed system with people in it willing to make sacrifices for others for the sake of their own goals. As such, the Spartans have also been twisted into something very different ahead of their initial introduction.
It sets up an important dynamic between Ah and Schreiber‘s Master Chief later. We see a desperate organization trying to paint themselves in a positive light during the war, but making rather dark decisions. We get glimpses of some bigger storylines, especially one pertaining to Cortana and Chief’s relationship with Natasha McElhone‘s Dr. Catherine Halsey. Especially with the character’s actions later in the film, they are setting up a mysterious connection between the two and further exploring his humanity.
The big opening action shot shortly after meeting Ah gives us a feeling of the series fight choreography and how it brings these super soldiers in the form of Spartans to life. It has some great moments, but some aspects of the action were quite rough. The Covenant look impressive and are translated pretty closely from their gaming counterparts. Yet, there are long stretches where the CG work looks rough and out-of-place. Some of the aliens just stand out in the wrong way and Master Chief jumping around at times seems too weightless. They were pushing the most they could out of the budget they have, but the CG work really could’ve used a bit more tweaking. Still, the action is easy to follow and we get some nice moments from the Spartan team.
We even get a brief first-person callback to the game which was a bit gimmicky but was used as a way to show us how the Spartans see the world. So, it worked in more ways than just a neat Easter egg, especially with the payoff later on. The sound effects were a joy to hear, as we get everything from the way the Covenant’s weapons sound to Chief’s armor replenishing. While the team said they didn’t look to the games for reference, they did add in enough trinkets to keep those fans happy. The best part, the fan service doesn’t overshadow the actual story.
The biggest selling point is Schreiber‘s Master Chief, as he does give us some softer moments with the character. He does show a lot of emotion through his helmet and after interacting with a strange artifact, we get to see him slowly break away from his bio-engineered programming. They are setting up an arc and the episode does end in quite a bold move that highlights this series’ new direction based around the original franchise’s lore.
The episode length does drag at times due to the number of characters it’s trying to introduce and set up for later storylines. Some of the CG work could use some additional tweaking but it’s still great to see these designs in a live-action setting. Schreiber is the standout in the series’ pilot episode and I am excited to see where he takes the character moving forward. It’s a decent start and it’ll be interesting to see how they build up this new take on a classic franchise.