Action Drama

SXSW Review: ‘Halo’

March 16, 2022Ben MK

There's something about video games that proves irresistible to filmmakers, because despite the plethora of ill-received video game adaptations out there, directors, screenwriters and movie studios keep on coming back for more. Whether it's fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, adventure games like Tomb Raider, or even mobile games like Angry Birds, cinema audiences have seen their fair share of game properties hit the big screen over the years. Now, it's Master Chief's turn. But even though Microsoft and 343 Industries have chosen to go the episodic television route for their flagship character, is it going to be enough to draw in more than just hardcore gamers?

The year is 2552, and the universe is at war. The United Nations Space Command are battling the alien armies of the Covenant for control, and the key to winning the battle may lie on the planet Madrigal, a world located in the Outer Colonies. Known for having the highest concentrations of deuterium in the galaxy, Madrigal is also home to a group of rebels led by Jin Ha (Jeong-hwan Kong), who believe that the UNSC and their elite fighting force — the Spartans — are the enemy. However, when their rebel compound comes under vicious attack from a group of Covenant warriors and only Jin's daughter Kwan (Yerin Ha) survives the slaughter, it quickly becomes evident that things may not be quite what they seem. Rescued by Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), along with an ancient artifact that piques the interest of both UNSC high command and Covenant elders, Kwan must determine for herself just whether he and his fellow Spartans can be trusted. Meanwhile, Master Chief himself will have to figure out where his loyalties truly lie, as the artifact awakens old memories within him that the UNSC would rather see buried.

More of a reinterpretation of the Halo franchise than a straightforward adaptation, the result treads in the footsteps of The Mandalorian and Game of Thrones, with echoes of Jason Bourne thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, however, what will dictate the show's fate are the fans themselves. After all, gamers loathe lengthy cut scenes. And if Halo is to return for a second season, then it will have to prove itself more than just live-action role-play — it will have to have to bring a sense of humanity to what has, up until now, been primarily about pixels.

Halo screens under the Episodic Premieres section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. The series debuts March 24th, exclusively on Paramount+.

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