Halo Falls Short Of Its Video Game Roots

Halo is the latest video game franchise to get a big-budget onscreen adaptation. This one is now appearing on TV on the Paramount + streaming service and from the conclusion of the first episode, it was clear that this live-action series was going to do things differently. The main character, the Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), who is the vanguard of humanity’s war against an alien force known as the Covenant, takes his helmet off to gain the trust of a girl he just saved. This marks a radical departure from the games where to date, we have never seen him without his helmet.  While this is a small detail and doesn’t detract from the episode, in retrospect it was a sign that this show was going to tell a very different story than what is portrayed in the famous video game franchise.

The main idea of the Halo games is that Master Chief is, at most times, a lone warrior fighting against impossible odds on strange aliens worlds against overwhelming foes. These being a group of hostile extraterrestrial races called the Covenant that vow to wipe out humankind in a war that Earth is losing. He encounters the strange ring-shaped world dubbed “Halo” at the start of the very first game and has to figure out its mysteries and stop the Covenant from using it to destroy all life in the galaxy. The Halo TV show however is somewhat of a prequel and starts with Master Chief and other super soldiers named Spartans arriving on a human colony, Madrigal that is invaded by the Covenant.

On the planet he encounters a lone human survivor, a young girl named  Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), who he brings back to humanity’s headquarters on the planet Reach. Eventually he takes her to a sanctuary world, then she escapes back to Madrigal to try to lead her people against an oppressive government. Meanwhile, Master Chief aka “John” finds a Covenant artifact that he seems to have some strange mystical connection to, and he uncovers details of his past where he was kidnapped as a child by a Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone) who created the super soldier program to make the other Spartans as well. These other Spartans also start to question their origins, while Halsey deals with her daughter (Olivia Gray), who is upset by her absentee mother.  Notice that the plot of a war against a group of aliens hellbent on humanity’s extinction is not mentioned other than at the start of the paragraph?

This is the biggest issue I have with this adaptation, that the main focus of the games is basically a subplot in this show that seems to fade to the background other than a few scenes here and there. There are only 9 episodes in this first season and the story needs to be tight and focused, but it seems instead to be set on world building and character exposition to the detriment of what should be the main plot of Earth and its struggle against a genocidal group of aliens who see humans as an affront to their religious beliefs regarding the Halo artifact. There is even one episode solely devoted to Kwan Ha and her journey on Madrigal finding out about her past. This can happen if this was a network TV show with 20-plus episodes, but not with a streaming TV show with limited episodes.

In the games, the Covenant believe that the Halo is a sacred structure that, when activated, will take them to paradise. The reality, *spoiler alert*,  is that it is a weapon created by an ancient race called the Forerunners who used it to destroy life in the galaxy to starve a parasitic race called the Flood of their food source. The Forerunners then re-seeded the galaxy with life, including humans and the Covenant races, on different planets. None of this is explained or shown to the audience, probably since they expect fans of the games to know this, but for non-gamers who will be clueless about this. I can understand that they might not want to overwhelm viewers with larger amounts of backstory and game mythology, and establishing the characters is important, but it seems like they wanted to tell a very different sci-fi story than what is told in the various games. It’s as if they are more interested in the machinations and political intrigue of Earths’ government, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), as well as Dr. Halsey and the UNSC’s questionable tactics regarding the creation of the Spartans, as opposed to what should be the desperate attempt to survive against the onslaught of the Covenant. 

The positives of the show are the design and look of the Spartans and Covenant when they show up. They look very much like their video game counterparts. And the few scenes of action we do get are very good. The first, fifth and last episodes show the Master Chief and other Spartans in action fighting against their foes. It’s a real treat to see and does offer a glimpse of what the show can be. Obviously, it can’t be non-stop action as opposed to the games, but it’s really about what the focus of the show should be. The season ends with the Chief seemingly taken over by his AI assistant Cortana (Jen Taylor), as they escape with artifacts that can lead them to the location of the Halo ring world.

Hopefully the second season will have him finally arriving at the Halo itself to set off the chain of events that happen in the first game, and we can have the politics of the UNSC in the background, with the fight against the Covenant at the forefront of the show. As a generic sci-fi TV show, Halo is fine, but as an adaptation of the numerous games, it seems to fall short. Having said that, Paramount + has renewed the show for a second season and it has good streaming numbers, so there is an audience for it. Maybe with this new set of episodes, we will see a story that can bridge the gap between both fans of the game and newcomers to the franchise, and satisfy both groups, as the best adaptations of other media do.

C.S. Link

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Dashes Past The First Film!

[WARNING: SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW]

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is delighting fans of the classic video game franchise during its cinematic premiere this weekend. It is probably the best video game adaptation to the big screen yet. It is full of material straight from the Sega video games Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (S2&K), which makes the film a bit predictable for diehard Sonic fans, but is still a fun time throughout for all.

The story starts about 8 months after the events of the first film, Sonic the Hedgehog, with Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, who is as zany as ever playing Sonic’s foe) still stuck on the mushroom planet (a reference to Mushroom Hill Zone from S2&K) escaping with Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a big red echidna. Robotnik promises Knuckles that he would take him to Sonic’s (voiced by Ben Schwartz) location on Earth, which ties into Knuckles’ trait of being gulible. Tails (Colleen O’Shaunessey), a two-tailed yellow fox, then arrives on Earth to warn Sonic about Knuckles and the two soon become friends. I won’t be covering the rest of the movie’s plot so that people can have a chance to experience it for themselves, but I will now get into the most interesting easter eggs, which covers MAJOR spoilers for the film, so beware.

The first reference that I loved was when Sonic and Tails was in a bar in Siberia, and Sonic does the iconic “Sonic Adventure” pose while in midair. That moment made my heart jump in excitement, and is one of the many reasons as to why the director Jeff Fowler and the filmmakers clearly care about the source material. The scenes at the bar was also very funny, by the way. The next BIG reference is, of course, Super Sonic and the chaos emeralds. Going into this movie, I would have never expected the inclusion of Super Sonic, but I was so happy they added the golden god into the film. Super Sonic first appeared in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and quickly becomes a staple for Sonic games, so how could they not include him in this film? The next reference is literally big, The Death Egg Robot! This giant robot first appears in Sonic 2 like Super Sonic, but it is WAY bigger than any form the games include. It was really cool to see this giant robot in the film since, again, its a staple of the Sonic franchise.

Finally, the thing that got me most excited, but kind of worried, about a potential Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is with Shadow in the post credits of this movie. Shadow is a robot made by Dr. Eggman’s uncle Gerald in the Space Colony Ark. His backstory is very complicated, so I won’t get into it here, but that’s what worries me about the third film. They are basicially jumping 5ish games, as well as their characters, which are very important. He was first introduced in Sonic Adventure 2 and rose to be a fan favorite charcter of the franchise. However, I don’t think the story of Sonic Adventure 2 would translate well into a movie, it’s complicated and feels like it would be a weird plot to include in the Sonic films. The plot follows this girl named Maria, who was Robotnik’s granddaughter, and Shadow’s friendship with her. But she is killed by a guard on the Space Colony ARK and now Shadow hates humanity and wants to explode the Earth. The other problem is that the game included a lot of charcters we haven’t seen yet in the films. Amy, the Chao, Omega, Rouge, and Gearld, to name a few. I’m worried that they may jump the gun and go too crazy, but I still have faith in them, so I’m excited.

Overall, as a long-term Sonic fan, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is everything I would have asked for in a Sonic movie. The first just felt like a generic movie with Sonic in it, but the second one feels likes it’s Sonic’s movie, and I love that. It’s way better than Sonic the Hedgehog because that movie walked, but this movie can dash! The first film had to set up our characters so they could go crazy once introductions were out of the way. This movie is full of easter eggs and references to past Sonic games so fans will love it. It is also a fun and action-packed movie so anyone can sit down and enjoy this film. I cannot wait for Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and what it will bring to the table of an already full family of fans.

Angelo Soto